Windshield wipers typically last six months to a year before they start to show signs of wear. They are the most frequently replaced pieces of our cars. Not only are they out in the elements all the time, but their job is to literally clean the elements off our windshields.
This seemingly unglamorous job is extremely important though. Ineffective clearing reduces visibility during inclement weather and obstructs our line of sight, which is a dangerous situation to be in for obvious reasons. You should always be able to see as far ahead as possible.
Wiper blades come in many shapes and sizes. Most auto parts stores and gas stations will carry ones that fit your car, unless you drive something especially obscure. However, these motorists can often just cut the rubber to fit anyway, for a temporary solution at least. Your car likely has two wiper arms, but some cars can have one huge arm, or even three or four. The Jaguar E-Type and Toyota FJ Cruiser famously have three wipers.
The best way to get the longest life possible out of your windshield wipers is to simply take care of them. Parking in a covered area or garage is the best thing for them, as it keeps the rubber squeegees out of direct sunlight and extreme cold. Just like the waterproofing around your doors and exterior trim, the rubber on your wipers is prone to cracking and wear. UV rays, freezing and thawing, and caked on grit deteriorate them over time, leaving brittle and crumbly remains.
RainX.com explains all the symptoms of worn wipers:
- Streaking occurs when the rubber squeegee dries, hardens and cracks. It can also be caused by tree sap, road tar and other foreign substances collected on either the glass or the blade.
- Skipping occurs when the blade develops a curvature from lack of use (e.g. left in the ‘parked position’ for an extended length of time).
- Wearing occurs with extensive use and is when the rubber edges are rounded instead of squared.
- Splitting is caused when the sun’s ultraviolet rays penetrate the rubber squeegee, causing it to breakdown and separate from the frame.
- Bent Refill Vertebra and Bent Frames cause inconsistent contact with the glass surface, creating streaking or skipping.
So how can you prevent these? Make it a habit to clean your wiper blades each month with a rag and some denatured alcohol. Yes, even your wipers need a wiper (AKA, you). Use some streakless glass cleaner on the windshield as well, especially on the lower portion where the wipers rest. Don’t forget the rear window! If it’s going to freeze overnight, lift the wipers off the glass to prevent them from fusing to the surface. Don’t use the wipers to scrape ice and snow off the window either. Use de-icer fluid and a snow scraper or invest in an exterior snow and ice cover.
Of course, even with all the love and care a driver has to offer, your wipers won’t last forever. A decent pair for most cars will cost $20-$30, and replacing them is a breeze. Some brands will last for several years before replacement is needed but will cost more. It’s up to you to make the decision.