How Do You Know When to Change Wiper Blades?

Driving with ineffective windshield wipers is a serious safety hazard. Here's how to tell when to swap in new blades.
windshield wipers

Few factors are more crucial to ensuring a driver’s safety than visibility. This makes windshield wipers, and their effectiveness, vitally important. But because wipers are exposed to the elements, they wear down fast and need to be replaced regularly.

Just how frequently you need to change your wiper blades will depend on your environment and driving conditions. It’s not a guessing game, however. There are a number of indicators to show you when it’s time to make the swap.

How Do You Know When to Change Wiper Blades?

There are several telltale signs your windshield wiper blades need replacing:

  • Wearing occurs when the blade’s square rubber edges become rounded. This happens after extensive use.
  • Splitting occurs when ultraviolet rays from the sun penetrate the blade’s rubber squeegee, causing it to break down and separate from the blade frame.
  • Streaking occurs when the wiper’s rubber squeegee dries, hardens and cracks.
  • Skipping occurs when the blade develops a curvature due to underuse.

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How Often Should I Change My Wiper Blades?

The general rule of thumb is to replace your windshield wiper blades every six months or 6,000 miles. This may vary depending on where you live. Extreme temperatures and excessive snow and rain can cause your wipers to wear down faster.

At the very least, you should check your wipers every six months to determine if they need replacing.

What Causes Wiper Blade Problems?

Bent Wiper Frames

The plastic and metal frame of your windshield wiper can get damaged quite easily. Running them over ice on your windshield can do it, or even wiping them down too aggressively during cleaning. When the frame gets bent, the wiper’s blade won’t make full contact with the windshield. Those untouched spots won’t get cleaned when the wipers are activated.

Damaged Squeegee Rubber

The rubber squeegee on the wiper blade is what does the cleaning. If it’s damaged, it won’t do an effective job. This rubber can get cracked, split, chipped and even broken off thanks to harsh weather or debris. Just the sunlight alone can cause the rubber to break down. Even under perfect conditions, the rubber’s sharp edges will become rounded over time, reducing the blade’s ability to wipe the windshield clean.

Dirty Wipers

If the tool used to clean your windshield is dirty, the glass doesn’t stand much of a chance in getting clean. Windshield wipers can accumulate dirt and road debris, hindering the blade’s effectiveness and possibly even scratching the windshield.

auto glass facts

How to Maintain Your Windshield Wipers

You have to replace your windshield wipers frequently, but you can keep them in well-functioning order until then by following these steps:

Clean Your Windshield Wiper Blades Regularly

To clean your windshield wipers, lift each wiper arm up from the glass and apply non-abrasive glass cleaner or windshield washer solvent with a soft cloth cleaning rag. It’s a good idea to consult your owner’s manual to see if the manufacturer recommends a specific cleaning solution for wipers.

Remove Ice and Snow

It’s important to thoroughly remove any snow and ice from your windshield before operating the wipers. If not, the weight can damage and bend the wiper frames, which won’t allow the wiper blade to make full contact with the windshield.

Inspect Your Windshield Wipers

There are a number of things to look for when you’re inspecting your car’s windshield wipers. Notably, you should check for any damage to the rubber squeegee. This includes any cracking, splitting, hardening and tearing, as well as any contamination from road film or chemicals and other substances. You’ll also want to make sure the wiper frame is not broken or bent, and that the blade is making proper contact with the windshield.

Safelite AutoGlass can provide you with expert windshield replacement services. This is also a great time to replace your wiper blades – and your technician will take care of the installation at no cost to you. AAA members can save 10% on Safelite AutoGlass replacement or repair. 

Get more car safety tips.

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4 Thoughts on “How Do You Know When to Change Wiper Blades?

  1. This may sound crazy, but we bought a Rav4 new in 2013. I didn’t have to change the wipers for 3 years, then another 3 years using Toyota factory blades. The following two years I tried Trico Force and Michelin blades. The results were The Trico’s lasted a full year and the Michelins about 5 months. This year I went back to the factory blades.

  2. Is there any consensus about leaving wipers in their usual “resting” position (i.e. resting against the windshield) vs raising them off the windshield when snow or ice is predicted and lowering them only after the windshield has been cleared? Does one or the other improve wiper performance or longevity?

  3. My wiper blades rub and make a awful rubbing noise when it is drizzling outside, espesially when the blades are on the intermittent windshield wiper system. So if I need wiper blades any recommendation. That rubbing sound is awful. If it rains hard the wiper blades noise is tollerable.

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