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Seeing Clearly


10/1/2004
By Larry Carley

Most people realize the importance of being able to see the road ahead clearly when driving in wet weather. Thats why windshield wipers were invented in the first place.
 

Most people realize the importance of being able to see the road ahead clearly when driving in wet weather. Thats 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.

The proliferation of wiper systems with different arm styles and blade designs has created 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 mean some can accept refills while others cant.

EXACT FIT OR UNIVERSAL?
Wiper blades that fit exactly the same as the original are a snap to install because they look and fit the same as the OEM blades. Exact replacement blades have the same mounting system as the original blades and do not require any adapters. But they do require more part numbers to cover the more popular applications.

Universal blades, by comparison, have fewer part numbers and reduce your inventory requirements. Blades are packaged and sold by length. Universal blades solve the mounting issue by using adapters that can fit a wide variety of different mounting styles.

WINTER BLADES
With cold weather fast approaching, 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 dont 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.

HIGH-TECH MATERIALS
Blades 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. Thats 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 is one of the slickest substances known, and it reduces wiping friction and blade wear to improve visibility and blade life.

WHEN TO REPLACE
For safe driving, wiper blades should be replaced at the first sign of trouble. Streaking, chattering and noisy operation are all clues that the wipers are nearing the end of their useful service life. Most experts recommend replacing blades once a year, and more often in hot, sunny climates if the vehicle sits outside all day.

Customers shouldnt wait until they can barely see where theyre going to think about changing their blades. They should change them at the first sign of trouble. But many wait until the blades are falling apart, which is risky because the metal blade holder can permanently scratch the windshield if it rubs against the glass.

Other items a wiper blade customer might need include windshield washer fluid, an ice scraper, windshield de-icer and some glass cleaner to remove stubborn bugs and road slime.

MAKING THE SALE
The next time a customer comes in for an oil filter, spark plugs or other maintenance parts, ask when they last changed their blades. If they cant remember or it has been more than a year, recommend a new set of wiper blades. Better yet, recommend the ultra premium long-life blades.

Inform the customer about the dangers of wiper blade neglect while pushing the benefits of regular blade replacement. Ask your installer customers to do the same. The next time they have a vehicle in for repair, ask them to check the condition of the blades. It doesnt take a lot of time and effort, but in the long run, the results can be astounding.

How well a particular set of blades performs is important. The blades are part of the windshield wiper system, which includes the wiper arms and holders. The blades ability to clean the glass depends on the slope and area of the windshield, the amount of spring tension on the wiper arm, the number of pressure points or claws that hold the blade and the material used in the blade itself.

On newer vehicles with steeply-raked windshields, wind lift at high speed can be a problem if the correct replacement blades are not installed. For these applications, recommend anti-lift blades that incorporate aerodynamic features to keep blades in firm contact with the glass at all speeds.

By offering a wiper blade line guaranteed to fit a vast majority of vehicles, without the need to assemble adaptors, jobbers are sure to increase their sales. Still, customers have to be careful when it comes to matching blade length. Refills wont fit unless theyre the same length as the old ones. Replacement blades that are too long may create interference problems, while ones that are too short may not do an adequate job of clearing the windshield.

If the DIYer is still confused and if time permits, offer to install the wipers for them. And remember, wiper blade replacement isnt just for the windshield. Numerous cars, vans and sport utility vehicles have a rear wiper too.













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