Recently in our forums, a question about replacing the window washer pump on a 2007 Honda Accord was asked. Window washers not "squirting" the windshield is a relatively common issue and the Honda line of sedans and hatchbacks (Accord, Civic, etc) are good examples of everyday cars that might have this problem, it created an opportunity for us to go through a quick how-to for diagnosis and repair.
First, diagnose the problem
If your windshield washer is not squirting onto the windscreen, it is both an annoyance and a safety issue. To find out the trouble, you'll have to do some basic detective work.
Many DIY mechanics automatically assume it's the washer pump not working. We all know what ASS-U-ME means. These little submersible pumps used on vehicles from the 1990s through to today are tough little units and fairly indestructible. As Big Block 409 says:
"A STOUT submersible window washer pump that is self priming!!!! REALLY has LITTLE to NO failure rate!!!!! Don't buy or replace it till you post EXACTLY what the problem is???"
His point is, this is the least likely of your problems. Three things are commonly the issue:
1) no fluid in the windshield washer reservoir
2) a blocked or disconnected washer line
3) an electrical problem between the activation switch on the steering column and the pump
So to start with, check fluid levels. Is the reservoir filled to the "full" line and well above the "minimum" line? If you can't see the lines, look down the filler neck and look at the current fluid levels (it's usually blue or orange). Add more if you're unsure and then try the washers again.
If that is not the issue, then trace the washer lines from the pump (usually coming out of the side of the reservoir, towards the bottom) and trace them from there around to the firewall and into the hood. Look for breaks, leaks, or missing line. Check all of the connections to be sure they're fitted and tight.
If all is well, disconnect them at each junction, starting at the beginning, and attempt to blow through them as you or a partner feel for air at the nozzle. If you get nothing from the first attempt (at the pump), reconnect and go to the next fitting and try it there. Progress through until you figure out which section is blocked. Most blockages are in the fittings that connect sections of hose rather than the hoses themselves, so once you've narrowed down the blockage area, continue tracing until you find the actual blockage.
Depending on where the blockage is, you can use hair pins, needles, or other small tools that can easily get inside and try to remove the blockage. Then reconnect everything and try it again.
Electrical problems are similarly traced. Start at the pump and work backwards, as this is easiest. Try running your own straight connection from the battery to the pump to see that the pump is working (if not, that's obviously your problem). If so, use a meter to "walk" along the wiring from one coupling to the next, looking for the loss. Once you find it, repair as necessary.
Often, getting to the pump requires removing the inner fender nearest the reservoir or by removing the reservoir itself, which will be mounted to the engine compartment with 2 or 3 bolts. Different models have different placements and mounting, so refer to your owner's manual or repair handbook for details.