Preventing Windshield Wiper Problems

Windshield wiper problems don't appear out of the blue. They start small and build over time, until you're stuck in a thunderstorm or snowstorm with thick streaks of ice or water keeping you from seeing the road ahead.

The average lifespan of windshield wipers is about four to six months, depending on weather conditions where you live and how often you're out in bad weather. Each time the blades rub across your windshield, a little more rubber comes off and pits start to appear. As soon as you see streaks, it's time for new blades. Here are some tips to get the most life out of every set of blades that you buy. 

Keep the Car Clean
Keeping your car, windshield and wipers clean is the best way to preserve your wipers. Take off heavy dirt, bird droppings or ice and snow by hand before you turn on your wipers. They're not built for tough jobs and will deteriorate quickly if you work them too hard.

Don't use your wipers to remove snow and ice in the winter. Rubbing across the uneven surface of snow and ice tears tiny nicks into the blades. Lift the blades so they're away from your car, scrape the windshield thoroughly, then run the defroster to melt any remaining ice before you start the windshield wipers.

Keep the windshield fluid reservoir filled, so that you know you'll get fluid when you turn on the windshield cleaner. Most cars run an automatic cycle to clean the windshield. You can't stop it once its begun, and if there's no fluid, you're running the wipers on a dry, dirty surface and ruining their edge. Look for wiper fluid with a built-in rain guard.

Be careful about using your wipers when it's misting or drizzling, especially if you've got a dirty windshield. Run the wipers just often enough to maintain safe visibility.

Treat Wipers with Care

  • The metal on old wiper blades can carve scratches into your windshield once the rubber has worn off, been pulled of or crumbles due to too much heat or cold. If you see streaks on your windshield, it's time to change blades. 
  • Wiper blades usually have a three-month lifespan. During that time you can pretty much expect your windshield to be sparkling clean after each consecutive wipe of the blades. Higher-quality blades may last up to six months. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for changing blades. When in doubt, it's always better to simply put on new blades. They're inexpensive and easy to replace.
  • Don't try to pull up a wiper blade that has been frozen to the windshield, either by hand or by turning the wipers on. You'll pull chunks of rubber from the blade's surface. Allow the car's defroster to warm the windshield until the wiper blades are released.
  • Even if your wipers are fairly new, check them for damage before leaving on a trip. If they look a little worn, pick up a new set of blades and either change the wipers before you leave, or bring them along for the ride. You never know what type of weather you might run into along the way.
  • Make it a habit to check wiper blades at the beginning and end of each season. Rain, snow, sleet, ice and heat all damage wiper blades in their own ways.
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