Are Wiper Blades Universal? (Top pro tips)


Poor visibility and constant wiper chatter cause fatigue and effects focus. And you’re correct, replacing the wipers is the solution. With so many new wiper blade choices, it is easy to get brain freeze. This post covers what you need to know to get the job done.

Wiper blades

Wiper blades are not universal. They come supplied with universal fittings, however, the length of the wiper blade is specific to your car’s windshield dimensions. The Auto parts store will supply the correct blades using just your car’s make and model details.

In this post, you’ll learn the main difference between wiper blades. How to select the correct blades for your car and how to fit them like a complete pro.

Type Of Blades

Cars have become quite sophisticated, computers, Airbags, Radar, Active braking, Rain sensors for auto wipers. But the humble wiper blade itself is still with us, great ideas never go out of style.

The wiper blade is the business end of getting the windshield cleared. Wiper blade design has evolved, most cars on the road will be fitted with either the Standard (Traditional blade) or the slimline blade also known as the flat blade.

Traditional Wiper Blade

Standard wiper blade

This type of blade is fitted to most vehicles up to 2005. It employs a metal superstructure, held together with rivets. The whole structure is designed to force the rubber blade against the windshield.

Some of the more expensive Traditional blades are fitted with a wing to help push the wiper against the windshield, clearing more water at highway speeds. It’s more usual for only the driver’s wiper to sport a wing.

The traditional blade served us well and still does, however, its moving parts are prone to wear. When the blade’s various components become loose, it causes noise, chatter, and alignment issues. Most were made from metal which also suffered from unsightly corrosion.

When I was an apprentice mechanic, if the blade structure was good, we would only replace the rubber blade. It’s not very common anymore, but you can still do it. Ask for refills instead of complete traditional blades, it’s a little tedious but well within the skills of a novice.

Flat Wiper Blade

Flat wiper blade

The flat blade or slimline blade is the most common type of blade today. It’s fitted to most cars since 2005. It isn’t a huge departure from the Traditional blade, it does the same job, but doesn’t have the bulky multi-component structure of the traditional blade.

Instead, it uses a clever all-in-one design to force the blade against the windshield and includes an integrated full-length wing.

Unlike the traditional blade, when these guys are worn they’re replaced, refills aren’t possible. The slimline looks great compared to the bulky traditional blade and performs a lot better too.

If your vehicle is fitted with traditional blades it’s possible to change to the more modern slimline, just tell the auto parts store you want the slimline blade.

How To Buy Wiper Blades

Measuring wiper blade

You now know the difference between the two main types of wiper blades fitted to most cars today. And you’ll easily be able to distinguish one from the other. One slimline blade or Traditional blade is identical to another, the only distinguishing feature is its overall length. That’s mission-critical info when purchasing wipers. Buying blades is easy – two main ways to buy wiper blades:

  1. Walk into an auto parts store with your vehicles make, model and year. Ask the store assistant for blades, they’ll do the rest.
  2. In self service stores you’ll likely meet a sea of wiper blades. Again the best place to start is with your make and model but you can simply measure your cars blades. The replacement blades come with a selection of fittings the make the blade a universal fit.

Rear Wiper Blades

Rear car wiper blade

Rear wiper blades (Fitted to station wagons and hatchbacks) are still of traditional design, and that’s because rear window performance is less important unless your Mater or course. The rear blade superstructure is now made from plastic and so doesn’t suffer from corrosion.

Type Of Blade Fittings

Wiper blade fittings

I like to change blades in pairs, but you don’t have to, they sell them singly. Each wiper blade contains a universal pack of plastic clips, one of which you’ll use to connect your new wiper to your car’s wiper arm. Typically they slide, hook or clip onto the wiper arm, here are a few of the most common types:

  • Hook – Standard type on older cars
  • Bayonet – Simple and easy to change out
  • Top Lock – The top lock is convenient, and relatively easy to use
  • Push Tab – This is one of the simplest to use, easy to identify and manipulate
  • Pinch Tab – Often combined with top release

How To Fit Wiper Blades

Fitting a wiper blade isn’t difficult, but it is possible to get it wrong. Here’s my guide for nailing it like a pro, first time out. Tools you’ll need – A piece of cardboard about a 2-foot square.

  1. Measure the blades or check they are identical length before leaving the parking lot.
  2. Lift the wiper arm from the window and lay cardboard in its place.
  3. Identify which type clip you have.
  4. Prepare your new blade by attaching the correct clip to the new wiper blade. Note the orientation of the old wiper, take a pic if needed.
  5. Remove the old blade and set aside, attach the new blade and listen for the audible click to confirm secure.
  6. Lower the wiper arm to the window. Remove the cardboard and repeat on the passenger side.
Wiper
Wiper
Wiper blade fitting

Replacing the rear blade is the same process, the rear clip is usually the hook type. This is a guide for the more common flat wiper blade, your clips may be different but you get the idea.

Wiper fitting
Wiper fitting
Wiper
Wiper

How Long Do Blades Last

The first sign of a worn wiper blade is a streak on the windshield. Eventually, that develops into chatter and squeaking.

Wiper blades last about one season, but obviously, the more you use them the sooner they wear out.

Wiper Blade Care

Wiper Blade cleaning

Here’s a few tips to help care for your windshield, wiper blades, arms, motor, and electrics. Wipers work the hardest in the winter.

  • Change wipers once per season or at min once per year – Worn wipers will damage the windshield
  • Remove heavy snow before operating the wipers – Heavy snow damages the arms, wiper mechanism and motor
  • De-ice wipers before operating – Operating frozen wipers, damages the rubber.
  • Use a deicer solution in your washer fluid – De-icer helps reduce wiper frost
  • Use a quality washer fluid – Washer fluid contains a detergent but also a lubricant which helps keep things moving . Using water in your washer bottle is bad for your car and your health – see “Water in my washer bottle”
  • Clean and polish the windshield exterior – A slippy window helps the whole wiper assembly operate more efficiently
  • Use a product like Rain-x – This stuff works at highway speeds, removes standing water. The rain runs from the windshield, giving the wipers a day off
  • Clean wiper blades – Clean the blades when ever you wash your car

Rain X For Repelling Windshield Rain

Rain-x is excellent if you don’t like driving in the rain. Some drivers find the constant movement of the wipers distracting, irritating, and tiring on long journeys. Rain-x is a moisture repellent for the windshield. When driving at highway speeds, rain hitting the windshield beads and runs over the top of the roof, in many cases the wipers aren’t needed.

The product is good, but the windshield will need to be cleaned before application and the coating won’t last forever either, it will need to be reapplied about every month. You can check it out here on the Car cleaning tools page.

Related Question

What’s the difference between A and B wipers? The A wiper blade is fitted to the driver’s side and B is fitted to the passenger side. The A and B are marked on the wiper packaging.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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