Wiper Blade Selection and Replacement TipsHow to choose and replace blades
Reportedly, 20 percent of all accidents result from impaired vision caused by a dirty or damp windshield. At any given time, industry estimates conclude that 50 percent of the windshield wiper blades on operational vehicles are beyond their functional lifespan. In general, wiper blades should be inspected every six months and replaced as soon as they diminish wet-windshield visibility. Vehicle manufacturers typically recommend replacing blades every 12-18 months. Fresh blades are such vital safety components that many European countries have laws that require replacing wiper blades every 12 months.
Inspecting their operation can identify wiper problems. Use the car's squirter/mister if equipped and look for these effect and causes:
> Noise: friction between the blade and glass or the rubber has torn and slaps the windshield.
> Vibration: blade rubber worn or wiper improperly mounted to the arm.
> Banding in wipe pattern: cracked or hardened blade rubber.
> Fishtails in wipe pattern: slop where the blade connects to the arm.
> Lace-curtain wipe pattern: blade rubber bends too far.
> Filmy haze following the wipe stroke: blade rubber contaminated with oil or other road grime.
A few visual clues to worn wipers:
> Cracked or torn rubber: splits, gouges or flappers on the blade.
> Hard rubber: blade that's discolored and deteriorating.
> Ragged edges: the blade is no longer "sharp."
> Bent frame: plastic or metal skeleton is damaged, affecting wiping pattern.
Particularly in the Sunbelt, people are inclined to think that a wiper blade is a wiper blade: buy the cheapest or go with whatever the service station recommends/stocks. However, technological advances even extend to wiper blades. Blades are now designed for specific driving conditions and take advantage of breakthroughs in modern chemistry.
> Standard blades: Also known as "all season" or "all weather," they prioritize cost-effectiveness.
> Aerodynamic blades: If highway speeds cause the blade to lift off the glass, certain models of blades have frames that are designed to channel air to keep the rubber flush against the glass. These are characterized by blade frames that have fins or "spoilers." Some models come in designer colors and have multiple blades (arguably prioritizing fashion over function).
> High-tech blades: Additives blended into the rubber give better performance and increase life by reducing friction and resisting ozone, UV rays and other contaminants. One company now uses Teflon to reduce friction for a smoother wipe and less wear and tear. Another brand has a built-in wear indicator: the blade progressively changes from black to yellow as the rubber deteriorates.
> Winter blades: These typically have stronger frames inside a protective rubber sheath to help keep snow and ice from clogging the blade. One company even offers heated blades that can be plugged into the cigarette light or hard-wired. Lifting the blade off the windshield at night will keep it from freezing to the glass.
You have two choices: replace the entire blade structure or just the rubber wiping part with a "refill." Depending on style, entire blade assemblies can be affordable, and they're a lot easier for the do-it-yourselfer to replace than refills. Blade units also prevent against inadvertently installing the wrong-sized refill.
Most blades are sold individually, but it's advisable to replace both at the same time (unless one becomes damaged before its useful lifespan is over). For most passenger cars, blade length is between 16 and 21 inches. Newer vehicles sometime have different-length blades on each side, so consult the application book at the parts store or the counter person. Even better, take along the old blades to ensure proper replacement sizes. If you're lucky, someone at the parts store might even install the new blades in the parking lot for you. It only takes a few seconds.
Blizzard Blade, www.blizzardblade.com
Trico Products, www.tricoproducts.com