Since 1903, cars have come standard with wiper blades. After all, it’s beneficial to actually see what we are driving towards. Adding to the list, wiper blades are yet another thing that we don’t think about too often but have to replace occasionally. These seemingly simple objects can vary greatly in price, but are expensive wiper blades worth it?
Beam-type wiper blades are expensive but are worth the extra cost. Beam-type blades are aerodynamically designed, not only are they aesthetically pleasing but their aero design means they remain fixed to the windshield in high winds and at high speed, in short, the more expensive beam blades offer superior performance.
Along with every other part of the car, windshield wipers have also seen an evolution. The conventional blades that we all know are starting to be phased out and beam blade designs are becoming more prominent. This design promises to both last longer and performs better.
Knowing when it’s time to replace your wiper blades is important for the continued safe operation of your vehicle. Not being able to see well out of your front window is unsurprisingly considered hazardous. The Department of Transportation has reported that 21% of car crashes were weather-related. Of those, nearly half were due to rain. As such, it is important that you secure a pair of replacements before actually needing them.
While wiper blades should be fine for many months, you will be the ultimate judge of when it is time to get a new set. Dirt, debris, and sunlight will continue to wear away at the rubber until it ceases to work properly. In order to check their wear, lift your blades every month or so and rub your finger along the edge. If you notice the rubber has become stiff or cracking, then it’s time to look for a replacement.
If the blade feels fine but you are still experiencing inadequate results, you can actually try to clean the blades yourself. Just take a rag with glass cleaner and run it along the rubber and the area of the windshield where the wipers rest. Doing this could allow you to squeeze out a little extra use with your current set.
Thankfully there are not many specifications to worry about when looking at wiper blades. The only thing you really have to know is the length of the blades you are buying.
The measurements can be found in your car’s owner manual, but you can also measure the blades yourself. Be sure to measure both blades as they are typically not the same length. Additionally, you can use a wiper blade manufacturer’s website, such as Rain-X, and they will give you the correct measurements after imputing your car’s details.
When looking at cheap and expensive wiper blades, the main differentiator will be the construction of the blades. Currently, there are predominantly two different types of windshield wipers.
Conventional wiper blades are no doubt the ones that most of us are familiar with. The construction features a metal frame with different spring-tensioned pivot points holding a rubber blade. Due to this type of construction, conventional wiper blades are limited to having about 6-8 pressure points throughout the windshield, leading to potential suboptimal performance.
Most of the cheap wiper blades will use this construction. These types of wipers are still equipped on most new non-luxury vehicles.
If you are looking at more expensive wiper blades, then they are most likely a beam blade design. The beam blade does away with the metal frame and instead features spring steel encased in rubber. Unlike the limited amount of contact points in conventional blades, this allows for more uniform contact.
These expensive wiper blades tend to be designed more aerodynamically leading to better handling of head-on winds. Conventional wiper blades can experience lift, making the blade lose contact with the windshield and not wiping effectively. The low profile of beam blades is also aesthetically favored and is another reason they are equipped on luxury vehicles.
A more niche pick is winter blades. These are designed for more serious weather involving heaps of ice. Winter wiper blades are built using stronger materials to handle the stress of wiping away heavy ice. They also tend to be encased in rubber so that debris can’t get into the wiper mechanisms, causing damage.
As with winter tires, the rubber on these blades works exceptionally well in colder weather but is prone to cracking when temperatures are high. So these should only be considered if you are in an extreme climate.
If you are looking to make your wiper blade last longer, then consider treating your windshield with rain repellent. Rain repellent is a simple hydrophobic coating that you apply to your windshield to prevent water from sticking to the glass.
The smooth finish allows for your wipers to have an easier time gliding over your windshield and clearing off any rain, snow, or other debris. The repellent is so powerful that it can even allow you to drive without using your wipers at all. The force of the wind will be enough to blow the water droplets away from your view. This allows you to extend the life of your wiper blades greatly.
However, circumstances might change. Rain repellent is something that needs to be reapplied every so often, so it shouldn’t be a substitute for having functioning wiper blades.
Surprisingly there is a large variation of wiper fluids available to you. Water is suitable as long as you live in an area that won’t dip below freezing. However, the lack of cleaning agents may make your wiper blades work harder to clear off debris, leading to accelerated deterioration. Also, make sure to use distilled water if you plan to use water as the minerals in undistilled water can clog up the lines.
If you plan to use actual wiper fluid, here are a few of the categories you will see:
- Standard Washer Fluid: Your basic run-of-the-mill washer fluid. It’s essentially glass cleaner. It’s pretty cheap, not hard to find, and should perform better than just water.
- Bug Remover: This formulation has more cleaning agents in it to better deal with clearing off bug residue. If you find your windshield covered in bugs, then this may help you out.
- Water Beading: Sometimes this can be found as an additive that you mix with your existing wiper fluid. This formulation will apply a coating to your windshield that will cause water droplets to bead away. Do keep in mind that this coating will be limited to the area in which your blades can spread it, leading to a smaller area than if you applied the coating to the whole windshield yourself.
- De-Icing: If you are about to experience very cold weather, then this is your best choice. This mixture includes antifreeze, preventing the fluid from freezing even in negative temperatures. A downside is that this type of fluid tends to be less effective at actually cleaning your windshield. But given the choice between a frozen wiper fluid or a less effective one, the choice is clear.
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