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Popular among junkyard makers, the windshield wiper motor is an extremely capable piece of hardware. This device packs quite a punch of torque, and can be had for a few dollars. Unsatisfied with restricting use of this gearbox to its intended purpose, makers have been, and will continue, hacking this motor into a wide range of projects. The wiper motor housing will likely have several mounting holes, which can be used to hold the unit in place for your project. Readymade for 12VDC, some motors will fire with as little as 3V — of course, the more voltage you supply, the faster the motor will spin. They’re cheap enough that you should feel free to open one up and deconstruct it. Inside you’ll find a worm gear and simple ring gear, which give the device its incredible torque. And when modified with various mechanical linkage designs these motors can give nearly every maker project the drive it needs to go!

Here is a selection of alternative uses for windshield wiper motors, and the next time you’re at the scrap heap, you may want to poke around and see if you can’t pick up a few of these simple but skillful drives.


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Rocking chair mods commonly use wiper motors for their range of speeds and easy adaptability to the chair’s frame. A perfect example is Keith Corcoran’s extremely creepy Animatronic Rocking Chair Prop.



Michael Surran made headlines in 2006 with his version of Doctor Who’s K-9 the robot dog. Built to inspire kids to understand robotics, it uses a variety of electronic and mechanical components, including windshield wiper motors!

K-9 is based on the robot dog in the sci-fi show, Doctor Who. However, my K-9 is a real, programmable, electronic robot (no radio control here, unless you count a wi-fi link to a laptop). He is made of metal (see photo of his skeleton for details), is powered by a 12 volt lawn tractor battery, has an Intel Celeron processor for a brain (basically a stripped-down laptop), and is propelled by two windshield wiper motors connected to lawn mower wheels.


By an unknown maker, this modified piano uses “wind-screen wiper motors to operate bows on strings attached to the piano wires, which made the whole piano hum.”



Mentioned earlier this year on MAKE, Silicon Farmers combined the versatility of an Arduino with the stability of a wiper motor to create this Automated Chicken Coop Door.



Another fantastically creepy Halloween prop, this Tombstone Head Popper was made with a simple linkage system so the head appears to bop from side to side. And the best part is they even wrote a guide on using a windshield wiper motor for novice prop-makers.


This one is pure meta. That’s Sunny Armas’s Windup Car, a convertible modded with a big rotating key using a windshield wiper motor, powered off the dashboard cigarette lighter! Astute readers will recognize this project from Volume 09 of MAKE magazine.

And of course now the real question remains, what will YOU mod a windshield wiper motor into?!


Wiper motor image courtesy of crazyoctopus

Nick Normal

I’m an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!


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Comments

  1. ka1axy says:

    When I Googled “replacement windshield wiper motor”, everything I found was around $50. Of course, you may be able to locate a used one. I’m building a giant “rock” tumbler, and I’m trying to do it cheaply, so I looked around and I found windshield wiper motors for around $16 at http://www.monsterguts.com. Apparently, they are the motive power of choice for animating porch or horror show monsters. Who knew?

    No connection with them, just happy I found a motor cheap…

    1. They’re typically found inexpensively at self-serve auto parts yards (“U-pull”, “pick’n’pull”, LKQ, etc)

    2. Nick Normal says:

      Find the local auto scrapper in your town and see what they have to offer. If they salvage as much as they can from vehicles, a wiper motor can be got for very cheap.

    3. Alista says:

      I can verify what the other two comments say; I’m a soon-to-be-9th-grade girl and last year for an honors robotics project I was able to find a windshield wiper motor for $20 at the local junkyard. Unfortunately there’s no self serve junkyard where I live…. maybe it’s a good thing or I would just go in one day and never be seen again.

      1. Alista says:

        *correction, this wasn’t last year this was my seventh grade year

      2. Nick Normal says:

        Hi Alista, That’s great you found the part needed for so cheap. What was the robotic project if you don’t mind my asking? I’d like to see some pictures of that build! Thanks for stopping by and reading.

        1. Alista says:

          It was an electro-mechanical automaton; my middle school teachers used a project based curriculum and I was the guinea pig for a “20% Project”, basically a project in which you get to design a project based on something that interests you (write a novel, build a robot, learn to weld, research family history, etc.) You write your own rubric, design a project schedule, and the teachers gave you 20% of your class time to work on it in addition to your other schoolwork. I decided to try to build an electro-mechanical automaton the using a windshield wiper motor, fan, some gears found in a DVD player, and whatever other materials I could find for the frame, could raise and lower a bubble-wand and blow bubbles. I called it the BubbleBot. It was almost successful,(well it worked in theory,) but there was a loose wire somewhere in the control lever. I’ll see if I can dig up a few photos :)

  2. rocketguy1701 says:

    I got two of the monsterguts wiper motors, looking forward to putting them into a robot to cruise the neighborhood with. I’m hoping to figure out an easy way to adapt the shafts to a gear. Well, there’s always JB weld…

  3. David G says:

    To get cheap w/w motors drop by your local junkyard or maybe the corner mechanic has one or two old ones lying around.

  4. [...] the article Windshield Wiper Motor Mods, user rocketguy1701 writes: I got two of the monsterguts wiper motors, looking forward to putting [...]

  5. [...] TwistedUK made this “Circus Freak Puppeteer” from multiple model forms, PVC pipe, and a wiper motor to give the appearance of movement in the puppet. I was really impressed with his use of DAS [...]

  6. [...] aka TwistedUK made this “Circus Freak Puppeteer” from multiple model forms, PVC pipe, and a wiper motor to give the appearance of movement in the puppet. I was really impressed with his use of DAS [...]

  7. Michelle says:

    If you want save you can look for junk shops that sells second hand motors.

  8. Henry says:

    Good day nick, Thanks for the nice info. im building a motorized scissor jack can i use the wiper motor for this?

    1. Nick Normal says:

      That’s great Henry – keep me informed of your build progress: nicknormal at gmail dot com – cheers!