By on August 8, 2017

washer-patent-main

It’s no secret that vehicle owners are becoming more hands-off when it comes to vehicle maintenance and repair. Some of that blame can be attributed to the increasing complexity of modern cars, and automakers are using that to their advantage as they attempt to make cars even more hands-off. The tool roll and spare tire you’d find in older cars have been replaced with a can of fix-a-flat and a roadside assistance card.

Changes like the disappearance of the spare tire are the result of chasing fuel economy standards, though others — like increased use of plastic engine covers — seem like the automaker’s way of telling owners they’ll need to subscribe to a service plan instead of trying to turn a wrench on their own. A recently published patent shows someone at Ford had the idea to take this to next level — so owners will never have to open the hood at all.

The only items that requires the opening of a modern car’s hood on a regular basis is the windshield washer fluid fill, and this patent describes a way to get around that. Patent US9,725,074 describes a grille emblem which can be used as a hood release and a windshield washer fluid fill.

The diagrams show an emblem that can be pulled from the top to reveal a reservoir in which to pour washer fluid. When pulled from the bottom, it releases the hood latch.

ford-washer-fill-emblem

According to the patent’s background, the inventors believe that refilling washer fluid involves a procedure that is comprised of “several inconvenient and frustrating steps.” They go on to state that:

On many vehicles one must reach under the hood and run a hand along the top of the motor vehicle grille seeking to locate the level which is hidden from view. This not only results in dirty hands but also potential frustration if the latch lever is not found quickly.

It is also significant to note that the engine compartment is often hot during the windshield washer fluid refilling task, as the low fluid level is typically discovered while driving. This creates an additional hazard while working under the hood to perform this task.

While Ford has a reasonable point about the latch area getting dirty, I find it hard to believe that people are getting frustrated and burned while trying to access the washer fluid fill. The background summary ends by stating this new system would not require opening the hood at all, representing “a significant advance in the art.”

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine

An external washer fluid fill could be a useful feature but, based on the diagram, it would require many more parts than current designs and could be susceptible to collecting dirt and debris.

Another issue with the system, which was mentioned by resident Michigander Adam Tonge, is that snow and slush could cause the mechanism to freeze and prevent you from adding washer fluid in the freezing conditions when it is most needed. It’s an interesting idea, but I do not see the inconvenience in refilling the fluid now, as the washer reservoir is usually close to the front of the engine bay and painted in a visible color.

I believe this sort of invention does more to propagate the idea that owners should not maintain their cars than anything to do with convenience.

[Images: Ford, via U.S. Patent and Trademark Office]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

60 Comments on “Ford’s New Patent Eliminates the Remaining Reason for Opening Your Hood...”


  • avatar
    cwallace

    They should just put that nifty rectangular door/pour funnel alongside the filler cap behind the fuel door.

    (color the funnel blue, make it square instead of round, make it smaller than a fuel nozzle, and some dolt will still manage to pump gas into it. Never mind.)

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Sounds neat but pointless. Tesla will probably add an electrically operated version to the Model S so there is one more thing to break.

    I can’t say I have ever seen a painted windshield washer filler – is that one of those crazy Porsche options? Color matched windshield washer filler for $500?

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    Ok,

    Being a Michigan resident myself, I understand the debris and icing of the opening. However, there MUST be a way to open the hood, if for nothing else, the dealer to service the car such as change oil, add brake fluid, etc. (unless the dealer removes the engine to service it!). So there would be a hood release someplace. And if it required a special tool to open, you can guarantee that that tool would be at AutoZone, etc.

    So I see it useful on a full hybrid car, when the engine area would be nothing but batteries or electric motors and fluid requirements were addressed (i.e. a non-hydraulic brake system or a non-fluid based heating and AC system for example)

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Per the description in the article, the emblem doubles as the hood release. Pull from the top for washer fluid, pull from the bottom to release the latch.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “An external washer fluid fill could be a useful feature but, based on the diagram, it would require many more parts than current designs and could be susceptible to collecting dirt and debris.”

    You also run the risk of having a passing miscreant opening up the hatch and taking a whiz in it simply because he can – something that can’t currently be done.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Presumably there would still be an inside release. One of my cars (Mercedes, I think), when you pulled the inside release, the external safety catch popped through the grill much like this. No grubbing around for it under the hood, it was right there in front of you. Halfway to this already. I doubt there are any cars left that have a purely external release mechanism anymore.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    What car do these “inventors” drive that requires one to burn their fingers just to change the wiper fluid?

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Regular cars are now so good that luxury car makers are having to add useless features to justify the additional cost. This is one example, as is the ridiculous gesture controls in the BMW 7 series.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You realize that every single feature we take for granted on “ordinary” cars debuted on a luxury car at some time in the past, right? And they were all seen as unnecessary fripperies at the time?

      But those kids should really just stay off your darned lawn.

