Essential for safety, yet often neglected, regularly replacing windshield wipers will help keep you moving no matter the weather.
People use their windshield wipers all the time, which makes it easy to take them for granted. But imagine that you're driving along and a sudden downpour starts. You turn on your wipers, and the blades just drag water and snow across the windshield, making your view even worse. Regularly replacing windshield wipers can help prevent this and other unsafe situations from developing. Fortunately, it's not as hard as it might seem.
How windshield wipers work
Windshield wipers are very fundamental, very crucial parts of your car. They usually consist of two wiper arms connected to tiny electrical motors at the base of the windshield. Each wiper arm has a wiper blade attached to it, which is the part that's responsible for clearing the windshield.
Replacing windshield wipers doesn't mean replacing the entire apparatus. In fact, the only regular maintenance the wipers require is that you inspect and change the wiper blades themselves. How often depends on what sort of climate you live in and how often you use your wipers, but at a minimum, you should inspect them twice a year and replace them once a year, whether they seem like they need it or not.
Why do they need to be replaced?
Replacing windshield wipers is necessary because the rubber blades wear down over time. Gradually, the wipers will begin to drag and smear water instead of clearing it from the windshield. This drastically reduces visibility and in extreme circumstances, may force you to pull over and wait out a storm.
It's a good idea to change the blades regularly even if they don't seem to need it because you never know when they'll reach their breaking point. Replacing windshield wipers on a set schedule is the best way to ensure that poor visibility doesn't leave you stranded on the side of the road.
Types of blades
Before you start replacing your wipers, you first need to know what kind of wipers you have. There are three types of wiper blades: traditional frame, beam, and hybrid.
Most cars on the road use traditional frame blades. These are the most affordable blades out there. They use a metal frame to support the rubber blades that come into contact with your windshield. If the rubber wears down too far on these, you'll end up with metal strips scratching the surface of your windshield—yikes!
Beam blades are premium blades. They are more expensive and don't necessarily work on every kind of wiper arm. (Check with your local auto parts store to find out if your wiper arms are compatible.) Beam blades consist of a single rubber piece instead of the metal framework of traditional blades. They conform to the curve of your windshield and are less likely to have snow and ice build-up.
Finally, there are hybrid blades, or winter blades. Hybrid blades are traditional blades encased in rubber, which make them tougher in winter weather. You can use these all year round, but they are less aerodynamic than traditional blades, though they do demonstrate a higher wiping performance.
How to replace your wipers
You can replace your windshield wipers in just a few easy steps:
1. Identify what kind of wipers you have and purchase replacements.
You might want to keep a replacement set in your car in case your wipers go bad during a storm.
2. Remove the old wipers.
Lift the wiper arm away from the windshield and press the tab at the bottom. Then you should be able to slide the worn blade right off the arm.
3. Line up the new wiper blade with the arm.
Hook them together using the plastic clip on the new blade.
4. Pull the wiper blade onto the arm.
You'll hear it click when it's in place.
5. Lower the arm onto the windshield.
Now repeat the process on the other side.
Where to find replacements
If you're not sure what kind of blades to use, the best place to go is your local auto parts store where an expert is usually on hand to help you. You can also use online sources to identify what type of wiper you have. If you already know what you need, larger chain stores like Walmart and Target usually have a vast selection that will likely include what you're looking for. If you're uncertain about any part of the process, it's always best to consult a professional.
Remember that even with proper wiper blades, some storms are too dangerous to drive in. If you experience reduced visibility, with or without effective wiper blades, pull over and wait out the storm or get help. Your safety is always the most important thing!
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Do you have any helpful hints for replacing windshield wipers? Share them with us in the comments below.