Having an unobstructed, clear view out your windshield is always critically important, especially when driving at night or in the rain and snow. Before bad weather hits, just a few minutes of maintenance and checks can ensure your wipers are always working properly.
Windshield wiper blades can’t adequately keep the windshield clear if there are other obstructions like bugs, ice, or physical damage to the glass itself which repairs professional repair or replacement. If you’re about to head out on the road in winter weather, always use a rag or scraper to remove ice build-up first. Wipers are not designed to clear away ice and other heavy substances like snow, so those should be manually removed beforehand. Activating the wipers when they are frozen or unable to move puts unnecessary wear on the motors that oscillate them, and should always be avoided.
You should also periodically check for leaves and small twigs in the inlets at the windshield’s base, which can restrict airflow into the vehicle’s cabin and interfere with air conditioning, heating and defrosting. This kind of debris can also get caught underneath the wiper blades while they operate, reducing their ability to smoothly wipe away water and possibly scratch your glass in the process. On some vehicles, a build-up of leaves can also get in the way of windshield washer fluid jets.
Most wiper blades are made of a thin rubber material, and just like other rubber products like tires, they simply have to be replaced on a regular basis and treated well to extend their life. Remember, wiper blades aren’t just for rain and snow, they also clear off anything else including mud, dirt, bugs and other objects. Over time, the rubber material of the blades will begin to crack or shred. A common sight is a small length of the rubber, maybe just two to three inches, dangling off of the wiper blade as it moves. If you spot this, the wipers should immediately be replaced. The rubber will eventually get softer as well, and that can cause the material to simply fold over on itself so instead of clearing away substances it will simply smear them around. It’s worth noting that UV exposure from the sun and humidity also contribute to the deterioration of wipers blades. Even if you hardly ever use them, if they get enough sun and weather exposure they’ll need to be replaced anyway in a year or two
Other more expensive wiper blades are made from a silicone compound. These are a more expensive investment, but they are designed to be longer lasting and tougher than the traditional rubber wipers and may actually save you money in the long run. In many cases, you can take advantage of refills to save even more. Refills are essentially the rubber or silicone strips themselves (the only part that actually wears out) without the metal frame of the blade, and can be purchased locally and from many online retailers. Some wiper blades are even manufactured with a hydrophobic treatment that will coat the glass and cause water to collect, or bead, and run off the glass much easier – think Rain-X blades, which we offer in our store.
Things to remember
You won’t have a clear view through the windshield without wiper blades, so you should care for them and replace them in a timely fashion as with other components. If possible, always manually clear away heavy snow, ice and other stubborn elements from the windshield before using the wipers to avoid wearing out their motors or causing damage to the blades. Prior to getting on the road, also make sure no debris is stuck underneath the wipers, this will reduce their effectiveness and possibly end up scratching the glass. Whether your wiper blades appear damaged or not, you should replace them at least once a year as a general rule, or sooner if you notice them operating poorly or notice any damage.