been a proliferation of windshield wipers in recent years. Some new
brands have been introduced, and existing suppliers have expanded and
revamped their product lines. So like many other consumer-oriented
maintenance and car care products, there are even more SKUs fighting
for limited aisle space.
Most wiper manufacturers now offer
multiple wiper products under their brand name. Most have a line of
value replacement blades aimed at the budget-conscious consumer; a line
of standard replacement blades that are similar to OEM wiper blades; a
line of premium blades that have special features or materials for
those who want a better product; and an ultra-premium line (typically
frameless beam style blades) for consumers who want the very best.
the average consumer is confronted with row upon row of different wiper
blades though, they may have a hard time deciding which type of blade
to buy. That’s where you can help.
Replacement blades are usually
sold by length. Most wiper blades come with some type of universal
adapter that allows the same blade to fit a wide variety of vehicle
applications. The hook-style wiper arm attachment is fairly standard
these days, but in older vehicles there’s a lot more variety.
blades are designed for an “exact fit” and can only be installed on
certain vehicles because of the design of the attachment. So measuring
or matching the length of the old blades to new ones doesn’t always
guarantee a correct fit. The mounting must match also.
follow the wiper manufacturer’s application listings, since they know
which blades fit which vehicles. If you can’t find a listing that
matches in one brand, compare the length and attachment of the old and
new blades to find a suitable replacement.
Many vehicles today
have asymmetrical length wiper blades. The driver side wiper is
significantly longer than the passenger side wiper. Others still use
the same length blade on the driver and passenger side wipers. The
replacement blades must be the same length as the original otherwise it
can cause problems. Blades that are too long may hit the edge of the
windshield, the cowl or the other wiper blade. Blades that are too
short may leave gaps or not wipe enough of the windshield to assure
good visibility during wet weather.
The new frameless beam style
wipers that the automakers have been using for the past several years
can be retrofitted to many older vehicles, providing a significant
improvement in wiper performance as well as a more up-to-date
appearance. The beam style blades do not have a traditional frame to
hold the rubber wiping element.
Instead, the wiper blade is cast around
an internal spring and flexible beam that provides lateral support
while also allowing the blade to follow the curvature of the
windshield. This provides even pressure across the entire length of the
blade for better wiping action and less streaking. Eliminating the
frame and its exposed hinge points also means the new style wipers
won’t clog with ice or snow in the winter.
Another benefit that
the new frameless beam style blades provide is improved aerodynamics.
The low profile of the blade combined with a built-in airfoil helps
reduce turbulence and wind lift at highway speeds. This also helps to
reduce wind noise a bit.
The life of the wipers is also extended
because frameless blades have no exposed metal parts to rust or
discolor. Most are also made with premium synthetic materials that are
more resistant to sunlight and ozone, the two main factors that cause
aging with natural rubber blades.
Ultra-premium blades can cost
more than twice as much as traditional frame style wiper blades. So to
entice consumers who may balk at the higher price, rebates are often
offered to encourage people to try the ultra-premium blades.