Windshield Wiper Replacement

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On investigating a windshield wiper problem a few weeks back, the wiper arm literally fell apart in our hands due to corrosion. So we needed four new Exalto EX2108 adjustable length pantograph wiper arms. We searched on-line but all the listings we found were up over $200. Paying $800 to replace 4 wiper arms just seemed nuts, so we kept searching. Several readers of our web site sent us suggestions, but none were easy to get and all were unreasonably priced. There is a private email list of Nordhavn owners and experts, so we posted there asking for suggestions. Derek Stern jumped in and pointed out that the wipers are made in the Netherlands quite near to where we currently are moored. He arranged for a good price and had them shipped directly to us. Thanks Derek!

The new parts arrived quickly, but they were much larger than what was installed on Dirona. Close inspection reveals that the installed parts had been cut to fit, so we cut the new parts to match the old parts. Then we installed the windshield washer sprayer that mounts at the lower end of the arm and the windshield washer hose that runs along the arm up to a bulkhead fitting near the wiper arm pivot point.

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The old wiper arms were badly corroded and we expected they would be difficult to remove, with risk of damaging the motors on removal. Surprisingly, they came off quite easily. At this point the job felt close to done. All that needed to be done was reattach the wiper arms and adjust them to sweep the right area of the window. Installing was quick and easy, but adjusting to fit proved fairly challenging. Both arms are adjustable length and the arm sweep area can be moved left or right. With only 3 degrees of freedom, adjustment shouldn’t be difficult. Tiny changes on any dimension made big changes to the wiper sweep area. Lengthening one arm 1/8″ would lead to a 1/2″ of interference at the bottom (center) of the stroke. Shortening would lead to interference at the edge of the stroke. Trial and error and learning to only make tiny changes at a time eventually found the right position, but the process took more than an hour when we were expecting 5 to 10 min.

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At that point we really thought we were done. But the windshield washer had stopped working sometime during the short period where the wipers were not in use. We pulled one of the hoses off the bulkhead to see if there was blockage or an installation mistake around the wiper arms. Nothing came out. We opened up the upper dash area and and found the feed hose heading off toward the left side of the boat. We opened up the left dash area and found the hose continued down the left side of the boat to the rear. We opened the left side pilot house wire run and traced the washer water feed hose down into the lower pilot house dash panel. We opened up the left side dash panel and couldn’t find it there. Then we opened up the lockers below and found the hose running to a solenoid valve. Finally. The bad news is that this valve is directly over the boat’s Internet router and other electronics.

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We then took off the windshield washer solenoids and checked that it has 24V when the washers are on. It did, so the problem is likely the solenoid valve. We applied 24V directly to the valve and nothing happened, confirming the problem is the solenoid valve. Unfortunately we don’t have a spare and the valve attachment is using a metal part inside a PEX hose fitting. These fittings are designed to grab and seal a plastic hose. Using a metal part in this fitting isn’t a wonderful approach, we can’t get it apart, and we suspect if we did get it apart, it’s highly likely to leak. Being over the router, a leak there isn’t wonderful, so repairing the valve is likely the least work solution.

We removed the magnetic actuator that opens and closes the valve and checked to make sure it worked. It did which confirms that the water valve itself is the problem. We didn’t want to remove the valve assembly, suspecting that attachment approach wouldn’t likely reseal. So we shut off the house water pump, drained the pressure, and put a towel over top of the electronics to catch any water released as we opened up the system. We then took apart the valve and found the plunger mechanism that operates the valve had become stuck from lack of use and some foreign matter. We cleaned the mechanism, tested it, and reassembled it. Half the pilot house still needed to be reassembled, but at least the windshield wipers were back working.


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7 comments on “Windshield Wiper Replacement
  1. Tony says:

    James, fantastic reading about your great journeys and your mechanical issues and how you remedy them.
    Is it purely a cost issue as to why Nordhavn and I guess similar manufacturers don’t install rust proof fittings, eg stainless steel or the like. It seems with quite a few blogs and you tubers in the Nordhavn community that some repairs really shouldn’t be necessary if the correct material was used in the first place. Corrosion on windscreen wipers seems like a problem that no-one would want to have if you’re miles from home and its raining !!!

    • Mostly it’s economics. Titanium is a wonderful material but super expensive. Stainless if often excellent but sometimes rusts badly. Partly this is because there are many different grades of stainless. 304 isn’t great in marine applications. 316 is pretty good. But, even when you have a high quality 316 or similar part, it can still rust. Stainless, even high quality stainless, without oxygen can corrode badly. Stainless exposed to an acidic environment can corrode as well.

      Even very good materials can fail and the truly awesome materials are expensive enough that most purchasers won’t pay for them. As a consequence some less than awesome materials are used. On Nordhavn’s, when our boat was built an Aquamet 17 shaft was installed. Nordhavn has since learned that Aquamet 22 performs much better and rarely corrodes and isn’t that much more money, so that is what they use now. The company is always evolving and improving. Aquamet 22 can still fail but it’s a good price performer and a far better choice.

      On our wiper arm failure, they did go 10 years so arguably didn’t do badly but, for sure, there are more durable materials available at higher cost. I’ve not done enough research to know if it’s worth it. Replacing every 10 years isn’t to unreasonable from my perspective. The key point here is you get years of warning the wiper arms need replacement and, even if they fail, there are 4 arms and they won’t all fail at once so it’s unlikely to surprise you.

      A change that is starting to be more common is to move from galvanized steel anchor and chain to stainless steel. Stainless isn’t quite as strong but I’m tempted to move to stainless for the chain since it requires less maintenance, is easier to clean, and looks good.

  2. John S. says:

    A fine example of how a quick, simple job turns into a long, tricky operation when you are dealing with boat problems.

    • It’s true. I try to keep the boat well maintained since, many times jobs grow bigger due to multiple issue being uncovered. And I try to have the right parts on hand since a massive amount of time can be spent trying to make things work that should just be replaced. But boats are complex and, as you said, jobs often do grow.

  3. Paul Wood says:

    A supplier of the Danfoss solenoid valve, and if you scroll down the page its associated parts are listed, too.

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