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A 1985 Chevy K30’s Wiper Motor Fail and the Creative Fix During Ultimate Adventure

Stephen Watson’s story about MacGyver-ing the windshield wipers of his 4x4 during Ultimate Adventure.

In a recent Firing Order column, Four Wheeler magazine editor Ken Brubaker asked, "Have you ever had a minor off-road problem that escalated?" Well, we've received some interesting responses to that question, including this one from Stephen Watson, owner of Offroad Design.

Stephen tells a story about when a good windshield wiper motor went bad, and it happened to his 1985 Chevy K30 during the 2015 Ultimate Adventure. Anyone who has ever had a windshield wiper system failure knows that the seemingly insignificant system performs a significant job. (We've actually had to leave a 4x4 on the side of the highway overnight during a massive rainstorm, not because of a transfer case, driveshaft, or other driveline problem, but because the wiper motor failed and we couldn't see the road.) For Stephen, quick thinking and ingenuity on a rainy day solved the problem, and you can read all about it in Stephen's own words, below. And check out the video he submitted showing the fix in action!

When Good Wiper Motors Go Bad

Stephen says, "Here's a bad-to-worse to kind-of-fixed and acceptance of our lot in life kind of story for you. Our build of our convertible 1985 Chevy K30 was supposed to be ready for Ultimate Adventure (UA) 2014, and after some setbacks it didn't make that trip, and in fact barely made the 2015 trip, which makes me wonder what we were thinking when we thought it would be ready in 2014. But anyway, the trip was to start on the Ohio-West Virginia state line, and we ended up running a total of about a day late. Check-in day was Saturday, and late that afternoon (and still many hours from check-in) we parked our tow rig at the Hi Lift plant in Indiana and started the trek in the trail rig across the rest of Indiana and all of Ohio to get to the start of UA. After it gets dark on us in eastern Ohio, we start getting some sprinkles of rain, so I reach over and turn on the windshield wipers. They go back and forth about two times and hang up mid stroke. The wiper motor was brand new; it had literally been bolted in a few days before we left on the trip, and here it is already messing up. We cycled the switch a couple times and still get no action. We don't want to stop for anything at this point since we're already late, short on sleep, and haven't checked in for the event and we know we have to be up early to get ready for the first trail day but it starts actually raining. We push on, hoping the rain would bead up and we'd be able see enough to stay on the highway, but no dice. Visibility got so bad, we had no choice but to pull over and deal with it. At this point I'm not sure what we're going to do, but I'm pretty sure it's going to involve a lot of time and maybe missing the first trail day altogether."

Creative Paracord Solution

"This is why we have good partners/co-drivers on the trip. My dad must have had his plan hatched before we even pulled over. First step, he grabbed the wiper arms and gave them a good rip side to side a few times to strip the gears in the motor out completely. That seemed to serve two purposes: violent emotional release against the stupid cause of our problem and letting the wipers move freely. Second step, he whips out some trusty paracord and runs it through the upper rollcage gusset/handle on the driver-side A-pillar of the rollcage, around the windshield A-pillar, and knots one end to the driver-side wiper arm. The other end of the cord goes across the interior and out the passenger window to be tied to the passenger-side wiper arm. Pull the cord loop one way, and the wiper arms go up, pull the other way, and the wiper arms go down, and in the process we have a clear windshield. And the co-driver has something to do with his spare time. We were rolling down the highway in less than five minutes."

Manual Wipers for the Win

"In the end we made it to the hotel with a few hours to sleep, wheeled the next day with no issues, and bought a new wiper motor the next evening. We decided to sleep that night rather than spend the time to replace the motor, and in true UA fashion, we didn't have a chance to work on the motor for another couple days so we dealt with the daily rainstorms (one bad enough to have a tornado warning along with it) using our manual wipers. We typically trade off driving duties so one guy can rest from driving. For that few days, we traded off so one guy could rest from running the darn windshield wipers!"

Calm Thinking Is Key

"I really try to emphasize spending just a little bit of time doing some calm thinking when stuff starts going sideways to stop that momentum. 'Let's make some good decisions so this doesn't get any worse. '"

Have you ever had a minor off-road (or on-road) problem that escalated, where you had to call on your creativity to solve the problem? Email ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com and tell Ken about it!