We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Intermittent Windshield Wipers?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
WikiMotors is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WikiMotors, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Intermittent windshield wipers operate in timed intervals rather than constantly. This keeps a windshield clean in conditions of misting or very light rain. In these conditions, constant wiping dries the window, causing blades to stick and squeak as rubber drags across glass. Before intermittent wipers were invented, the solution was to turn the wipers on, let them wipe the windshield once or twice, then turn them off, repeating this process several times a minute.

Today, there are various models of intermittent wipers. Some models have pre-set intervals with a knob adjustment setting that can be clicked over to one of a few predetermined intervals. Other models feature a control knob that is rolled clockwise or counterclockwise, stretching or shortening the interval between wipes.

Intermittent windshield wipers improved upon standard wipers that have been evolving since the manual wiper designed and patented by Mary Anderson in 1903. As history tells it, Anderson, on a trip to New York, noted that streetcar drivers had to open their side windows in rainy weather to see out around the front windshield. Vowing to address the problem, her solution was a single wiper blade attached to a lever located conveniently inside the vehicle. The lever could be used to draw the blade across the window to remove rain and snow while remaining inside. By 1916, Anderson’s invention became standard equipment on all American cars.

Today’s windshield wiper systems are virtually trouble-free in most weather. Intermittent windshield wipers were invented by Robert Kearns (10 March 1927 - 9 February 2005), an Indiana man who saw an opportunity to improve on standard wipers. Kearns realized a need for wipers that would work on a delayed switch principle, and designed then patented this invention in 1967. He presented his idea to the three major US auto companies, Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Chrysler, but none took him up on his idea. Beginning in 1969, however, Ford began introducing models with this feature, and the other automobile manufacturers followed.

Kearns sued Ford in 1978 and Chrysler four years later for patent infringement, but justice was a long time coming, with the legal saga lasting nearly two decades. The inventor eventually ended up collecting $10.2 million US Dollars (USD) from Ford, and $18.7 million USD from Chrysler for what the courts termed to be “non-deliberate infringement.”

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon928701 — On Jan 29, 2014

Why are they described as "Intermittent" when the wipers operate in timed intervals? Intermittent (Defined): Occurring at irregular intervals; not continuous or steady.

The intervals are regular, continuous and steady. --Eric

By Potterspop — On May 08, 2011

I'm really happy to read that there are adjustable controls available for windshield wipers. This feature would be enough to sell me a car, as I hate that pre-set timer.

It never seems to be just right, and I find myself watching anxiously for it to do something before I am unable to see. It would also stop that horrible noise as the windshield wiper arm drags itself across the nearly dry glass.

By MissMuffet — On May 07, 2011

@Windchime - Some people like to use different types of wipers for different seasons. Maybe this is an answer to your problem? I know that mine didn't work as well in the winter, particularly if there was ice on the car.

I asked the guy at my local auto shop which were the best windshield wiper blades, and followed his advice to buy the all weather type. It costs a bit more but you should avoid the kind of streaking you mentioned when they are on the intermittent setting.

By Windchime — On May 06, 2011

My windshield wiper blades seem to work better in some seasons than others. The other day it drizzled and I put them on the intermittent setting. I ended up with a whole load of blurry mess on the window, which was quite dangerous.

When I put them onto full and used the cleaning liquid it was fine, but I'd like to avoid this problem in the future. Anyone have some tips?

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.