The Myth of Blinker Fluid: GE, BMW, and Dodge Made It Real

Posted 9/4/23

We’ve worked with cars long enough to know all of the usual jokes that people like to tell the unsuspecting about what needs to be fixed on their car. No, you car doesn’t have an oil filter belt, LED filiments or a flux capacator. It also doesn’t have blinker fluid. Unless you have a first generation Dodge Viper, in which case your car does have blinker fluid. Kind of. 

We have to admit when we saw the headline from The Drive near the beginning of April, the first thing that we did was check the date it was published to make sure that it wasn’t some sort of  April Fool’s joke. But it’s true, the first generation of Dodge Vipers that were produced between 1991-1995 had fluid in their headlights. Sure it didn’t really need to be replaced, but it was designed that way for more than one reason.

When GE Builds a BMW a Headlight They Don’t Actually Want

The YouTube channel Four Eyes was lucky enough to score a chance to interview with the chief engineer of the very first Dodge Viper generation, Roy Sjoberg. Sjoberg had a number of interesting things to say about the production of the Dodge Viper, but the headlights and their mysterious blinker fluid put a whole new view on things. In the video, Sjoberg tells us that the headlights were never actually designed to be put in the Viper in the first place. They were actually designed for BMW. And they were designed for BMW by General Electric.

If you are paying attention, you’ll notice that GE is much more well known for designing refrigerators than cars—but apparently headlights were absolutely in their wheelhouse. While BMW was putting together their plans for the Z1—most iconic for their unusual doors that disappeared into the car’s body like magic when they were opened—GE spent a cool $3.5 million or so designing headlights that BMW ultimately didn’t use. One of the features of these headlights was a fluid filled cavity that both colored the blinker’s light orange, and contained a bubble that functioned as a level to make sure things were straight during installation.

Enter Dodge: Why Not Use Free Headlights and Save Cash?

It is unclear why BMW never did use these blinker fluid filled headlights, but as they didn’t pay for their development, it didn’t really matter to them. When Dodge found out that there were free headlights for the taking early in the development process of the Viper, it seemed like a great cost saving measure to use something that was already developed on someone else’s dime. 

Leaving the permanent blinker fluid in the headlights was yet another cost saving measure. When the Viper was nearly ready for the market Sjoberg questioned whether the part of the headlight that held the blinker fluid could be removed as that built in level wasn’t actually necessary for the Viper’s production. And though it could have been removed, the fact of the matter is that it would have cost about $1.50 per unit to remove it. Which is a cost that a company who basically picked up BMW’s old unused headlights out of the trash would be entirely unwilling to undertake.

Blinker Fluid Does Exist, But It Doesn’t Need To Be Checked

Though blinker fluid does exist, the old joke about checking your car’s blinker fluid still remains as unfunny as ever. Because if the blinker fluid in the closed system of your Dodge Viper’s GE BMW headlights is low, you have a problem for your car mechanic.