Many OEMs and wiper manufacturers recommend replacing the wiper blades every six to 12 months. However, wiper life can vary greatly depending on region of the country and the conditions under which the vehicle is operated. The only way to know is to inspect the blades. Here are five questions to ask during a wiper-blade inspection.
1. What is the best way to inspect wiper blades?
No special tools are required to inspect wiper blades. All that’s needed is a rain simulator (spray bottle). Spray the windshield down and activate the wipers. Look for streaks and water that remains on the windscreen.
2. What if they make noise?
Wipers that chatter, screech or skip on the windshield also should be changed. This is a sign that the rubber has degraded or the frame is no longer able to hold the blade to the glass. A quick visual inspection can help you spot any tears or cracks in the rubber that signal it’s time for replacement wiper blades.
3. Does the car have a camera?
If a vehicle has lane-departure warning, automatic braking or other advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), chances are there’s a camera or multiple cameras behind the windshield. Like the driver, the camera needs a clean windshield to see the road ahead.
If the wipers aren’t clearing the glass in front of the camera due to damaged blades or a lack of spring tension, the camera may not allow the driver to use some of the advanced features like lane departure or automatic cruise control. If the driver has to run the wipers on high so they’re effective, some advanced safety systems that use the camera will deactivate.
4. What about the rear wiper?
Many SUVs, minivans and hatchbacks have a rear wiper blade that’s often not replaced until it’s rusted or has fallen off. Blade manufacturers make special rear-window blades designed to work with the rear window’s shorter wiper arms.
5. What if the windshield is scratched?
On some older vehicles, you may notice a fine haze under certain conditions when the sun is near the horizon. You also will see the haze is only in the area of the glass that comes in contact with the wipers. These are small scratches caused by the wiper blades. Dirt and debris embedded in the wiper blades can cause the scratches. Also, the wiper can transfer material to the windshield.
The longer a wiper blade is on a vehicle, the more debris is embedded and material is transferred to the windshield. The only way to protect the glass is new wiper blades at regular intervals. The scratches can be removed with special compounds or by a glass professional.
This article originally appeared in Brake & Front End, a sister publication of Counterman.