There’s nothing more dangerous than being stuck in a blinding snowstorm with bad wiper blades and a frozen windshield washer system. In an ideal world, of course, a conscientious lube bay technician should have tested the windshield washers and wipers when the vehicle was last in for service. But, in the real world, testing wipers and washers is often forgotten in when meeting the demands of a tight schedule. The end result is an unhappy motorist caught shopping for new blades at an interstate truck stop or convenience store and replacing them in a cold, windy and usually dark parking lot.
How Wiper Blades Fail
Although old, weathered wiper blades can look good to the eye, they often fail because the hardened rubber will no longer conform to the curved windshield. In most cases, the hardened rubber will chatter across the windshield or leave long, wide streaks where the blade doesn’t contact the glass. In other cases, the rubber on the blade can be torn when the wiper is frozen to the windshield. Turning on the wiper will not only tear the rubber away from the wiper blade, but it can also damage the wiper motor and arm assembly.
Selling Wiper Blades
Preventive maintenance is doubly important because, in most applications, the wiper arms operate in different arcs and modern wiper blades are usually of different lengths. Similarly, the rear wiper blades found on many SUV and hatchback vehicles are made in lengths dependent upon the location of the rear wiper motor.
Another issue is the variety of choices available in wipe blade materials and designs. Since standard rubber blades usually require annual replacements, some manufacturers produce premium silicone rubber blades that last two or three times as long. In northern climates, “winter blade” assemblies are enclosed in rubber boots to prevent wiper freeze-up in the winter. Winter blades are a mandatory item for many who drive in severe cold weather.
As with many parts, wiper blades are best sold in pairs and, while we’re at it, let’s not forget the blade located on the rear glass or, in some luxury models, on the headlight assemblies. Unless price is an issue with the customer, it’s also a good practice to sell premium wiper blades. Last but not least, prevent a disastrous windshield freeze-up for your customer by recommending a washer fluid that’s rated for use in sub-zero temperatures.
Wiper Arm Inspection
The condition of the wiper arms and mountings should always be checked when replacing the wiper blades. In most applications, a splined wiper stud connected to the wiper motor linkage drives the wiper arm. Some imports use a nut to retain the wiper arm onto the stud while many domestic vehicles use a spring metal clip or mechanical lock to perform the same function.
Next, the wiper arm hold-down spring should keep the wiper blade firmly in contact with the windshield. If the newly installed blades chatter or streak the windshield, weak wiper arm springs are likely at fault. Last, the wiper arm should be straight and in original condition. If the wiper arm is bent or twisted, it should be replaced.
Because wiper blades are an on-demand part, any lube bay technician should have an inventory of wiper blade refills on-hand that will cover at least 50 percent of his average workflow. If a shop begins with a basic inventory of the fastest-moving blades, the inventory can be adjusted by replacing the slow-moving SKUs with lost-sale SKUs.