Good windshield wipers are essential for safe driving not only in wet weather but any time of year. Bug splatter, dust, dirt and road grime on the windshield can obscure vision, especially at night. Good wipers and functional windshield washers are a must for keeping the windshield clean.
Wiper blades don’t last forever. Yearly wiper changes are recommended for most vehicles to maintain optimum wiping performance. Vehicles that are parked outdoors in hot climates and are exposed to direct sunlight most of the time may need new blades every six months.
Wiper blades age from exposure to heat, ozone and direct sunlight (ultraviolet radiation). Old blades that have lost their flexibility will streak and chatter. Wiper life also depends on how often the wipers are used (more frequent use accelerates wear), how much dirt and grime the blades are exposed to (silica dust is abrasive and wears away the sharp square cut edge on the blades that is necessary for a clean wipe), and exposure to strong chemicals that may harm the blades (like some windshield solvents and cleaners).
Wiper blades should be replaced if they are streaking, smearing, chattering or skipping, or if the blade is torn or damaged. Ideally, the wipers should be replaced before they reach this point.
With older-style wiper blades that have metal frames, there is a risk of permanently scratching the windshield if a torn or damaged blade allows the metal frame to rub against the glass.
Replacement blades come in a variety of styles, lengths and materials. Replacement blades must have the same length as the original to avoid interference problems. Many vehicles have different length wipers for the driver and passenger side, so make sure both sides are the correct length. The mounting configuration (or adapter) must also fit the application.
Beam-style blades have replaced traditional frame blades on many newer vehicles. Beam blades also can be retrofitted to many older vehicles to upgrade wiper appearance and performance. On a beam-style blade, the rubber wiping element is molded around an internal flat metal spring (or pair of springs). The spring provides support and stiffness so the blade makes good contact and follows the curvature of the windshield. Some blade manufacturers even use different springs for the right and left blades so the blades can conform better to the curvature of the windshield. The low-profile aerodynamic shape of beam-style wiper blades also reduces wind lift and noise at highway speeds, and resists snow clogging during the winter.
Some “hybrid” style wiper blades combine elements of both the beam and frame style blades. The blade is still supported by a frame, but the frame is housed within a flexible multi-piece cover.
Don’t forget to recommend new rear wipers for SUVs, minivans and hatchbacks. These are often neglected but are just as important for safe driving.
Related items that also may be needed include windshield washer fluid, windshield treatments that repel water and road grime, wiper arms and wiper motors.