What the best windshield wipers have

  • Outstanding performance when new. Expert tests find plenty of wiper blades that do a stellar job cleaning the windshield -- even some cheap wipers -- so there's no reason to settle for anything less than perfection at the outset.
  • Good performance for at least six months. Anecdotal reports from owners suggest that some brands last longer, but professional tests show that most wiper blades (regardless of price) will last six months.
  • Connectors to fit your vehicle. Hook-style connectors are the most common, but some vehicles use pins, pinch-tabs or bayonet mounts; most windshield wipers come with adapters for all of these, but double-check before buying.

Know before you go

Check your wiper blade size. Some vehicles use different-size wipers for the driver and passenger sides. Auto-parts stores can look up your wiper blade size for you, or you can check your owner's manual. If you're buying online from a site like Amazon.com, it's a good idea to double-check the size; we found plenty of complaints from frustrated owners who say Amazon.com's wiper blade size finder wasn't accurate.

What type of wiper blades came with your car? Many new cars come with newer beam-style wiper blades as original equipment. You may need to replace these with another beam blade; a bulkier, traditional bracket-style wiper blade might not fit.

Check your wiper blade connectors. Most new cars use easy, hook-style wiper blade connectors. Replacing this type of wiper blade is a pretty simple do-it-yourself job; Cars.com has a great step-by-step tutorial with photos on how to replace your wiper blades. However, "We'd be lying if we said all wipers were the same or this easy to replace," Cars.com says. "A variety of arms and mounts have been used over the years. The stubborn ones with pins and unique latches can churn up rage so deep that the new wipers may turn into boomerangs before they're ever installed." The good news? Some auto-parts stores will install your wiper blades for free if you buy them there (Advance Auto Parts and Pep Boys both advertise this service).

Rubber or silicone? Most wiper blades are made of rubber, and this old standby still works great; in one leading wiper blade test, all of the top performers are rubber. (Teflon-coated wiper blades didn't show any advantage in tests.) Pricier silicone wiper blades are favored by car enthusiasts (they look sleeker) and off-roaders (they shrug off heavy mud and dirt).

Don't expect a warranty. Two of our Best Reviewed picks do carry limited warranties -- the Valeo 600 (Est. $13) and PIAA Super Silicone (Est. $24) -- but that's rare. Most windshield wipers have no warranty at all. Still, in professional tests, all good wipers (no matter what the price) last the typical six months.

Go ahead and replace the whole wiper (both of them). You can buy just the rubber inserts for wiper blades, but they're only slightly cheaper than buying the whole blade assembly -- and wiper inserts can be a pain to install, requiring "deft use of needle-nose pliers," ConsumerReports.org says. Besides, once your blades are shot, the frames probably are too, Popular Mechanics points out. Both sources recommend just replacing the whole windshield wiper.

And replace wiper blades in pairs: "If one is worn out, its mate can't be far behind," ConsumerReports.org says. "Don't forget to check the rear wiper, if your vehicle has one."

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