Comparing types of wiper blades
If you notice streaks, squeaks or chatter when you use your windshield wipers, it's time to shop for replacement wiper blades. While auto experts recommend replacing your windshield wipers at least once or twice a year, you don't need to spend a lot to get a quality set. In fact, reviews show that some of the best wiper blades are fairly inexpensive.
There are two main types of wiper blades:
Traditional wiper blades have a rubber blade attached to an external framework. In some cases, the blade is coated with Teflon to make it slide better, but tests show this doesn't offer any significant benefit. This classic-style wiper blade works well in the rain, but ice and snow can clog up the exposed skeleton in the winter, keeping the wipers from making good contact with the windshield. This can result in smearing, streaking, or in extreme cases, a complete freeze-up that leaves the wipers totally nonfunctional. Traditional windshield wipers cost anywhere from $5 to $15 for a single blade.
Beam wiper blades solve the snow-and-ice problem by ditching the external framework. Slim, spring steel is built into the wiper itself, giving a sleeker look. These cost more -- about $15 to $20 each. Many new cars come with beam blades as original equipment; you might need to replace these with beam blades when they wear out, as traditional wiper blades may not fit.
What type to choose may depend on your driving conditions and your budget. Testers at ConsumerReports.org say that while pricier beam blades perform as well or better than conventional blades, watch out for cheap alternatives as those tend to perform worse. Ed Grabianowski of TheWirecutter.com, who lives in snowy Buffalo, NY, says that in his experience, beam blades really are superior for driving in ice and snow. With traditional wiper blades, he says, he often had to reach outside the car while driving to "snap" the wiper against the windshield and break up the ice; thanks to his new beam blades, he hasn't had to do this in years.
In addition, Grabianowski notes, manufacturers and other experts he consulted say that beam blades can offer greater performance and durability compared to bracket blades. A traditional blade presses against the windshield at the contact points where the brackets attach, while a beam blade spreads the force out over the entire length of the blade. This allows it to wipe more evenly and also prevents wear at the contact points, extending the blade's lifespan. However, in late October 2015, TheWirecutter.com updated its coverage to say that while it still likes the beam blade it recommends best, continued feedback and testing has led them to conclude that no one blade -- or blades -- is best for every car. "The best advice we can give is to get what fits and replace it regularly—every 9-12 months."
Wiper blades made of silicone rather than rubber are another upgrade to the traditional windshield wiper. Manufacturers claim that the silicone blade coats the windshield with each wipe, causing water to bead up and slide off more easily. They also say these blades last twice as long as rubber ones due to their greater heat and ozone resistance. However, these benefits come with a high price tag: anywhere from $20 to $45 per blade.
Finding the best wiper blades
The best windshield wiper blade should clean flawlessly, wipe silently and hold up well. To find wiper blades that will make your windshield sparkle, we examine expert feedback from sites such as ConsumerReports.org and TheWirecutter.com, as well as user reviews from Amazon.com and various auto-parts sites. We name the best windshield wipers for every budget, from inexpensive rubber wipers to the premium brands.
The prices quoted in this report are for a single 22-inch windshield wiper -- a medium size that fits many sports cars, sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks. To find wiper prices for your specific vehicle, you should check the actual lengths of both your wipers, since some vehicles use different wiper sizes for the driver and passenger sides.