Windshield wipers are one of those things that most drivers take for granted because they're always there when you need them and when you don't, they sit out of the way minding their own business. A good pair of windshield wipers can be an integral part of your car's safety system, however. When your wiper works correctly you can see where you're going even in the most torrential rainstorm. But if they're not connecting right with your windshield, the driving is not only difficult it's dangerous. That's why you need to make sure you've got the right wipers on your car when you need them. The last thing you want is to be driving on the highway in the rain and not be able to see even five feet in front of you because of the rain sheeting down your windshield.
If your wipers are not working the way they're supposed to anymore then you may need to replace them with a new set. Luckily you can pick up windshield wipers just about anywhere, whether that's on Autozone or Amazon.com, or even down at Walmart. You should be able to find a good quality pair that fit your car regardless of make, model, and year. They also shouldn't break the bank either.
If you've never had to swap out your windshield wipers before, you may be a little surprised when you actually get in there to try it. The adapter that keeps the wiper attached to your arm can get a little confusing if you've never had to do this job before. It seems like it should be easy, but if it's your first time, or if it's a new kind of adapter, it can be a bit of a head-scratcher. So, for that reason, we've got this handy guy that will walk you through the process of changing your windshield wipers and answer all the important questions about when and how this job needs to be done.
How Often Do Windshield Wipers Need to Be Changed?
When you buy your car, it's going to have windshield wipers already installed. For a lot of drivers that may be the last time they think about them. You can keep those things on your car for years as long as they're working properly. You may be surprised to learn that some mechanics actually recommend you change windshield wipers every 6 to 12 months. Windshield wiper manufacturers also recommend changing your blades every six months or so, but it's no surprise that they would do that since they're the ones making money off of it.
Other mechanics will tell you that you should replace your blades anytime you notice the signs of wear and tear on them. The wiper part of the blade is made of a pliable rubber and that means it's going to degrade over time. Extreme temperature changes, heavy use, and the chemicals in your washer fluid are all going to take their toll on your windshield wiper blades eventually. Over time you're going to notice that they become less effective at getting your windshield 100% clean when you use them. You'll notice little spots here and there that seem to get skipped over, or there will still be a bit of a layer that isn't being adequately wiped away. When that starts happening you definitely want to get your wipers changed.
This is definitely one of those things that you need to make a judgment call on. If you need to change your blades every 6 months, then go ahead and do so. If they're still working as good as new after 12 months, then there really is no reason to buy new ones. Just make sure you're keeping an eye on them, and if you see that they're performing poorly you'll know it's time to swap them out. The good thing about windshield wiper blades compared to parts of your engine is that it's very unlikely your windshield wiper blade is simply going to fail all of a sudden. It won't be working fine one day and then be completely incapable of clearing your windshield of rain the next day. It's going to be a process so you'll have time to realize they're not working the way they should, and you can get them replaced.
What Size Windshield Wipers Do I Need?
When you head to the store to get new wipers or if you're shopping for some online, you'll notice that there is a wide range of sizes available. This is one of those things that you need to consult your owner's manual about in many circumstances. It's going to let you know precisely the size of the wiper blade that you need to work properly with your vehicle.
When checking your owner's manual isn't an option, the internet is here to help you. You can go to a website like MyWiperSize and search for your make and model of vehicle on their list. They have pretty much every make and model of vehicle available from a Yugo to a Lamborghini. This will give you a quick and easy reference to find out what size wipers you need for your car.
Are Expensive Windshield Wipers Worth It?
As with anything that you can buy for your car, you can buy cheaper priced windshield wiper blades or more expensive ones. You can find low price options for under $10, and higher price windshield wiper blades for over $30. And while it seems like what we're dealing with is just a piece of rubber and plastic that squeegees your windshield, there really is more to it than that.
Remember that this is actually a piece of safety equipment. While a light rain can just be a nuisance on your windshield, if it's heavy rain, wet snow, or condensation on your windshield blocking your view, reliable windshield wipers can be the difference between seeing where you're going and driving blind.
