Don't ignore your 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 checking your
wipers every few months and replacing them at least every six months, 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.
Types of Wiper Blades
Cheap Wiper Blades
These are traditional wiper blades that 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 really 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.
Winter Wiper Blades
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 $25 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 of
wiper blade 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. The editors at TheWirecutter.com
note that beam blades really are superior for driving
in ice and snow. "That's because their sleek design doesn't give snow and
ice anything to build up on," they say.
In addition, they note, that
the manufacturers and other experts they 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.
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 Wipers for Your Car"
"Windshield Wiper Blades"
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
recommendations do come with an important caveat: As the editors of TheWirecutter.com note, "the
best wiper blade is the one that fits your vehicle and performs well throughout
its service life." That's because windshield shapes vary significantly,
particularly among newer vehicles, which explains why almost all wipers -- even
well reviewed ones -- attract a significant number of negative user reviews. As
TheWirecutter.com says, "Even the best quality blade may perform poorly if
it doesn't fit."
A word on pricing
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
Cheap wiper blades get the job done
In professional tests,
traditional windshield wipers — the kind with a rubber blade attached to
an external frame — easily hold their own against the pricier beam wiper
blades. However, these tests were done in a lab with simulated rain, rather
than on the road, where the biggest problem that plagues windshield wipers
tends to be ice and snow buildup. Testers at TheWirecutter.com find that in
real-world driving, beam blades are far better at staying clog free in a
snowstorm. So if you drive often in freezing weather, it's probably worth
spending more on a set of winter wiper blades. If rain is all you have
to deal with, however, cheap windshield wipers will serve you just as well and
Of the cheap windshield
wipers on the market, none gets better reviews overall than the (Est. $10). While their recommendations for this blade are not testing
based, editors at TheWirecutter.com recommend the Rain-X Weatherbeater for
drivers who don't often have to deal with snow and ice and want to save a few
dollars on the cost of windshield wipers. Part of that is based on user
feedback -- for example the more than 2,500 consumers posting feedback to
Amazon.com and that contribute to a rating of 4 stars out of a possible 5, with
several noting that they have lasted for a full year or more with no streaks or
damage from wear and tear.
While a few owners say they
have successfully used the Rain-X Weatherbeater wipers in wintry conditions,
most report on their excellent performance in heavy rain. Most owners report
that these wiper blades fit their vehicles well and are easy to install,
although, as to be expected (see our comments above), some say that these
blades were a poor fit for their specific vehicle. Feedback from users at
AdvanceAutoParts.com offer similar feedback, echoing sentiments about the
Rain-X Weatherbeater's affordable price and long lifespan. These windshield
wiper blades have a galvanized steel frame that resists corrosion and rust
along with all-natural squeegee rubber designed to hold up against wear and
tear to prevent cracking and tearing.
windshield wiper blades are "pre-installed" meaning they come with a
j-hook adapter already attached, and they also contain a multi-adapter for
different types of wiper blade arms including side pin, large j-hook and
bayonet wiper blade arms.
For a few dollars more, the (Est. $13) is another solid choice if you're looking for
an affordable wiper blade and don't need wiper blades that can hold up to
winter weather conditions. In one professional test, it does an excellent job
fresh out of the package, and even after six months of real-world wear and tear
on testers' cars, it's still holding its own against wiper blades that cost
nearly twice as much. It does well in user reviews, too, earning an overall
rating of 4.2 stars out of 5 from more than 1,000 owners at Amazon.com.
There's nothing fancy about
these wiper blades: Like the Rain-X Weatherbeater, the Valeo 600 has a
traditional metal bracket, holding a synthetic-rubber blade with a
natural-rubber wiping edge. A special coating protects the Valeo 600 from UV
rays, dirt, ozone and fluids that can deteriorate windshield wipers. The wipers
also come with a pre-installed "universal U-clip adapter" for easy
installation, but not all users are impressed with it. At Amazon.com, some owners
complain that the Valeo 600 wiper blades are challenging to install or didn't
come with the necessary adapters their vehicles require.
Owners say the Valeo 600 is
whisper-quiet. You can expect a good six months out of these Valeo wiper
blades, about the same as most other windshield wipers -- but plenty of owners
say the Valeo 600 lasts longer than that, with some reporting that their Valeo
600 blades are still going strong after a year of use. In one long-term test
conducted by TheWirecutter.com, the Valeo 600 windshield wiper blades performed
well even in snowy and icy conditions, although as a traditional bracket-style
blade, it doesn't outperform beam blades for winter weather. There are,
however, some recent reviews from owners who say that these wiper blades don't
make contact with the full field of vision on their vehicles, making visibility
difficult in inclement weather conditions -- a reminder that when choosing
between these and other wipers, the final decision should come down to which
one works best with your vehicle.