A. Replacing the wiper blades once a year has always been good advice, but some blades last longer and others may need to be replaced more often depending on use and environmental exposure. Wipers that are seldom used and are on a vehicle that is parked indoors can last years. By comparison, blades that are used frequently in dusty, dirty environments experience more wear so their service life will be shorter. Likewise, wipers on vehicles that are parked outdoors year-round in hot climates can deteriorate rather quickly and may need to be replaced every six months.
A recent Car Care Council survey found that 16 percent of vehicles inspected had worn, damaged or missing wiper blades, and 23 percent (almost one out of four!) had little or no windshield washer fluid in their reservoirs.
Many motorists don’t realize they need new wiper blades until it’s pouring and they can barely see the road ahead. Good wipers are absolutely essential for wet weather driving and for clearing the windshield of bug splatter, dust and road splash. Following a semi-truck on the expressway in a downpour is not the time to discover new wiper blades are needed.
A good time to check the wiper blades and windshield washers is when the oil is changed or the tires are rotated. If the wipers are chattering, streaking, wiping poorly or are damaged, it’s time for a new set of wipers. The wiping edge of the blade must be perfectly smooth, flat and clean. Dirt and debris on the windshield has an abrasive effect on the wiping edge during normal use, and once the edge becomes pitted, torn or ragged, the blade will streak and smear.
Weak wiper arms also can prevent an otherwise good set of wiper blades from wiping cleanly.
Not replacing a worn set of wipers also increases the risk of windshield damage. If the blades are the conventional type with a metal frame and the rubber portion of the blade tears loose, the metal frame can rub and scratch the windshield leaving a permanent scar as a constant reminder that the blades should have been replaced.
New blades may also be needed for the back glass or tailgate on a minivan, sport utility vehicle, station wagon or hatchback car. Rear wipers are often more neglected than the ones up front because they’re not in the driver’s direct line of sight. Even so, good rearward visibility is necessary for driving awareness, backing up and parallel parking.
Q. What are the advantages of upgrading to a beam or frameless flat-style wiper blade?
A. The new style wipers don’t have a superstructure or frame to support the blade. A spring is molded right into the blade itself, allowing the blade to hug the glass as it follows the changing curvature of the windshield. This design provides an infinite number of contact points allowing constant even pressure across the glass and won’t clog with ice or snow like a conventional blade because there is no frame or superstructure above the blade. It’s like having winter blades year round.
Aerodynamics is another advantage. The blades have a “spoiler” molded into the upper surface to reduce wind lift at high speed. The lower height of the blade also reduces wind lift. The new style blades also make less “flopping” noise when the wipers reverse direction because the blade is lower and more rigid (no frame to flex back and forth).