When readying your car for winter weather, don’t neglect the windshield wipers. Your wipers ensure a clear view of the road in all kinds of weather, so take good care of them. In particular, don’t use your wipers to clear ice and snow from your windshield: that’s what scrapers are for. And if you park outside and snow is predicted, put your wipers in the “raised position” so they don’t freeze to the windshield.
Consumer Reports recently completed an exhaustive test of 15 models of windshield wipers on 185 staffers’ cars. The tested windshield wipers included six beam-blade models, a relatively new design. Unlike conventional wipers, beam blades have no external frames. As a result, they are promoted as providing more uniform pressure on today’s curved windshields and therefore better wiping performance. All wipers were evaluated in the real world, as well as in a special lab that could simulate varying rain conditions. In addition to performance, we also evaluated the wipers on ease of installation and removal.
The good news is that three of the top four wipers were also the least expensive. The not-so-good-news: wipers are only good for about six months or so. When brand-new, every wiper tested earned “Very Good” or “Excellent” marks. But after six to nine months of regular use, performance quickly declined.
Replace your wipers every six to twelve months for best performance—don’t wait until the rubber is cracked and you’re seeing streaks on your windshield. If you do it yourself, consult your owner’s manual for guidance. While you’re at it, this is a good time to make sure the windshield washer fluid is topped off, too.
Read our full windshield wiper buying advice and Ratings (available to online subscribers).