Everything you need to know about buying wiper blades

Clear advice on how to choose replacements

Published: March 20, 2015 09:00 AM

How’s the world looking through your windshield? If your wipers are leaving streaks or blank spots, it’s probably time for a new set.

Our tests have found that even the best windshield wipers show signs of deterioration in as little as six months. That’s why we recommend replacing yours twice a year, or more often if they begin to lose their effectiveness. (See our complete wiper buying advice and ratings.)

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good-performing windshield wipers. Some budget-priced models cleared as well as more expensive windshield wipers in our extensive 185-car test.

Regardless of what you pay, most blades quickly degrade after a few months of regular use. Depending on the model, deterioration can show up as streaking (leaving lines of water behind), smearing of the water (instead of clearing it), or missed areas of wiping. An unclean or obscured windshield is a real safety hazard.

Beyond visibility, it is important not to wait too long to replace a blade, as a torn wiper blade can allow the wiper arm to rub against the glass, possibly ruining the windshield.

Clear advice

To get the most from your existing wipers, inspect them periodically. 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.

If the wipers are in decent physical condition but not clearing the windshield effectively, try cleaning them. Simply 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. You might be rewarded with a couple more months of a clear windshield without spending money on replacements.

When the time comes for new blades, remember to replace them in pairs. If one is worn out, its mate can't be far behind.

Don't forget to check the rear wiper, if your vehicle has one. Even though it may not get as much use as the front wipers, it is exposed to the elements.

How to choose

Windshield wiper blades come in many sizes, and chances are your car takes a different size on each side. Look in your car's owner's manual, measure the blade, or ask at an auto-parts store for the proper fit.

While most wiper blades we have tested performed adequately, there is a dramatic difference between the best and worst blades. Rather than buy whatever replacement blades are cheapest, it is worthwhile checking our wiper blade ratings to find several suitable top models to then price shop.

Jim Travers

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