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Winter Weather Means Severe Duty


1/15/2007

 

It’s winter across most of the United States, bringing with it some tough weather. Of course, most of your customers understand the importance of winterizing their vehicles in preparation for the deep-freeze: snow tires, an antifreeze flush and fill, using a winter-grade motor oil and a thorough inspection of the starting and charging system. In fact, most of them offer a winterization package as part of their line up of services.  

But what about the wiper and washer system? Most people realize the importance of being able to see the road ahead clearly when driving in bad weather. That’s why windshield wipers were invented in the first place. In 1916, a motorist struck a man on a bike during a rain storm because water on his windshield blurred his view. Soon thereafter, the first hand-operated windshield wipers appeared on motor vehicles, followed by one innovation after another as time went on: automatic vacuum-powered wipers, multi-ply wiper blades, dual wiper blades, windshield washers, winter blades, electric wipers, variable speed and intermittent wipers, airfoils on blades to resist wind lift, and so on.

Winter blades are specifically made to withstand and perform in the unique challenges presented by snow and ice. With cold weather already here, many motorists can benefit from the anti-clogging design feature of winter blades. Ordinary wiper blades can become packed with ice and snow, causing them to streak and wipe poorly. But winter blades don’t have that problem because a rubber boot keeps ice and snow out of the blade superstructure to prevent it from freezing up. The result is consistent wiper performance regardless of weather conditions for safer winter driving. Winter blades are available in most common lengths and mounting styles.

Besides winter-specific blades, wipers today run the gambit from standard replacement blades made of natural or synthetic rubber to premium and ultra-premium blades made of longer-lasting materials that may include silicone, Teflon or other ingredients. Some premium blades combine several layers of different materials to improve wiping performance and longevity.

Natural rubber wipes clean and provide excellent durability, but it also hardens and cracks with age. That’s why most wiper manufacturers also sell a premium line of wiper blades that are made of more exotic materials. A growing number of late-model vehicles such as Lincoln LS, Ford Navigator, Expedition and Explorer now come factory-equipped with Teflon-edged blades. Teflon reduces wiping friction and blade wear to improve visibility and blade life.

Of course, with the proliferation of wiper systems with different arm styles and blade designs has come a lot of confusion when it comes to replacing wiper blades today. Not only does a customer have to match the length of the blade, but also the mounting system. Universal mounting systems that come with many replacement blades have certainly made mounting easier, but it can still be confusing to some motorists — especially if your customer only wants a refill and not an entire blade assembly. Different blade widths, blade designs and blade holder assemblies can accept refills while others can’t. By knowing the products your store stocks (and knowing how to install them), you can help customers make the right wiper choice, regardless of the weather.  















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