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        Uh, his comment had absolutely nothing old-man-ish about it, no idea why you got so triggered.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        C’mon. Lighted door sills, Twitter and Facebook integration and getting rid of spare tires aren’t useful features.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          May not be useful to you or me, but they might just tip the sale over a car that doesn’t have that stuff for someone. And it costs about nothing to add that sort of thing today. Which is why it starts at the high end and ends up in everything better than a stripper Mitsubishi a couple years later.

          If you want a car with nothing, there is no shortage of nice low mileage 20yo cars out there to buy if you look hard enough.

          Everybody will have gesture controls in a few years, like it or not.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “The only items that requires the opening of a modern car’s hood on a regular basis is the windshield washer fluid fill”

    and of course the engine after 100K miles when oil needs to be added regularly. Ah, yes – for some cars even earlier

  • avatar
    tommytipover

    Nope, need a flexible hose in the glove box, maybe even with some sort of beak on it to pierce the *&^%$#! foil safety seal on the jug of fluid, connected to an electric pump to refill the reservoir from the jug right from the warmth of you car when it is eight billion degrees below zero outside.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      How about, instead of even providing a reservoir that one must pour the fluid into, they just provide a holder which you insert the standard gallon jug of fluid into, and a siphon tube that screws on in place of the cap.

      • 0 avatar
        redliner

        Winner!

        I think he only reason I this isn’t done is for packaging reasons. The fluid tank is an afterthought that is molded into whatever shape is neccesary to fit in the engine bay/wheel well or anywhere else the engineers find a few spare inches.

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        This is the winning answer.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “How about, instead of even providing a reservoir that one must pour the fluid into, they just provide a holder which you insert the standard gallon jug of fluid into, and a siphon tube that screws on in place of the cap.”

        Hey now, we’ll have none of that common sense stuff here.

        Besides, how will they put the fluid container inside the fender behind the wheel? Oh, wait–I see some BMW service dollar opportunities here.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    How do you know when it’s full if you can’t see the float in the reservoir?

    If the problem they are trying to solve is groping the top of the grill looking for the prop rod, just hold the hood open with struts instead. This has the added advantage of not having a prop rod in your way once the hood is open, and I doubt it is much more expensive than the contraption described.

    This isn’t an attack on the DIY community; it doubles as a way to open the hood, as keeping the hood closed for everyone except dealer techs is unrealistic. It’s a convenience for the crowd that is perplexed by the idea of cars as an assembly of parts requiring maintenance, and is terrified to open the hood. That consumer sees cars as appliances, so why not make adding washer fluid like adding detergent to a washing machine?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      “How do you know when it’s full if you can’t see the float in the reservoir?”

      Because it will stop accepting fluid, it will back up until it overflows on your shoes if you keep pouring. When you see fluid starting to back up where you’re pouring it, stop.

      “If the problem they are trying to solve is groping the top of the grill looking for the prop rod, just hold the hood open with struts instead. ”

      Um, no, it’s groping around in the tiny space between the hood and the latch to find the release, to THEN raise the hood to begin with. I didn’t see where any mention was made of finding the prop.

      Okay, you pop the hood on an unfamiliar vehicle. You go around and the hood is up a few inches, and you have fumble around with your fingers to find the release for the safety latch (the one that keeps your hood from flying up if you accidentally pull the inside hood release, or didn’t get it shut all the way).

      This is a release on the *exterior* that can be seen and accessed without the need for running your fingers through the grime under the hood.

      Ford already had the bright idea decades ago to paint the hood release lever yellow to help you see it if you bend down and look in there. I am amazed when I find cars from other automakers that it is still black so it blends in and can’t be seen until its not needed.

      • 0 avatar

        Audi had a good solution for a while, and built the hood release lever into the middle of one of the rings. Pull the inside release, and it pops out. Clear of dirt and grime, and easy to grab, retracts back in when you shut the hood.

        That was the best hood release I’ve ever seen.

  • avatar
    arach

    How much wiper fluid do you people use?

    I’ve never added wiper fluid unless I was doing an oil change, and its probably every 4th oil change at that. The thing holds like a freaking gallon in every car I’ve ever owned…

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      In places that have actual weather, it’s necessary.

      • 0 avatar
        slowcanuck

        Yes, a 400km round trip in slushy SW Ontario weather will use up a half litre or so of fluid – assuming you are the type of driver that likes to actually see out if the car every 10 – 15 minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      In a Maine winter with a car with headlight washers? Once a week at least in normal commuting, more on a long trip in foul conditions. And this in cars that hold well more than a gallon – my Range Rover held almost two.

      At my summer place in FL, I think I have filled up the reservoir on my GTI once in six months.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I was thinking the same thing. I top off the wiper fluid and check the other fluid levels every oil change while the oil is draining.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      I use it all the time and require a refill more often than the 5000 mile interval for my oil change.

  • avatar
    AVT

    I see one issue with this at least based on the description provided thus far. Lets say someones tailgating you and a rock suddenly comes up and hits your lovely emblem. Or you driving down a dirt road and a rock comes up from a passing by car. Suddenly your hood latch becomes undone and your hoods flys open. Or it opens to your windshield washer fluid container. So now you have debris entering it possibly clogging it to the point where you can’t get washer fluid out of your nozzles. We can only guess what bad things will happen than. Unless they put a lock out inside the car like they currently do, I’d be hesitant to take this to the cabin down the dirt road given how many lifted trucks go flying past me spraying rocks all over my vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I doubt it will be the only hood release, or that it’ll be accessible with the car locked.

