With spring showers and summer thunderstorms right around the corner, now is a good time to make sure your windshield wipers are up to the task. Getting the rain cleared off your windshield quickly and efficiently is important to be being able to see clearly and drive safely.
How Long Do Wiper Blades Last
Most experts and wiper blade manufacturers say that ordinary rubber blades need to be changed every six to twelve months.
That is not a very long time.
For many of us, we probably have wiper blades on our vehicles for much longer than that. We rarely think about them until the skies open up and dump the wet stuff all over our commute.
I once didn’t change my windshield wipers for four years until after a winter in Breckenridge where the snow and ice froze my wipers to the windshield. Pulling the wipers from the glass resulted in the rubber blade edge tearing and start flopping across the windshield on each wipe.
Windshield wiper blades live a hard life outside on your car even when they aren’t being used. They start to deteriorate the day you put them on. The sun’s UV rays and heat during the summer cause them to dry out and crack. Similarly, in the winter, the cold temperatures can make them stiff and brittle. Oil from the road splashed up by tires during storms breaks down the rubber compound.
How to Tell When You Need To Replace Your Wiper Blades
You will know when it’s time to replace your windshield wipers when they don’t clear the water off your windshield. Instead, you will see streaking, smearing, and even places where water is left behind. I have a family member whose wipers are practically useless at removing water that he might as well roll down the window and stick his head outside.
You may also hear squeaking or chattering sounds as the wipers skip across the glass like when you turn on the wipers when the windshield is dry.
All these symptoms come from the rubber material drying out and no longer being flexible.
If you wait too long between replacements, the blade edge of the wiper blade may eventually come apart. You will then risk the metal wiper arm scraping across your windshield and scratching it up.
How to Save Money on Wiper Blade Replacements
Here is how you can prolong the life of your wiper blades and spend less money on replacements.
Switch to Silicone Wiper Blades for Longer Life
Windshield wipers have been made of rubber for decades. If you are tired of changing out your rubber wipers every year or two, you can save time and money by going with silicone wiper blades.
One highly rated brand of silicone wipers are PIAA Super Silicone Wiper Blades.
Not only do silicone wiper blades last two or more times longer than rubber, they are more resilient to harsh environmental factors such as heat and cold that reduces the lifespan of traditional rubber wiper blades. Silicone remains flexible and soft even in cold temperatures, which helps it conform to the glass better.
Another benefit of silicone wiper blades is when they sweep across your windshield, they leave behind tiny particles of silicone that create a thin water-repellent coating. This silicone film causes water droplets to bead up, making it easier for the wind to blow off while driving at highway speeds and leaving behind less water for wipers to sweep off on their next go-round. This hydrophobic coating is why PIAA says to run their wipers on your dry windshield for 2-3 minutes after installing.
The drawback of more durable silicone wiper blades? They are 3-4 times more expensive than natural rubber wiper blades. You will have to decide whether wipers you only need to change every few years are worth the extra money.
Buy Wiper Blade Refills
Decades ago you could buy a wiper blade insert rather than the whole arm assembly.
As time went on, people preferred ease of replacement and convenience so stores started selling the entire blade assembly with the new blade already installed. Soon the refills completely disappeared from stores and trash cans outside auto parts stores were chock full with discarded wiper arms.
If you are looking to save a bit of money, you could call your dealer part’s department to see if they sell the refill for your particular car model if you still have the OEM wiper arms or you can look online.
The nice thing about PIAA silicone wiper blades is if you bought the whole assembly initially, for future replacements you can buy only the PIAA silicone refills and save $10 not replacing the metal arm.
To install a refill, you simply slide the old wiper blade off the arm, swap over the metal inserts, and then slide the new blade on.
Park in the Shade
The ultraviolet rays and heat from the sun will quickly degrade the rubber of your wipers and cause them to dry out and crack faster. Hard and cracked rubber on your wiper won’t clear water from your windshield smoothly.
Parking your car in the shade, under a tree, in a garage, or on the side of the parking lot that gets the least amount of sun during the hottest part of the day will help your wipers last longer, keep your car’s paint from fading, your headlights from yellowing, and more.
Clean Your Windshield
Cleaning your windshield regularly will increase your wiper blade’s life. Dirt, oil, and tree sap will cause streaking as your wipers smear everything across your windshield.
In the worst-case scenario, you could end up with permanent scratches on your window if you operate your wipers when there isn’t sufficient rain or washer fluid on your windshield to act as a lubricant. This sometimes happens when you try to clean off your windshield with the windshield washer but the wipers make several sweeps before the fluid makes it out of the sprayer.
Clean Your Wiper Blades Too
To keep your wipers in top shape and working without noise and streaking, clean them occasionally with a paper towel and soapy water, windshield washer fluid, or rubbing alcohol. This will remove all the dirt and grime from the edge of the blade so they will always be ready when it rains.
Don’t Use Your Wipers to Clear an Icy Windshield
How many times have you come out to your car in the morning after a cold night to find condensation from overnight has left your windows covered in ice?
Resist the urge to turn on your wipers to try to quickly clear your frosted windshield. Those frozen water droplets are extremely rough and are practically glued to your windows.
Get yourself a good ice scraper to save wear and tear on your wipers.
Related: Why You Shouldn’t Warm Up Your Car on Cold Mornings
Lift Your Wipers Off Your Windshield When It Snows
You’ll sometimes see cars parked with their wiper arms standing up off the windshield before an arriving winter storm. That is a clear indication of someone who has experience living in snowy climates.
Rain and snow that falls onto the windshield will refreeze overnight when the temperature drops. You will come out the next day to your car with your wipers frozen solid to your windshield.
Attempting to pull the wipers off by hand or forgetting and turning on the wipers will likely tear the delicate edge of the blade. The result is wipers that won’t clear cleanly and will need to be replaced.
Having the wipers up ahead of time and out of the way also makes it faster to use your ice scraper on your windshield and get going when you are in a rush in the morning.
Windshield wiper blades are one of the most common replacement items on your car due to the rubber compound. Standard rubber blades have the shortest lifespans, followed by halogen-hardened rubber, and silicone has the longest lifetime of all.
If you live in an area with extreme heat or cold where you go through wipers frequently, you may benefit from switching to silicone blades even though they have a higher upfront cost. Otherwise, follow the above tips to extend the life of your wipers and save some money.
Lastly, don’t pay labor for the dealer to replace your windshield wipers. Many auto parts stores like AutoZone, O’Reilly, and Advanced Auto Parts will install new wiper blades for free if you buy them from the store. Installing them yourself is also a simple enough process that anyone can do it. I do recommend putting down a folded up towel to prevent cracking the windshield if the arm snaps down without the blade installed.
How often do you change your windshield wipers? Do you have any tips to extend the life of your wipers? Have you tried silicone wiper blades?