Beam blades -- also called bracketless wipers, six-beam blades or flat blades -- don't have the traditional metal framework on the outside. Instead, the support is moved inside the blade itself, giving the wipers a slimmer look. Their low profile not only looks nice but also keeps most of the moving parts protected from the elements.
That's the theory, anyway. In real life, owners say many beam wiper blades leave unwiped areas, or break quickly -- or both.
Bosch wiper blades are one very notable exception. The Bosch Icon (Est. $23) is one of the priciest windshield wipers you can buy -- but hundreds of happy owners say it's absolutely worth it. It's a top-rated wiper blade at both Amazon.com and AdvanceAutoParts.com.
"I have tried virtually every blade on the market, and the Icons out-perform, and out-last everything else I have tried," one Amazon.com customer says of these Bosch wiper blades. "I won't use any other wiper blade anymore -- I even [gave] sets to my mom and dad for Christmas."
Many owners say the Bosch Icon simply wipes cleaner -- and lasts longer -- than any other wiper blade. There's no warranty, but it's not unusual for owners to get a full year out of a set of these Bosch wiper blades (some report three years, or even more). Of course, not every owner is pleased: Some say the Bosch Icon left streaks, while others say it didn't last any longer than cheaper wipers.
The Bosch Icon's biggest strength is how well it deals with snow and ice, says Chris Longhurst at CarBibles.com. He tries the Bosch Icon and another beam-style wiper blade from Rain-X on five different vehicles, and both beam blades leave streaks in the rain. But once the snow flies, the beam wiper blades prove their worth.
"With no frame, there's nothing for the snow and ice to freeze into place. This means the blades are able to conform to the shape of the windscreen even in sub-zero temperatures," Longhurst writes. "When the blades are submerged in snow after a day's parking outside, they easily clear the snow off the windscreen at the first wipe." Another expert test confirms that the Bosch Icon wipes exceptionally well when new, and it's still good after six months.
A cheaper version, the Bosch Clear Advantage (Est. $12) , has been on the market for about 18 months. It has a less sophisticated design and rubber compound than the Icon. The Bosch Clear Advantage wiper blade hasn't been professionally tested by any of our sources, but it has already earned an admirable 4.3 stars at Amazon.com -- with a whopping 900-plus reviews posted by owners eager to find a cheaper alternative to the Bosch Icon.
"I'll be buying them until they stop making them," says one satisfied customer from the rainy Pacific Northwest who got a full year of hard service out of a set of Bosch Clear Advantage wipers. However, about one in five owners gives the Bosch Clear Advantage low marks, usually because it streaks, squeaks or breaks faster than the Bosch Icon wipers.