      On average, how many car emblems do you have to replace each year?

      “We can only guess what bad things will happen than.”

      If you mean sit around and doubt the engineers who have studied the problem and the solution in great detail and try to think of all the horrible ways it will kill all of us, then yes, that’s all we can do.

      That, or wait until we know more.

  • avatar
    OldWingGuy

    I’m all for this type of thing IF…. they provide sensors for things like oil level etc. I would much prefer a readout on dash that told me this rather than pulling the dipstick. I think GMs use of TPMS where it shows individual tire pressure at the push of a button is awesome. No more pulling over to check tire pressure when I feel it pulling to one side. Better yet still show on a diagnostics screen on stsrtup – oil level ok, tire pressure ok, coolant level ok, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      That technology is already in existence.

      And, this is not a way to make the engine bay inaccessible, only to make filling the washer fluid and also opening the hood (if need be) easier.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You would enjoy a BMW. No dipstick, car tells you what it needs and displays all those things in the iDrive. Even my old mid-80s BMWs had a diagnostic status display indicating that fluid levels were OK with LEDs.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Insane.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    Do people really go through that much windshield fluid? I think I’ve purchased like two jugs in my entire lifetime for my cars. And I’m a stickler for maintenance.

    Just seems like a Rube Goldberg solution for an inconsequential issue.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      As someone mentioned elsewhere, trying living some place with actual winter conditions and the salt spray that comes with it. I’ll do maybe 3 fillups a winter or so?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        If you are only using 3 gallons a winter you don’t live where there is real winter (or it is just cold and dry all the time). I used a couple of CASES a winter here in cold wet sloppy Maine. Admittedly, everything I drive in the winter has headlight washers too which increases the usage a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        gtemnykh, many states in the West don’t use road salt even though they get plenty of winter. Maybe dry powder snow is better left frozen.
        http://oppositelock.kinja.com/states-that-dont-use-road-salt-1448867398
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_Belt

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        We get enough farm equipment on the roads here in small town south that each rain there is a bit of muddy film on our cars and glass.

        I go through about three gallons a year.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    This is actually a pretty neat idea. And it’ll eliminate those times when some befuddled and inept car owner had the “add washer fluid light” turn on, and they ended up pouring it into the brake reservoir or something (The brake reservoir being clear plastic and conveniently located at the base of the windshield; you gotta admit that the location of most washer tanks up near the headlights isn’t exactly intuitive.)

    On another note, I remember that my parent’s ’77 VW Microbus had a reservoir located in the driver’s footwell, up against the firewall (or what would be the firewall if the engine wasn’t in the trunk), and you had to pressurize it up with air, as it didn’t have an electric pump.

  • avatar
    Esophagus Cancer Survivor

    Just let me put the whole bottle under the hood. My toyota bottle cracked (family driver mishap) and the stupid thing was $120.

  • avatar
    econobiker

    “No user servicable parts underneath hood (bonnet). Please take vehicle to approved dealership for all service.”

    ‘Nuf said…

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    They should go all retro with this idea and bring back the vertical grill from the Model T with coolant filler cap protruding on top. Except now it will be for washer fluid.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    Ford has no intention of installing this in one of their cars. They just did this for the licensing rights if some other company decides to use it. There are a lot of great ideas out there going unutilized for this reason.

    If Ford wanted to make living with a Ford more convenient, they would install at least 7 hood releases, inside and out. You can never find a hood release when you’re angry.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I remember when the 2nd generation Econoline was introduced. One of its key selling points in the ads was the short front hood where you could access the washer fluid, battery, dipstick, oil fill tube and radiator. Something that other vans did not offer at the time since they still had the engine box between the seats that one had to unlatch and lift in order to check fluids.

  • avatar
    CitizenK

    On the original Audi A2 (1995-2005), the “grille” was a service hatch that hinged down to access the wiper fluid, oil filler and dipstick. The hood wasn’t hinged normally, but instead was completly removable for engine service.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I broke my wiper fluid reservoir a year ago, and haven’t used wiper fluid since. Let the public shaming begin.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    No need to bother – with autonomous pods people won’t even be looking out the windows anymore so it doesn’t matter if they get dirty. Heck, why even have windows – just give me a set of VR glasses and the right software and I can “see” anything I want during my pod journey.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • speedlaw: The first paragraph here is just classic.
  • multicam: Yeah, great post conundrum. I too raise a drink to you, though it’s a whiskey on the rocks, not...
  • Old_WRX: slavuta, “you don’t understand how similar USA [today] and USSR feel to me.” I know I...
  • mcs: “That massive amount of stuff tacked on all over the car is required for truly autonomous driving.”...
  • chicklet: Yes sir! “Studies show” 98% of journalists are hard left. They have a right to be, and they...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber