Rain-sensing windscreen wipers explained

rain-sensing windscreen wipers explained

Newer cars boast rain-sensing windscreen wipers, which are an excellent way of automatically keeping your windscreen clear in pouring rain.

Proudly brought to you by Oricom: Windscreen wipers became a thing way back in the early 1900s, but these were usually manual wipers operated by tram drivers. It wasn’t until 1917 that things started to kick along, when Charlotte Bridgewood designed an electric windscreen wiper.

But it was the vacuum-based system designed by William Folbeth in 1922 that became the staple of car makers everywhere until the intermittent wiper was introduced in 1964 by Robert Kearns. After shopping his idea with the Big Three in the US, he was shown the door but car makers took his ‘idea’ and began developing their own versions. Typical.

The intermittent wiper was important because it helped to overcome the ‘wet-dry’ scenario caused by wipers before this, which would end up smearing water across the windscreen.

The next step has been the introduction of rain-sensing windscreen wipers. This involves the placement of a sensor behind the windscreen. The sensor fires out a beam of infra-red light which when rain falls on the windscreen interrupts the beam, sending it back to the sensor at different angles and prompts the windscreen wipers to activate.

But it’s much smarter than that. Depending on the speed of the car and how heavy the rain is, the sensor can either speed up or slow down the frequency of the wipers. Or even turn them off.

Some but not all vehicles will have their rain-sensing system linked with the dusk-sensing system so that your vehicle’s headlights will activate when the wipers turn on. And those with rain-sensing wipers will usually have a linked system that will tell the rear windscreen wiper (where fitted of course) to activate when the front wipers are working and Reverse gear has been selected.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.