Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

When to replace wiper blades

How do you know when to replace wiper blades?

Here are some tips on when to replace wiper blades.

A wiper blade is nothing but a squeegee that wipes water, snow, ice, mud and slop off your windshield viewing area. Just like tires, they’re a wear item that isn’t intended to last the life of the vehicle. The plastic, metal and rubber components degrade over time due to UV exposure from the sun, salt water and road grit. So your wiper blades can wear out even if you rarely get rain in your area. In fact, wiper blades can develop a “park set” from sitting in the park position for long periods. A park set sets the rubber in a permanently tilted position so the squeegee portion can’t properly remove water from your windshield when rain does fall in your area.

Do you know the best wiper blade brands and styles? See this post

What happens when wiper blades wear out?

Sunlight, road grit and ice buildup cause the sharp edges of the rubber squeegee to wear. When that happens, the squeegee can’t properly clean your windshield. You’ll notice:

• streaks or smearing that impedes your vision

• skipped horizontal unwiped areas that make a chattering noise and impede your vision and

• splitting where the wiper blade bounces across the windshield leaving vertical unwiped areas across your windshield.

Windshield wiper blade effectiveness depends on many factors:

• The sharpness of the rubber squeegee. If you live in an area

replace wiper blades

Sharp edge on wiper blade squeegee

where your wipers must clear mud, sand, road grit, or you use your wipers to remove ice, chances are you’re wearing out the sharp edge of the rubber squeegee. Aside from not relying on your wipers to remove light ice buildup, there’s really nothing you can do to prevent this type of wiper blade wear. Simply replace wiper blades at the first signs of streaking, smearing, skipping or incomplete wiping action.

• The quality, rigidity and firmness of the rubber.  Cheap wiper blades use a lower quality rubber that’s softer and less resistant to UV damage. The rubber squeegee portion of a cheap blade will not maintain its rigidity, causing it to lean over as it wipes which results in a smear rather than a clean wipe. Cheap blades are far more prone to “park set” where the rubber takes a permanently tilted set that can’t maintain proper blade-to-windshield orientation. Replace wiper blades if they’re bent or you see rubber degradation.

economy wiper blades

• The integrity of the beam and rubber squeegee. Beam blades are popular on late model vehicles because they have a lower profile and apply pressure more evenly across the entire squeegee. However, low quality beam blades experience squeegee separation, where the rubber squeegee detaches from the beam. In addition, poor quality beam blades can chatter and skip, especially on longer blades. In those applications, consider replacing a standard beam blade with a hybrid beam blade that includes an additional rigid member to keep the blade in proper contact with the glass.

• Frame and spring integrity. Conventional wiper blades can be easily damaged by attempting to operate them when they are frozen to the windshield or packed with ice. Or, they can be damaged by contact with your ice scraper when removing ice. Operating frozen wiper blades can cause the frame and springs to bend or deform permanently and that affects their wiping ability. If your wiper blades are frozen to your windshield, loosen them by hand before operating the wiper switch.

How to check and replace wiper blades

Check for cracks or tearing

replace wiper blades

Check for a sharp versus worn squeegee edge

replace wiper blades
©. 2018 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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