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Range Of Choices For Wiper Blades

By Larry Carley

Back to school: Refresh your sales skills by reading up on nine essential product categories in our annual technical sales seminar section.
There was time when selling replacement wiper blades was a relatively simple task. You matched the length of the customer’s old wiper blade or blade refill (remember those?), made sure the blade was the correct one for the type of wiper arm mount on the vehicle or that the adapter that came with the blades would work with the application), and then suggested your customer buy an extra set of blades to have on hand just in case.

Times have changes and so has wiper blade technology. Most wiper blade suppliers today have a broad product line that includes a range of traditional frame style blades with various price points and features, a range of beam style blades also with various price points and features, special blades for rear wipers on hatchbacks, minivans, CUVs and SUVs, winter blades, and possibly even some custom blades with some bling for customers who want something a little flashy or different.

Most late-model vehicles now use some type of beam style blade whereas older vehicles used frame style blades with various types of mounting systems. Frame-style blades can trap ice and snow during cold weather, causing them to skip and streak. The frame above the blade also increases wind resistance, which increases noise and lift as the speed of the vehicle goes up. The frame also allows the blade to “flop” when it reverses direction, producing the familiar thump-thump-thump noise while the wipers are running.

With frameless, beam-style blades, the rubber wiping element is molded around an internal flat metal spring (or pair of springs). The spring provides the necessary support and stiffness to keep the blade straight while also allowing it to flex downward so it can follow the curvature of the windshield. The continuous spring inside the blade provides more even pressure along the length of the blade, which reduces the tendency to streak and smear. 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 design of frameless wiper blades also improves aerodynamics. The airfoil shape of the beam cross-section reduces both lift and noise for smoother, quieter wiping action. The blades also won’t clog as easily with ice or snow.

All of these different wipers give consumers a wide range of choices in performance, longevity and price. The downside is that there are too many choices for some people. Wipers almost take up an entire aisle of their own in some stores! Multiply the proliferation of different styles and price points by the number of different wiper brands your store carries, and it adds up to a lot of confusion for some motorists. They don’t know what type of blade they should buy. That’s where an informed and knowledgeable counterpro can provide invaluable assistance. Being up to speed on all of the different wiper products your store stocks and their comparative features and advantages is absolutely essential to sell wiper blades today.

Though wiper designs have changed, the basic function of a wiper blade has not. Wiper blades are supposed to keep the windshield clear during wet weather for safe driving visibility. They are also useful for clearing away dirt, bug splatter, road splash, tree sap and bird droppings when windshield cleaner is squirted on the glass.

If the wipers are streaking, skipping, chattering or are damaged, your customer needs a new set of wipers. As a rule, most wiper blades should be replaced yearly to maintain optimum wiping efficiency. Most wiper blades are either natural rubber or synthetic rubber, which means they have a limited service life (and shelf life!). Sunlight and atmospheric ozone age the rubber, causing it to harden and crack.

The longevity of the wipers can vary quite a bit depending on environmental exposure and use. A vehicle that is parked outdoors in direct sunlight, especially in a hot climate, will probably need new blades every six months — even if the wipers are seldom used. By comparison, the wipers on a vehicle that is garaged indoors or is seldom driven in inclement weather may last several years.

Wiper problems can also be caused by a loss of spring tension in the wiper arms. Weak springs may not keep the wipers in firm contact with the windshield. Wiper arm spring tension can be checked with a pull gauge (like a fish scale). New arms with conventional frame style blades typically have a spring tension of around 14 Newton-meters (10.3 lbs.) while the tension on newer vehicles with flat frameless blades is typically around 17 N.m (12.5 lbs.). Tension will vary somewhat by application, the length of the arms and the size of the blades.

This difference in tension can sometimes cause problems when a customer is upgrading from conventional wipers to the new beam style blades. If the arms do not generate enough downforce, the new blades may not perform properly or fail to conform well to a highly curved windshield.

Finally, though wiper blades are usually sold by length, always follow the application listings provided by the wiper blade suppliers. Many vehicles have asymmetrical length blades, with the driver side often being longer than the passenger side. Some blades are also designed for a specific side (right or left) and may have special internal features that provide greater conformability for sharply curved glass.

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