It's easy to forget that wipers are a safety feature—until you end up driving in heavy rain or snow, or are blinded by glare. Dirt, debris, and road grime abrade wipers, and sunlight breaks down their rubber edges. Most wipers, our tests have shown, deteriorate after six to nine months, so if you replaced yours around the first of the year, it's time to do it again.
Lift each wiper arm off the glass and run your finger along its rubber edge. If the rubber is rigid or chipped, or produces nonstop streaking, you need new wipers.
Put windshield washer fluid or mild dish liquid on a damp sponge or rag and wipe debris off the rubber and the windshield where the wiper rests.
If wipers are frozen to the glass, use the defroster and hand-clear snow and ice from around them before turning them on. Use windshield washer fluid with antifreeze.
If one is worn out, its mate will surely die soon.
Look in your car's owner's manual, measure the blade, or ask at an auto-parts store. On some cars, one blade is longer than the other, so check both, as well as the rear wiper if your car has one.
Usually you just pull the old wiper off the metal arm and push the new one on until it's tight. You might need a small screwdriver or hammer to tap the old blade off.
Replacing the rubber part of the wiper with a new insert saves money but requires deft use of needle-nose pliers. It's often better to replace the whole blade.
We've found the Valeo 600 Series ($15 per wiper) and RainX Latitude ($21) best overall. Other good choices: the Anco 31 Series ($10) and Contour ($16), Michelin RainForce ($12), and Valeo 900 Series ($20). Prices are for 24-inch models.