Silicone windshield wipers use a silicone material, instead of a traditional rubber wiper blade. The silicone is often saturated with a water-repelling chemical, which treats the windshield with each pass over the glass.
The PIAA Super Silicone wiper blade (Est. $24) gets the best reviews in this category. Many shoppers at retail sites AutoAnything.com and TireRack.com are car enthusiasts looking to bypass a hulking rubber wiper -- and the PIAA Super Silicone is their favorite. They like its sleeker look, and several say the silicone coating really does leave their windshields perfectly clear. It's silent, too: "I've had these wipers for over a year now and they are still working like a charm, no squeaky sounds, nothing but clear viewing and silent movement. I've been recommending these to anyone who will listen," writes one Amazon.com customer.
Only ConsumerReports.org tests silicone and rubber wipers side by side, finding that both offer similar performance when new. Despite costing much more than regular rubber wipers, PIAA Super Silicone wipers were not found to last longer; after six months, performance was roughly equal to that of other blades of the same age. Owners get mixed results: Several say these PIAA wiper blades last two years or more, while others say they wore out or fell apart in just a few months.
Silicone wipers are favorites of drivers who often deal with extreme conditions -- such as those who drive off road. One example is Subaru's rally racing team. In an article at TheSweethome.com, the team's marketing manager tells Ed Grabianowski that they rely on the PIAA Forza Hybrid silicone wiper (Est. $33) to keep views clear in the most intense conditions: "Snow, ice, sleet, rain, mist, mud, dust, big splashes from water crossings, etc. All at high speeds, day and night."
But, Grabianowski notes, most people don't deal with that sort of extreme dirt, and silicone wiper blades might be overkill for drivers dealing with more normal conditions. "You probably shouldn't spend this much [on wipers] unless you drive on back roads all the time," he says.