How often should I change my wiper blades?
A. It depends where you live, what kind of weather and operating conditions the wiper blades are exposed to and how often they are used.
Most wiper blades are made of some type of synthetic rubber. Some even have a natural rubber wiping edge. Rubber is used because it is soft and flexible, and produces a clean, smooth wipe for good wet weather visibility. But rubber can lose its elasticity and become hard and brittle as it ages.
Environmental factors such as air pollution (namely ozone, which oxidizes rubber), direct exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet light) and extreme temperatures (hot or cold) accelerate the aging process. Some windshield washer solvents and water-repelling glass treatments can also be harsh on the wiper element.
The wiping edge can also become rough and worn over time if the wipers are used frequently to remove dirt, gravel dust or road grime from the windshield. Abrasives of any type on the glass (including ice) accelerate wiper wear. Wipers that use a higher-quality rubber or slightly harder rubber will usually outlast wipers that use a cheaper grade of rubber.
How long the wipers last before they start to streak and chatter will depend on all of these factors, and can vary greatly from one vehicle to another. A vehicle that spends most of its time outdoors in direct sunlight in a hot climate like Arizona or Florida will need new wipers much more frequently than a vehicle that is parked indoors in a milder climate.
If the wipers are streaking or chattering or have cracks or tears in the blade, they need to be replaced now.
If the blades are still wiping reasonably well but are more than two years old, they should probably be replaced to restore like-new performance.
In hot climates, or extremely wet climates where the blades are used frequently, yearly replacement is often necessary to maintain good driving visibility.
Q. What kind of replacement blades should I use?
A. It depends on what kind of wiping performance and longevity you want from a set of replacement blades and how much you are willing to spend.
Frameless, bracketless or beam style blades are all the rage today. Many late model vehicles come factory-equipped with these blades because they have a number of advantages over a traditional frame-style blade. The newer-style blades have 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. The blades also have better aerodynamics thanks to a built-in airfoil that reduces wind lift at highway speeds.
Most of the bracketless or beam-style blades are made with premium synthetic materials that are more resistant to sunlight, ozone and wear. However, premium and ultra-premium blades can cost more than twice as much as traditional wiper blades (you get what you pay for).
Regardless of what type of replacement blades a customer chooses, they should be the same length as the original blades. Don’t forget the rear wipers on vehicles with hatchbacks and liftgates. Rear visibility during wet weather is also important, especially when backing up.