Imagine driving down a busy highway in the mid-afternoon and dark clouds begin rolling in. As soon as the pelting rain starts, your new SUV’s rain-sensing windshield wipers automatically turn on.
That is a nice feature to have, as opposed to having to find the switch to turn on the wipers while navigating a heavy vehicle in a sudden downpour. Many new cars offer this type of driver safety technology.
When talking windshield wipers, though, driver safety does not start and end with the technology. The wiper blades are a separate consideration. Many people drive their vehicles for years before changing the wiper blades.
Do not ignore the wipers when looking at vehicle maintenance. Ideally, look to replace them every six months. That is what manufacturers, such as Toyota, recommends.
There are plenty of online resources out there to show you how to do it yourself. It’s an easy process. Just make sure you get the right size for your vehicle. Your best bet is to look at the owner’s manual and see what your manufacturer recommends.
How to check your wiper blades
Gary Kirk, Regional Manager for Greater Toronto Area for Speedy Glass, points to a few tricks to check if your wiper blades are still in good condition:
- Spray the windshield with washer fluid to see if the wipers are clearing the entire windshield.
- Watch wiper blades when cycling/resting to verify they are making full contact.
- Lift the wiper off the windshield and visually inspect for damage to the rubber of the blade.
- Run your fingers down the rubber blade that touches the windshield to ensure there are no tears or imperfections to the wiping element.
- Inspect the end caps of the wiper blade to make sure they are not separating.
- Check the mounting clip to verify that it is seated correctly on the wiper arm.
- Feel the rubber to ensure no glass is imbedded in the blade, to prevent damage to your windshield glass.
How to maintain your wipers so they last longer
- During the cold winter months, make sure you defrost or scrape your windshield before turning on the windshield wipers.
- Keep your windshield clean.
- Never run the wipers on a dry windshield.
- If a winter storm or freezing rain is in the forecast, some vehicle owners choose to leave the wiper blades up so they don’t freeze to the glass. Others advise against it, since it can affect the pressure of the wiper blades against the windshield, and the wipers could snap back in the wind and damage the windshield.
- One good tip is to clean your windshield wipers every time you fill the gas tank.
Signs that it is time to replace the wipers
Climate is the main reason wipers wear down. Icy cold winters can really damage the blades. But the heat and humidity of summer can take a toll as well.
There are several warning signs telling you that it is time to replace the wipers:
- Chattering/skipping: Some wiper blades can develop a “curve” in the rubber while the car is parked. The blade will then make a chattering sound as it passes over the windshield.
- Streaking: This tends to be caused by dry rubber that has hardened and cracked.
- Split rubber: This is usually found on blades that are old.
- Worn rubber: Rounding of the wiping edge caused by long usage.
Remember: making sure your windshield wipers are working efficiently is just as important as checking the tires and changing the oil. Visibility is the key to staying safe on the road, whether it’s driving on the highway or around the corner to the local store.