Top 8 Reasons To Invest In A New Pair Of Wiper Blades

Your vehicle’s wiper blades are getting a workout as winter storms rage across North America--from ice storms in the Sierra mountains and Atlantic Coast to hurricanes in the southeast.

Are they up to the task of keeping your windshield clear?

“Inexpensive all-rubber blades can get really stiff in cold weather and you start to get chattering since they can’t make good contact with the contour of your windshield,” said Jeffrey Ross, product management supervisor at Continental Automotive. “When that happens they will not be able to effectively clear and rain or snow.

“In hot, sunny weather rubber blades tend to get soft. Eventually may dry out and they will no longer be able to clean your windshield, leaving those telltale smear marks.

Exposure to summer sun can leach resins out of blades and makes them brittle. Other signs of worn out blades include rubbing, scraping, vibration and gaps as the arm passes across the windshield. Streaks indicate poor contact with the windshield.

“The problems are visibility and overall driver awareness,” Ross said about driving with worn out blades. “I change mine out at least once a year since I live in an area with four distinct seasons and want to ensure I have the best visibility at all times."

Frequency of use and type of climate affect blade longevity. 

The technology has evolved dramatically since Mary Anderson was awarded the first wiper blade patent in 1905. She invented the device after riding in a New York City cab during a snowstorm.

Back then a manually operated lever moved an arm outfitted with a piece of rubber. Ask a windshield wiper expert today and you’ll hear terms like “sweep,” “pressure points,” “direct fit,” “synthetic,”"beam, “lift” and “memory curve.”

Streaks while using wiper blades signal lack of contact with the windshield. The problem occurs with rubber blades as well as weathered blades in need of replacement.

Historically, basic rubber blades were installed on most vehicles. They were inexpensive but became brittle in cold weather and mushy in heat. Also, rubber blades wore out quickly compared to the latest technologies.

Today, wiper blades offer beam deisgn for the assembly and silicone or synthetic blends for the blades. They are designed to perform better and last longer than traditional rubber blades.

“There’s an entire aisle of choices,” said Lori Bachman, who works with Ross at Continental Automotive Systems. “It can be a bit confusing.”

For Bachman the choice comes down to where drivers live and where they travel.

Drivers who encounter heavy rains and wind should avoid blades with lots of “fingers,” or attachment points. The assembly can act like an airfoil and cause them to lift off the windshield.

Instead, Bachman suggested blades with beam technology--a design that delivers consitent pressure across the entire wiper blade . The technology incorporates “memory curve” that helps shape blades to the windshield and applies constant pressure.

Technologies from other manufracturers are designed for drivers who live in snowy climates or visit ski resorts.So-called “winter blades” retain their flexibility during a snowstorm or if the vehicle was parked outside in freezing temperatures.

Some specialized versions of winter blade utlizes a cover to help protect the wiper assembly and sweep away snow accumulation.

For most drivers, however, "all-weather" blades suffice.

Bachman emphasized the importance of investing in quality wiper blades to improve driving visibility. She offered the following advice on when and how to select the right blades:

  1. Replace blades if they are rubbing, smearing, streaks or chattering sounds from wiper blades. 
  2. If you hear scratching noises, change out blades immediately to prevent windshield damage.
  3. Consider blades with a direct-fit connection. Some wiper blade assemblies come with multiple adfapters and may be difficult to install, especially during a rainstorm.
  4. Use blades with synthetic fomulations. They perform better and last longer than traditional rubber blades.  
  5. Consider “winter” blades if you live in areas with snow and frost. They are sealed or covered to prevent snow and ice from accumulating in the wiper assembly. 
  6. Replace the rear wiper blade on your SUVs and mini-vans. Wipers for rear windows are smaller and follow the same guidelines as those for the front windshield. 
  7. Look for blades that feature beam technology. They are designed to fit the curve of your windshield and provide consistent pressure across the entire blade. It also helps them stay in contact with the windshield during heavy winds and freeway speeds.  
  8. Look for beam technology, which adjusts to the shape of your vehicle window.

"Consumers are prices conscious," Ross said. "INvesting in a quality blade means you'll geet better performance and won't have to replace it as frequently."