If you have the option and the ability, it's better to go with a higher-quality windshield wiper blade. That means you're going to be spending more money, but typically you can expect better results as well. Some cheap blades made by unknown companies have a bad habit of becoming unreliable after only a few rainstorms. There's no sense investing even $10 in blades that you're going to need to replace in a month.
Name brand blades like Bosch or Rain-X really do stand up to heavy use and the companies have earned the reputations for making quality products. Remember if you are replacing these every 6 months to 12 months anyway you don't want to sink a ton of money into them, but there's no point in buying cheap blades that are going to need to be replaced even more often than that.
Can I Use a Different Size Windshield Wiper Blade?
The size recommended for your vehicle is recommended for a reason. If you pick blades that are bigger because you think they're going to give you more coverage there's a good chance that they are going to overlap. That can cause them to touch each other as they're moving and potentially snap off.
It's possible that you have a little bit of leeway with the size of your blades but it's probably no more than 1 inch or so. Keep in mind that the driver side and the passenger side of your vehicle probably are not exactly the same size either, and some vehicles might have a 24 inch blade on the driver side but only an 18 inch blade on the passenger side. If you get too much beyond the recommended size it is unlikely to work correctly.
What Is a Multi-Clip Windshield Wiper?
Your windshield wipers have a clip or an adapter that connects the arm to your car. There are about five different kinds of wiper arms out there with five different types of adapters that can affix the wiper to the arm. You can, however, get what is called a multi-clip wiper that will come with the different adapters needed to connect it to your car regardless of the type of wiper arm present. This takes the guesswork out of figuring out whether or not the wipers are going to fit on your car.
How to Change Windshield Wiper Blades
Since there are several different types of adapters that connect wiper blades to the arm, it can get a little confusing sometimes to figure out the exact way to get your blades attached.
Step 1: Once you have the right replacement wipers you can take the old ones off of your car. Pull the wiper assembly up so that the blades are vertical. Then you can turn the blade perpendicular to the arm and take a look at the hinge.
Step 2: The hinge portion of the blade should have a small tab on it. You can either push or pull on this depending on the type of mechanism used. Pull down on the blade after that and it should slide off the metal hook. This can be a little tricky sometimes then it might take some elbow grease to pull free. You may need to push the blade forward first then push the button then pull it back. Be careful not to push and pull too hard because you may actually break the plastic hinge.
Step 3: It may be a good idea at this point to gently rest the metal arm back on your windshield. This is just a safety precaution so that it doesn't snap back and accidentally crack your windshield.
Step 4: You can now take out your new wiper. Make sure you have matched the right wiper to the right side of your car. The wiper that goes on the driver side is going to be a different size than the wiper for the passenger side.
Step 5: Line up your new blade with the metal arm on your car. The metal arm has a little J hook on the end, so you just need to line up the blade where the hook goes in with the hook itself. Push the metal hook through the hole in your windshield wiper blade.
Step 6: You can now pull the blade until you feel it click into place. At this point you can lay it down gently on your windshield so that is resting against the glass. If you're replacing both blades, you can repeat this process with the other blade now.
Step 7: It's a good idea to check the angle of your wiper arm at this point. The blade should be 90° to the glass mid swipe.
Step 8: If everything looks good, now is the time to test them out. Turn on your car and give your windshield a squirt with the washer fluid to test the blades out. If the blades are leaving streaks on the glass, you can try cleaning the rubber insert with alcohol wipes. If that doesn't work, you may need to double-check that you installed the blades correctly. They should be good to go at this point
The Bottom Line
Most drivers don't consider swapping out windshield wipers as the kind of routine maintenance they should be doing with their car. A lot of us take the approach that if they aren't broke, they don't need to be fixed. And while that's true to a degree, you need to make sure they're working as well as they can be so that you don't end up suffering an accident as a result.
Investing in a new pair of windshield wiper blades is not an expensive thing to do by any means and replacing them will legitimately take less than 10 minutes of your time. If you're noticing that your blades are leaving streaks on the glass or aren't offering the amount of coverage necessary to ensure a clear field of vision when you're driving during harsh weather, then there's no reason not to go get them changed as soon as you can to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.