Adding stuff to windshield washer fluid: Good idea or not?

A service worker, pours in the tank washer fluid for washing car windows.

Q: In some cars that I have used, borrowed, or rented, the windshield washer fluid seems slightly sudsy. Do you know of a difference in windshield washer formulation that would cause this? It seems to me that this fluid works a little better.

Can I add a small amount of ammonia to the windshield washer fluid myself to make it sudsy, or would it be hard on the wipers or cause some other problem? What about a drop of Dawn detergent?

— S.B., Minneapolis

A: Many brands of washer solvent contain a little bit of surfactant, but usually not a sudsing type. Although you may use ammonia, I would advise against it as it can leave streaks. Ammonia is often used to strip wax from linoleum floors and may do the same to your car’s wax. But it probably would not harm the wipers.


A teaspoon or less of Dawn to a gallon of store-bought fluid would be fine. Too much, though, could cause streaking or make you feel you are looking through a bubble bath.


Q: This note is a response to the problem posed by E.B. from Boyerton, Pa., concerned about loosening wheel lug nuts. I have found most lug wrenches supplied with cars extremely poor in quality and fit, and using them risks rounding off the corners of the nuts.

I suggest a high-quality, six-point socket that fits the wheel.  Next, purchase a long breaker bar. I have a 25-inch one.

— R.L., Woodridge, Ill.

A: Lots of folks use this setup. A good quality, six-point socket will contact the flats of the nut or bolt instead of the points. Not only does that prevent damage, it supplies adequate torque to turn the nuts.


Q: When at school in Muncie, Ind., my daughter’s 2009 Honda Civic’s engine light came on. She took it to the city’s Honda dealer, who replaced the transmission pressure switch and did a trans fluid change. The following week, it rained nonstop for seven days. My daughter didn’t drive during that time due to finals. When she did get in the car, the floor was sopping wet.


We’ve sprinkled baking soda to help absorb the smell and water and have vacuumed up as much water as possible. It is going to our regular Honda dealer (not in Indiana) later this week for its yearly check-over. I am asking them about this flooding situation as well.

My question to you: What can remove the mildew stench that is still present? A friend suggested a detail at the car wash with the carpets steamed, but we’re talking a college kid’s car. Details are pretty expensive. (And forget that Honda dealer in Muncie!) Any solution would be greatly appreciated.

— D.B., Chicago

A: Listen to your friend. Detailing usually costs about $125, but you don’t need to have the full monty. Just ask them to deodorize the vehicle.

Although some detailers use chemical products, most use ozone generators to get the smell out. Call around. You may find a price you can live with. It beats having your kid driving to school with that odor in the car.