Unless you live in one of those odd everything-is-the-same-all-the-time no-weather places such as Los Angeles—I’m looking at you, The Drive editor Jonathon Klein—driving in the rain is a normal part of life. Windshield wipers help clear the water droplets from the glass, but eventually, they start to wear down.
Worn blades can lead to various wiping and streaking issues, which can often make the view worse. Distractions caused by a smudged, blurry, or rainy windshield can be extremely dangerous while driving, and could even cause an accident. We don’t want that.
Windshield wiper blades should be changed every six to 12 months to maintain consistent and reliable performance. The Drive’s die-hard info team is here to help you find the right replacement blades and install them onto your ride.
What Is a Windshield Wiper?
A windshield wiper is a mechanism on a car that pushes water off the windshield glass in a sweeping back and forth motion. Powered by a motor at the base of the windshield, an arm presses a piece of structured rubber onto the windshield to wipe the precipitation away.
Types of Windshield Wipers
Like oil, an oil filter, tires, light bulbs, or most other automotive replacement parts, certain wipers are required for your specific vehicle. Most online websites will have you fill in your year, make, model to determine your wipers, while auto parts stores might have a book or pamphlet to determine the specific type of wipers you need. Each car needs a certain model, as well as the correct sizing. Some cars have evenly matched blade sizes, while others have offset blades.
Blades will differ in the construction and attachment method. Below, we explain the most commonly used types you need to know.
Conventional blades, sometimes known as traditional blades, typically use jointed metal frames with multiple contact points that hold a structured rubber blade on the glass. These are the most common and affordable types of blades.
Flat blades, sometimes known as beam blades, use one central connecting piece that holds a large sturdy piece of rubber that molds to the shape of the windshield. These types of blades are more aerodynamic and are less affected by snow and ice.
Hybrid wiper blades combine features of flat and conventional blades. They typically use a central connector piece while a frame is hidden by an aerodynamic spoiler/cover. Thus, the idea is the best coverage, the best aerodynamics, and the best winter performance.
Winter wiper blades are designed to better deal with cold temperatures and freezing precipitation.
Types of Windshield Wiper Connectors
There are a variety of different styles used to connect a windshield wiper blade to the actual windshield wiper arm. The types include hook, pin, side-lock, top-lock, pinch-tab, bayonet, and slim-top. Depending on the wipers you purchase, you might need to add or switch out an adapter to fit the blade to the wiper. Use the directions included with the blades for installation instructions.
Common Windshield Wiper Problems
Despite their simple missions and basic components, windshield wipers can cause a lot of headaches. These common issues could indicate it’s time to readjust or replace your wiper blades. However, always make sure the blade and glass are clean. Gunk or slime could be affecting the blade’s performance.
When the blade is making the windshield messier, it’s probably streaking. It will look like the glass is smeared with water rather than cleared of it.
At the end of the day, windshield wipers are dragging rubber across glass. The blades might squeak, squeal, thump, and make other weird noises. This is not always an indication the blades need replacement, but it can be.
If you notice the blade jumping across entire chunks of glass, it’s skipping and might need to be replaced.
Splitting is when only certain parts of the blade are properly wiping the glass. Maybe the top of the blade works well, but the bottom section was exposed to ice or chemicals that caused it to degrade. This could cause splitting, as could a wiper imbalance.
Sometimes a wiper will leave a clean wipe, then leave streaks the next. A fully functional wiper should clear the rain every wipe.
If part of the frame on a conventional wiper is cracked, it might not be able to properly hold the blade down.
Similarly, if a conventional wiper frame is bent, it could create gaps, improper wiping, uneven wear, and other issues.
How To Change Windshield Wiper Blades
Follow The Drive’s Garage Guide for changing wiper blades, and you’ll be ready for the weather in no time.
Windshield Wiper Safety
Working on your car can be dangerous and messy, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to ensure you leave the garage in the same condition you entered.
The Basics of Changing Windshield Wipers
Estimated Time Needed: Less than 30 minutes
Skill Level: Beginner
Vehicle System: Windshield
Everything You’ll Need To Change Windshield Wipers
We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s exactly what you’ll need to get the job done.
- Flathead screwdriver (optional)
Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won’t need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)
You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.
How To Change Windshield Wipers
Let’s do this!
- Place the windshield wipers into the “up” position by lifting at the center of the blades. They should now be perpendicular to the vehicle.
- Unclip, unhook, undo, and remove your old wiper blades per the manufacturer instructions included with your wipers.
- Remove any protective plastic on your new blades.
- At this point, some wipers might require you to disconnect or attach different adapters.
- Install the new wiper blades until you hear a clicking or “lock-in” noise per the manufacturer instructions included with your wipers.
- Place the wipers back onto the glass.
That’s it, well done!
Get Help To Change Windshield Wipers From Mechanic On JustAnswer
The Drive recognizes that while our How-To guides are detailed and easily followed, a rusty bolt, an engine component not in the correct position, or oil leaking everywhere can derail a project. That’s why we’ve partnered with JustAnswer, which connects you to certified mechanics around the globe, to get you through even the toughest jobs.
So if you have a question or are stuck, click here and talk to a mechanic near you.
Pro Tips For Changing Windshield Wipers
Over the years, The Drive’s editors have changed dozens of windshield wiper blades. Here’s what we’ve learned:
- Do not de-ice your windshield with the wipers. This could damage the wipers and shorten their lifespans.
- Pull wiper blades up when parked. This will prevent ice buildup on the blades and prevent the blade from sticking to the windshield.
- Many auto parts stores such as Autozone, O’Reilly’s, and Advanced Auto Parts will install the wiper blades for free, if they were purchased at that location. If you are not comfortable learning installation on your, ask for help.
How Much Does It Cost To Change Windshield Wipers?
Depending on the vehicle and the size of the wiper, a single wiper blade could cost between $10-30. Doubled, the job could cost $20-60. Rear wipers should be changed at the same time as your front blades and add extra cost.
How Often Do You Need To Change Windshield Wipers?
Inspect your windshield wiper blades regularly (more often in rainy areas), and replace as necessary. Typically wiper blades need to be replaced at roughly 6-12 months.