Windshield Wiper Motor Mods

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.

This post is brought to you by the new OE Fine Wire Spark Plug line from Bosch.

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


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!

View more articles by Nick Normal