There has 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.
When 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.
Other 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.
Always 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.