Where Rubber Meets Glass
If there’s any part of our vehicles that routinely gets ignored, it’s the wiper blades. They’re not sexy, and unless one fails altogether, we often wait to replace them until either a torrential rainstorm or a hideous snow dump is predicted. Windshield wiper, though, are critical for safe driving, and they should routinely be inspected and replaced.
There’s more to buying replacement blades, though, than just walking into the nearest auto parts store or driving to the local dealership. Wiper blades have changed, and it’s important to know why you should spend a little more to achieve a significant upgrade in safety.
Back in the day, frame-style wiper blades consisted of a series of springs that held either an ordinary rubber or a hardened rubber blade against the glass. Those springs created anywhere from four to eight pressure points, and it was only at those points that the blades worked their best. Wind could easily lift the blades from the windshield, and snow and other debris built up in the spaces between the springs, thus greatly limiting the blades’ ability to flex. And while frame-style blades are still quite common and offer the most inexpensive replacement option, they’re not your best choice.
If you want to ensure the clearest windshield, opt instead for beam-style blades. These replacement blades consist of an encased spring-steel band that conforms to the curvature of the windshield and provide an infinite number of press points across the glass. Beam blades also have the advantage of aerodynamic design that holds them better against the windshield, and their rubber casing eliminates the chance of snow building up within the moving parts.
Replacing your blades is an easy job on most vehicles. Wiper-blade manufacturers include universal hardware with new blades that allow them to fit on the most common designs of wiper arms, and most often it’s a simple snap-fit installation. Not sure what to buy or what size you need? Just ask. The auto parts counterperson will be happy to look them up for you (good insurance, as often times you’ll need two different sizes—one for the driver’s side and one for the passenger’s).
If you’re uncomfortable swapping the blades yourself or think you might have a difficult time of it, ask the auto parts counterperson if they will change them for you, as many retail parts stores offer this service free of charge. Or if you’d rather, have your dealer inspect the blades at your next oil change. Either way, you’ll see clearer.