The Ford Fusion just got a refresh for 2017, bringing the V6 and Sport designation rightfully back to the midsize sedan. However, there is one detail that has remained the same on this facelift, as well as the other new European Fords: the windshield wipers. Why did Ford suddenly switch to the “mini van” style?
Yes, this has truly been in the back of my mind since the 2012 Ford Focus came out. Now that I am on winter break and have plenty of time to waste, I have finally looked into this topic. Though, researching turned out to be a little difficult since I had no idea what the name of the wiper setup was. I had to scrounge through forums and YouTube demos to find out that the new Fords use an opposed wiper system, despite the fact that a simple Wikipedia search could have answered all of my questions.
As I am sure you know, this is not a new design. Just a few examples of the opposed setup can be found in the Honda Civic from 2006 to 2015, and the Dodge Grand Caravan from 1996 to 2007. Now, there’s something that both of these cars have in common.
They both have huge windshields. Even the new Fords have pretty big windshields, and this is more important than it seems. U.S. regulations require a certain percentage of the windshield to be cleared. The windshield is broken up into three different areas and a percentage of each area needs to be cleared, ranging from 80-99%. So, in some cars, clearing the needed areas of the windshields can only be realistically done with the opposed setup.
But I think there is more to Ford’s decision to switch than simply clearing the windshield. Ford uses a new system developed by Bosch. Instead of connecting each wiper to a single motor, as shown above, they use two individual motors for each wiper. They call this Direct Drive because there is no mechanical linkage between wipers and motors; they are directly connected. Of course, this means that a computer is needed to control them so there are no wiper to wiper collisions.
Bosch actually took this opportunity to make their wipers even smarter. The wipers can detect a build up of snow and ice, or maybe mud caked on after an off road rally run in a Focus ST, and make adjustments to work more effectively. The computer reduces the area the wiper sweeps and stops them before hitting the blockage. The video below explains how the systems works.
However, I think the greatest incentive for Ford to use this style of wipers is with pedestrian safety requirements in Europe. Ford gains way more space under the hood by using two independent motors and ditching the linkage. This space can be used to absorb a pedestrian impact, which is vital for Ford to sell essentially the same car in all markets. Each car has to pass all of the safety tests in every country, and this is a somewhat cheap solution to one test.
A perfect example of this is with the 2015 Ford Edge. The Edge soldiered on for 7 years using the usual style of wipers, but the second it left the continent, it switched to opposed wipers. The same goes for every Ford, except for the Mustang, interestingly. The Mustang’s higher hood most likely absorbs enough energy in impacts, which allowed for the engineers at Ford to keep the tandem wiper design.
Now, if you’re like me and still find this layout to be a little odd, keep the wipers in mind if you check out that new Fusion Sport. But don’t forget that if you make good use of the twin turbos and all wheel drive in the rain, the high speed wind should just carry the drops right off; you wouldn’t even have to touch the wipers.
Photo credits to PartService, Wikipedia, Google’s Patent Drawings, and Bosch