General Question

Jude's avatar

I accidently spilled windshield wiper fluid when trying to refill the windshield wiper reservoir, yesterday. I tried to clean it up as best as I could. I'm a bit leary on starting my car. Do you think that it'll be okay?

Asked by Jude (31971 points ) February 9th, 2009

Basically, I’m concerned that the windshield wiper fluid is flammable..

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27 Answers

tehrani625's avatar

It should be ok. Your car’s engine should be weather proof. How old is your car?

RandomMrdan's avatar

you’ll be fine

Jude's avatar

1998 Chevy Lumina.

dynamicduo's avatar

Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.

Think of it this way. If it actually DID pose a serious chance of catching on fire, someone would have already sued a windshield fluid company, and there’d be massive labels and warning tape to get through before opening a bottle.

Mr_M's avatar

Yesterday? It’s all evaporated by now.

fireside's avatar

I spill washer fluid almost every time I refill it, hasn’t been an issue yet.
maybe i should buy a funnel

Grisson's avatar

There’s an interesting discussion of the possible environmental hazards of windshield wiper fluids on wikipedia

The short version is, your car is not likely to explode, but your driveway may dissolve :o), and probably don’t let your pets lick it.

jessturtle23's avatar

Are you serious?

Grisson's avatar

@jessturtle23 Never.

But, the article did mention a phenomenon about asphalt and concrete being corroded by washer fluid. And some washer fluid contains antifreeze, which is detrimental to pets (if it contains ethelyne glycol, that is). At any rate, keeping pets away from it is probably a good idea.

Jude's avatar

@jessturtle23 (Robert Deniro in Taxi Driver voice) Are you talking to me?

jessturtle23's avatar

Yes. I was talking to you.

Jude's avatar

I know nothing about cars and it was quite the spill (half the bottle), so, I just wasnt’t sure.

dynamicduo's avatar

There’s no such thing as a stupid question*. There IS, on the other hand, a stupid answer.

* I don’t believe this.

lefteh's avatar

I don’t think it’s a stupid question. What’s wrong about asking if there’s a problem with spilling a fluid containing methanol next to a combustion chamber?

Baloo72's avatar

This whole site is about having questions answered. I wouldn’t consider it a stupid question. As everyone else has already said, your car will be fine.

westy81585's avatar

You can dump windshield wiper fluid all over your engine block, and it’s not going to hurt it. In fact if your coolant system ever fails and it’s overheating, it’s one of the first things you can dump on the engine block to cool it down. Your car will not be damaged in ANY WAY. (you may want to consider the possible environmental hazards though before you start pooring it on your engine block just cuz)

DandyDear711's avatar

I have next to no depth perception so I have spilled lots of wiper fluid, oil, and antifreeze over the years. No fires so far. I am now getting my teen son to do the pouring – under the guise of teaching him life skills.

westy81585's avatar

keep antifreeze from spilling if possible…. it’s not hazardous, but if you get it on the belts they will squeal, and it’s virtually impossible to get them to stop short of replacing them…. (no detriment to their performance, they just squeal)

Knotmyday's avatar

Wiper fluid is detergent in nature, and mostly composed of water. It’s not combustible. In fact, most diluted ester-containing fluids are actually fire-suppressant. Beer is an example that comes readily to mind.

lefteh's avatar

@Knotmyday: I disagree. Wiper fluid is usually quite flammable.

jessturtle23's avatar

What they sell at the store for a couple bucks is not flammable. In states where it freezes often people will buy stuff that has more of a flammable chemical in it.

lefteh's avatar

Still not sure about that. The information provided here tends toward flammability, and I don’t know of a washer fluid without some type of alcohol.

Knotmyday's avatar

The jury is out, it appears. None of the stuff sold here (AZ) could be considered volatile in any way. I concede that colder climates require a higher concentration of de-icing chemicals…but now, the litmus test.
In the name of science, someone has to take lighter to wiper fluid.
Science! please don’t burn yourslves

lefteh's avatar

Perhaps it is regional. I’m from Ohio, where we are frozen solid for a quarter of every year.

El_Cadejo's avatar

well i know what im doing on my day off tomorrow….... trying to set windshield washer fluid on fire :). I was also under the impression it was mostly water.

westy81585's avatar

it’s not mostly water, but honestly during the summer you can use water (huge industry secret right there, lol).... the wiper fluid is really only helpful or worthwhile when you don’t want it to be frozen

Cliver's avatar

There are a number of types of washer fluid and the flammability is related to how much methanol content is in the bottle. Some are made with ethanol and some isopropol alcohol be the majority of winter washer fluids are methanol based formulas.

The concentrated versions that are meant to be watered down are highly flammable and up to 80% pure methanol. Pure methanol will burn like a fuel until totally consumed.

The -40oF or -40oC (same temp) premixed jugs are rated flammable but are very difficult to ignite as it is the vapours that may light but the flames suppress quickly.

The US products are somewhat more dilute and can be 20 to 30% more water in them than the Canadian Hi-test premixed product..
In short, for sure it’s all evaporated by now… . Difficult to light but not impossible!

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