Windshield wipers are one of your vehicle’s first lines of defense against weather and debris blocking a clear view to the road. They are one of the most important parts of the car, but their maintenance is often overlooked.
The modern version of wipers was developed by Mary Anderson in 1903, although there were several versions developed dating back to 1896. After Anderson patented her “window cleaning device,” they quickly grew in popularity. By 1915 more vehicles included wipers than those that didn’t.
In 1916, the windshield wiper device was introduced as standard equipment.
While wiper blades are cheap to replace compared to other parts of your car, it’s still important to take proper care of them.
What are the different types of windshield wipers?
There are two main shapes of windshield wiper blade, conventional and beam. Conventional blades are straighter than beam blades and are priced lower but only make contact with the windshield at six-to-eight points, according to Firestone Complete Auto Care.
The curve added to the beam blade enhances their ability to conform to the curve of your windshield. This allows the blades to apply more pressure for a cleaner line of sight. These blades are also more wind resistant and are at less risk of lift from the windshield at high speeds.
There are also heavy-duty wiper blades, often referred to as “winter wiper blades” that can handle the harsh conditions imposed on them by winter climates.
How often do windshield wiper blades need to be changed?
Wiper blades should be replaced every six months or as soon as you notice a difference in their performance. Key things to look out for are skips, smears or streaks as they can reduce driving visibility. If you can hear the wipers, it’s time for a new set.
What are the best ways to determine the correct wiper blade replacements?
Every car has a manufacturer-recommended size of wiper blade, specific to its make, model, and year. It is essential to choose replacement blades that are the correct size for your particular vehicle in order for them to be the most effective.
Some vehicles have two different sized blades, it is important the blade fit to be the most effective.
Looking at your owner’s manual, searching the wiper blade size finder at your local auto parts store or searching online can help determine which size is the right fit for your vehicle.
Don’t be afraid to steer from the automaker recommended brand. If you are dissatisfied with the performance of the wipers that came installed on your vehicle, ask for a recommendation for an alternative from an auto parts store representative.
What are the best ways to maintain my wiper blades?
The best way to maintain your wipers is to keep them clean. You can use windshield wiper fluid or some glass cleaner to remove the dirt from the blades. A soft cloth can serve as a cleaning tool.
Blades that are frequently exposed to sunlight are at risk of drying out, which makes them less flexible and less effective. In sunnier areas of the world, wiper blades may need replaced more often.
Don’t rely on wiper blades to serve as an ice scraper. A small piece of ice stuck to the window can tear the rubber blade and reduce its effectiveness. If you don’t have a scraper, utilize your car’s window defroster settings to create a proper melt before running the wipers.
There are a few things to look out for when inspecting your blade. A broken frame, metal corrosion or any visible damage to the rubber means it’s time for a replacement.
How to monitor windshield wiper fluid?
You should always be on top of your windshield wiper fluid level. Some cars have a light on the gauge cluster that will illuminate when the fluid is low, while others require periodic self checks. However, the easiest way to test is to engage the sprayers.
If you find that your levels are low, wiper fluid can be found at your local auto store for around $5.
The filler pipe is often easy to find. For many cars, the wiper fluid reservoir is tucked underneath the fender. Search for a plastic cap with a windshield and a fountain symbol to identify the proper filling area. Some cars have a fill line while others require you to fill to the top of the filler pipe. Read your manual to determine the proper level.