Windshield wipers are a life saver during a downpour of rain or when snow flurries flutter down from the sky. Imagine how difficult driving could be without them. Fortunately, you won’t have to if you take our advice on when to replace windshield wipers. Read on to learn everything there is to know about windshield wipers from what they’re made of, how to care for them, and when to change them.
What They’re Made Of
Windshield wipers are comprised of both metal and rubber components. The frame of a windshield wiper is made out of aluminum with some smaller parts made from steel. Wiper blades, the rubber strip that makes connection with your windshield, is made of rubber or other synthetic compounds. Because this portion of the wiper is made of rubber, it is often affected by the elements including heat from the sun, cold weather conditions, and airborne debris such as leaves and dirt. While they tend to last longer than the rubber components, the metal parts do eventually wear out from age and usage.
When to Change Windshield Wipers
Replacing windshield wipers is a fairly easy task to complete. Sizes can vary per vehicle, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual for proper size. A good rule of thumb is to replace them at least once per year. However, for drivers that live in colder or drier climates, it is recommended to replace them more frequently, such as every six months. Each time you take your vehicle in for service, have an experienced technician visually inspect them. A technician will look for signs of wear including:
- Torn or loose rubber
- Rigid, inflexible rubber
- Curling or bending toward or away from the windshield
- Missing or broken pieces in the rubber
- Cracks or breaks in the frame
How do you know when you need new windshield wipers?
While a technician may be able to point out when wiper blades need to be replaced, there are some signs that you’ll notice while using them that may indicate replacement is necessary. Symptoms include:
- Streaks across the windshield when in use
- Unusual squeaks, squeals, or creaks while in motion
- Poor contact with windshield
- Missed spots while wiping
To care for them in between replacements, use a soft, damp cloth to wipe the blades and gently replace them on the windshield to avoid bending or breaking the frame.
Windshield Wipers and Winter Weather
In colder climates where freezing temperature or snow is a regular occurrence, it’s common for wiper blades to freeze to the windshield. Check your windshield wipers prior to entering your vehicle to make sure they have not frozen to your windshield. If this happens to you:
- Mix a solution of room-temperature water and 60% vinegar or alcohol into a spray bottle and spray the wiper.
- Turn on the vehicle and allow the defroster to start defrosting the windshield.
- Remove any snow buildup with a snow brush.
- Scrape any ice off the windshield before engaging the wiper blades. Avoid using the scraper on anything other than the windshield.
- Use the wipers to remove ice from your windshield! Use the ice scraper only.
- Pour hot water onto the windshield or wiper blades which could cause the windshield to crack.
- User the washer fluid. In some vehicles, using the washer fluid triggers the wipers to engage. Using this feature when wipers are frozen can place unnecessary strain on the wiper motors and cause them to burn out prematurely.
There’s a few things you can do to help prepare your windshield wipers for the wintery season. For example, change your wiper fluid to a winter formulated fluid or purchase wiper blades designed for colder weather. Some winter wiper blades are even equipped with studs to help break through ice. For ordinary wiper blades, you can prevent windshield wipers from freezing by placing a towel or piece of cloth between them or over them overnight. Cover the entire windshield as well to prevent it from freezing. When parking, lift the wiper arm up and off the windshield to keep the rubber away from the cold glass and snow.