Ever gone on a road trip and get frustrated because your windshield washer fluid isn’t keeping your windshield clean? One major reason could be your windshield wipers, but another possibility is your windshield washer fluid. Even if you use glass cleaner before your trip, there’s only so much it can do to keep your windshield clear on long drives. This is one of the main reasons why we recommend filling up that reservoir with quality windshield wiper fluid.
Certain washer fluids work better at getting bugs and grime off your windshield, while others are designed to help in extremely cold temperatures. Of course there are also products that work year-round to give you all-season coverage. Below, you’ll find our recommendations for the best windshield washer fluids, including a budget option for those who just occasionally use wiper fluid.
1. Top pick: Prestone Deluxe 2-in-1 windshield washer fluid
Our top pick offers all-season coverage and is a 2-in-1 windshield washer fluid from Prestone. It’s formulated as a mix of the brand’s De-Icer and Bug Wash products to break down all that salt, grime, and bug remains from your windshield. It also provides protection in extreme winter conditions, helping keep frost from accumulating on your windshield, down to -27°F.
This recommendation is best for car owners who experience all four seasons, from rainy summers to snowy winters. It also applies a bit of water beading technology to help repel water from your glass. It’s similar to what Rain-X’s popular formula has to offer, but I always found Rain-X to be the most effective. I do find this to be the best overall recommendation however, for shoppers who just want one solution that does the job well.
2. Best for cold weather: Rain-X De-Icer windshield washer fluid
If your main concern is protection in cold weather conditions, you could go with our top pick or Rain-X’s De-Icer windshield washer fluid. This is specially formulated to deal with extremely cold temperatures, down to -25°F, and will melt precipitation so frost, ice, and snow have a harder time sticking to your windshield.
Since this is a product from Rain-X, it unsurprisingly also applies the brand’s signature water repellent formula to your windshield when you use it. While it’s not as effective as a proper coating of the actual solution, it does a better job than most water beading formulas that are found in other products. If you have ever used Rain-X on your windshield before, you likely know how effective it can be, especially in heavy rain. Having a windshield washer fluid that adds more protection is never a bad thing.
3. Best on a budget: 303 Products instant windshield washer tablets
This product may initially cost more than a bottle of windshield washer fluid, but over time it’ll cost you a whole lot less because one tube goes a long way. These are windshield washer tablets from 303 Products and they’re ideal for drivers who live in areas that experience occasional rain, but no snow or ice. Each concentrated tablet just needs to be dissolved with 1 gallon of water, or to make life easier, just fill up your washer fluid reservoir with water and drop in the tablet.
That means one tube of 25 tablets can net you 25 gallons of washer fluid, which is significantly more than what you get from purchasing a single one-gallon jug. 303 Products does claim its tablets provide three times the cleaning power of an ordinary wash, but I didn’t find it to be as effective as our other picks. Still, for occasional cleaning use, you can’t beat the value from these tablets.
As a side note, you’ll find plenty of similar tablets at comparable prices while shopping online. We recommend sticking with 303 Products, which is a well-known and reputable brand for car care, RV care, and boat care products.
4. Best for bugs: Prestone Bug Wash windshield washer fluid
If your road trips typically involve a lot of bug splatter on your windshield and you’ve endured smears and streaks trying to clean it off while driving, you’ll want to invest in Prestone’s Bug Wash windshield washer fluid. This solution is formulated to deal with bug residue, road grime, bird droppings, tree sap, and other substances that may stick to your windshield.
When used, this washer fluid applies a barrier that helps prevent stubborn residues from adhering to your glass so they’re easier to clean. It’ll also add water repellent to your windshield, so water beads off. You should only use this solution if you don’t experience freezing temperatures however, as it’s designed for summer driving with protection up to 32°F. If you want some of the Bug Wash’s capabilities in freezing temperatures, go with Prestone’s all-season windshield washer fluid, which is our top pick.
5. Also consider: nextzett Kristall Klar washer fluid
Our final recommendation comes from Germany and is a concentrated formula that needs to be mixed with water. Although it’s just an 8.5-ounce bottle, it can produce nearly 13 gallons of washer fluid once diluted. This windshield washer fluid does perform exceptionally well, but it shouldn’t be used in cold temperatures at all. Found in some European vehicles straight from the factory, Kristall Klar uses lubricants to reduce wiper skipping and shuddering. Since there’s less friction, it also helps extend the life of your windshield wipers by protecting the rubber.
It’s an ammonia-free formula that also uses water softeners to help prevent hard water buildup on your spray jets. And for those who care, it does leave behind a citrusy scent that you might be able to smell through your air vents. It’s not too noticeable if you’re using the wiper fluid while driving, but it’s worth noting for those who are sensitive to smells.
This is not the ideal product for those who just want a washer fluid they can dump into their reservoir with little thought. You’ll have to mix an ounce of this solution with 1.5 gallons of water – or half an ounce with .75 gallons depending on the size of your reservoir.
Can I just use plain water instead of windshield washer fluid?
Well, you could, but it doesn’t work as well. If you live in an area that never experiences freezing temperatures, then you might be able to survive with just water. But we don’t recommend it, because it will never give you the same cleaning power as a proper windshield washer fluid. Our recommendations are all formulated with ingredients to help clean your windshield, cutting away all that grime that can stick to the glass. If you’re using just water, you’ll likely experience a lot of streaking and smearing, depending on how dirty your windshield is. You definitely do not want to use just water in your reservoir if you live anywhere that endures freezing temperatures.
How do I refill my windshield washer fluid?
While it’s always recommended to check your owner’s manual for specific instructions on refilling your windshield washer fluid, it is a straightforward process. Here are some general steps:
- Start by locating your windshield wiper fluid container or reservoir under your hood. It typically has a blue cap on it with the washer fluid symbol.
- Pop open the lid and store it in a safe place if it isn’t attached to the reservoir.
While you can definitely pour the windshield washer fluid into the container without a funnel, we highly recommend just using one to prevent a mess. Simply pour the windshield washer fluid into the container until it reaches the fill line. If you can’t find a fill line, leave a couple inches of empty space at the top of the reservoir.
Afterwards, replace the cap and lower the hood on your car. Be sure to give your sprayers a test after refilling the container.