When is the Right Time To Change Windshield Wiper Blades

It’s inevitable- the first rain of the season and you are standing in line at the local auto parts store behind fifteen people, and you are all buying the same thing- windshield wiper blades. They are one of those necessary automotive components the average driver does not think about until they are needed- but how do you know when wiper blades need replacing?

Changing your wiper blades is easy, too. No matter what kind of car you drive, wiper blades are available. The easiest way to identify which blades you need is to look in your workshop manual. It will tell you the size, and also will offer help if you have abnormal wiper blades, such as those found on cars that have integrated washer nozzles, air splitters and designs that differ from typical cars.

winter wiper blades
Specialty wipers for winter weather are available as replacement arms or inserts for vehicles like this one that has an integrated air splitter on the arm.

Wiper blades will need to be changed when they stop working as intended. If your wiper blades are streaking or skipping on the windshield when you turn them on, it’s a good time to change them. As wiper blades wear, the skimming edge that makes contact with the windshield will separate from the rest of the wiper arm, leaving the exposed metal edge of the arm in contact with your windshield. This can cause scratches in the glass and can lead to expensive replacement costs. Old, dry wiper blades will leave smears and streaks, and will miss areas of the windshield, too.

rain wiper blades
Plan ahead and change wiper blades before the rainy season.

The number one reason wiper blades fail is UV rays from the sun. That’s right, your blades die when it is not raining, and you don’t even know. Protecting your wiper blades from the rays of the sun can greatly improve the lifespan and ensures you have good wipers when it starts to rain. Silicone-based wiper blades can last longer for drivers who live in sunny, hot parts of the world because the silicone degrades at a slower rate than the typical rubber blades.

Wiper blades should be cleaned regularly when washing your car. The best way to clean wiper blades is with a damp rag. Gently lift the wiper arm and pull the rag across the blade gently, from one end to the other. If your blades are showing cracks, missing chunks or otherwise don’t look like new, it’s time to replace them.

It is generally not recommended to use protectants or other rubber treatments on wiper blades like you would for tires. The reason is because many of these products will build up in the blade and cause blurry, streaky and oily marks on your windshield when you try and use them in the rain. Instead, a little car wash soap on a rag will keep the surfaces clean and free of bugs and dirt that will prevent the wiper blades from working correctly.

So, how long do wiper blades last?

Some drivers will mistakenly forget to change wiper blades and get three or even four years out of a set. Others will have to change blades twice just during the rainy months. How long a set of wiper blades will last depends on the type of weather conditions they are exposed to on a regular basis.

There really isn’t a season for changing wiper blades, but it makes sense to change them before they are needed. It is generally recommended that you replace your wiper blades at least once a year, and always in pairs.

If you live in a part of the world where it doesn’t rain very much, once a year might be fine, just make sure you have them available before the rain starts. Changing blades in the rain is no fun at all. For drivers that live in parts of the world where it rains all year, or at least can, plan on twice a year. It’s a small cost to pay to ensure you can safely see and drive.

change wiper blade
Replacing the entire wiper arm is often easier than just the blade, but is more expensive.

Wiper blades generally come in two varieties, ones with the supporting arm attached that use a universal-type connector to attach to the existing arm, and inserts that are just the blade which must be installed on your existing wiper support. The inserts tend to be significantly less expensive, but can be more difficult to find, as many auto parts stores carry only the entire replacement arm.

A repair manual for your car will tell you how to remove the blades from the wiper arm and will show how to install new blades. If you are unsure, most auto parts stores will help you for free.

What Wipers are Best?

When you decide to change wiper blades, you will see there are numerous options, ranging from the super cheap to the outrageously expensive. Which wiper blades are best for your car depends on several factors, but mainly depends on the type of weather you anticipate. If you live in a place that snows and freezes, many companies manufacture wiper blades just for helping clear ice and snow from windshields without clogging and freezing to the glass.

Many drivers in snowy parts of the world will have a separate set of wiper blades just for the winter, and usually install them at the same time as winter tires.

For drivers in parts of the world were it rains a lot, wiper blades that have advanced features for clearing the windshield should be a priority purchase. Cheap wiper blades will quickly fail in heavy rain as the blade is not capable of handling the volume of water.

Drivers who really want to keep their wipers in like-new condition during the rain-free summer months will often remove the wiper arm entirely from the car. A service manual for your car will show you how to remove the arm correctly and safely. The downside to this is that if you need your wipers, you will have to reinstall them before you can use them. So for year-round safety, it is best to keep your wiper blades installed at all times.

Good quality, well-maintained wiper blades are an essential part of your car and help to ensure you can see safely while driving in bad weather. Do not take chances on old blades. Plan ahead and buy a replacement set of wiper blades before the rainy season starts to ensure you can see clearly through the storm as you drive past the auto parts store with the line out the door of people buying wipers in the rain.

Get replacement wiper blades for your car here.

About Derek F

Derek grew up in Southern California and started working on cars when he was a child. He learned from his father and grandfather how to make basic repairs and maintain cars correctly. Derek rebuilt his first engine at 15 years-old, beginning an automotive career that took him to many interesting jobs. Derek has worked as an automotive detailer, managed parts warehouses and auto parts stores, and worked as a mechanic for several years doing brake and suspension work. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in government journalism, Derek worked for an auto museum where he started to write about cars. Today, Derek uses his expertise gained from many years of practical experience to help educate DIYers and share interesting knowledge about various types of automotive repair and service. Writing about cars helps fund his numerous classic car restoration and customization projects.

One comment

  1. Avatar

    Two problems with removing the windscreen wipers, both make the car unsafe and illegal.

    1. Vehicles must have working windscreen wipers at all times by law!

    2. Without wipers, you cannot use the windscreen washer. Also illegal.

    I suggest you ignore/delete that suggestion!

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