New windshield wiper blades are a must for safe driving. If you can't see the road ahead clearly, you're risking an accident.
Wiper blades don't last forever. The average life of a new natural rubber wiper blade is only about 12 to 18 months. The wipers might have to be replaced sooner if you live in a hot climate and park your vehicle outdoors in direct sunlight, or they might last up to several years if you park your vehicle in a garage or don't use them much.
The life of the wiper blades depends on sun exposure, ozone, temperature, airborne abrasives, road grime and grease, as well as how often the blades are used. Age is also a factor because new blades that have been sitting on a store shelf too long can become age hardened and chatter when they are installed.
A natural rubber edge on the blade usually provides the best wiping performance. Other materials that may be used include synthetic rubbers and silicone. Synthetic rubber and silicone are more durable and can provide much longer service life, but don't wipe as cleanly as natural rubber. Teflon and graphite are other materials that may be used in the wiping edge to reduce friction and extend blade life. Some blade manufacturers use composite blades that combine various materials, such as a natural rubber wiping edge bonded to a synthetic rubber or silicone blade.
It's time to replace your wiper blades if you are experiencing any of the following:
* Rubber cracked, brittle, torn, split or deformed
* Edge of blade nicked, torn or worn
Replacement windshield wiper blades must be the length as your original wiper blades. Installing wiper blades that are too long may allow the ends of the blades to hit the edge of the windshield, or the other blade depending on how they are positioned. Installing wiper blades that are too short will clear a smaller area, reducing visibility.
To find out what size wiper blades you need, measure the length of your old blades end to end. Round off to the nearest inch. Or, look up the blade length on a reference chart when you go to the auto parts store or retailer that sells wiper blades.
Replacement wiper blades are available in various styles, grades (economy, standard or premium), and price ranges. My advice is to avoid the cheapest blades (economy grade) as these may not provide the best life or wiping performance. Mid-grade or standard replacement blades should be similar to the original equipment wiper blades on your vehicle, and should provide good life and wiping performance. Premium grade wiper blades generally provide the best wiping performance and/or service life.
In recent years, a new type of wiper blade construction has appeared. First used on high end luxury cars in Europe in 2001, the solid beam or "bracketless" style blades are now used on many new cars and trucks, and are also available as a retrofit upgrade option for older vehicles, too.
A traditional wiper blade has a metal or plastic frame that holds a flexible rubber blade. The frame usually has several hinge points so the whole structure can bend and follow the curvature of the windshield. The blade itself is may be held in place by six to eight or more attachment points. The more support points the blade has, the better, because it evens out the loading on the blade so it will wipe more evenly and cleanly.
The new beam style wiper blades are a solid molded construction with an internal spring. Unlike traditional wiper blades, there is no frame or hinge points to clog with ice and snow in the winter, so the beam style blades are great for year round use. They also exert pressure more evenly across the entire surface of the blade (no pressure points) so they deliver excellent wiping performance.
Another feature of the new beam style blades is that they have a molded in airfoil that helps press the blade against the glass at highway speeds to prevent wind lift. This, combined with a lower profile, reduces turbulence and wind noise. Traditional style blades, by comparison, may use slots in the frame to prevent air pressure from building up under the blade. This can increase wind noise. Others use small airfoils mounted on top of the frame to help push it down against the glass for better high speed wiping performance.
The new solid beam style wiper blades are available from most wiper manufacturers:
ANCO Contour and Profile
Bosch ICON and Evolution
Trico Innovision and Neoform (also sold under NAPA brand name)