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Best Winter Wiper Blades

By: Amy Livingston on October 30, 2017

Beam blades excel in winter weather

Beam blades -- also called bracketless wipers 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 sleeker look. This design has two practical advantages: first, it allows the blade to flex, making better contact with today's curved windshields; and second, it keeps most of the moving parts protected from the elements. This makes beam blades the best choice for driving in heavy winter weather, since they don't get clogged with ice and snow that impedes their performance.

Most windshield wipers pale in comparison to the Bosch ICON (Est. $20) when it comes to winter driving. Editors at Wirecutter.com name these wiper blades as their top pick for general use. They haven't subjected it to any hands-on testing, but they note that two of the four auto shops they interviewed recommend Bosch wipers, and the Bosch ICON earns better ratings on retail sites than any other model. We found more than 8,000 reviews (spread across several pages) for these wiper blades at Amazon.com, with ratings of around 4.2 stars. They also earn 4.5 star overall ratings from owners at AdvanceAutoParts.com and Walmart.com.

These bracketless windshield wipers use tension spring arching technology to help them conform to the curvature of any windshield. A flexible, asymmetric spoiler distributes uniform force along the entire length of the blade to hold it firmly in place. Most owners at Amazon.com and other sites say the Bosch ICON does indeed deliver a clean, streak-free wipe, clearing every drop of rain from their field of view and standing up especially well to winter ice and snow. Like all windshield wipers, this blade earns a few negative reviews from owners who complain that it curved shape doesn't conform well to the windshield of their cars, leaving gaps in coverage. However, we saw fewer such complaints for the Bosch ICON than we did for most wiper blades, suggesting that it's a good fit for most cars on the road.

Another feature of the Bosch ICON is its "ClearMax 365" composition. Bosch claims this formula makes the blades more resistant to cracking caused by ozone, increasing their lifespan by up to 40 percent. However, the reviews we saw from owners don't entirely back up this claim. Some owners say their wiper blades are still going strong after a year or longer, but others say they began to deteriorate, streak, and crack within six months. Overall, their lifespan appears to be acceptable, but not outstanding.

Owners cite a few other perks for the Bosch ICON as well. They say the low-profile wipers look better than a bracket blade and are more aerodynamic. They're also quiet, and most owners find them easy to install. However, the editors at Wirecutter.com note that the wipers don't come with the right connectors to fit every car. On a 2013 VW Jetta, for instance, they had to grind down the connectors with a drill in order to install the blades.

The Rain-X Latitude (Est. $19) is another alternative. The Latitude is a low-profile, beam-style windshield wiper that has a synthetic rubber blade with a graphite coating to give it a smoother sweep across the windshield without "chattering." It comes with a pre-installed J-hook adapter, as well as a multi-adapter that can be used with five other common types of wiper-arm connectors.

The Rain-X Latitude is one of the wiper blades included in a long-term test at Wirecutter.com. It worked well for most drivers, with only one of eight having issues with the Rain-X blades from the start. However, the editors name it as a runner-up to the Bosch rather than the top pick because the feedback it earns on retail sites isn't as impressive. Also, none of the auto repair shops the editors spoke with particularly recommend this brand.

We found thousands of reviews for the Rain-X Latitude at Amazon.com, AdvancedAutoParts.com, and Walmart.com. However, the ratings it receives across these sites are mixed. On Amazon, about half of reviewers award this wiper blade a perfect 5 stars, saying it makes good contact with the windshield for an even, quiet wipe with no streaking or smearing. However, a significant number of reviewers complain that the Rain-X does just the opposite: it misses spots, leaves streaks, or chatters across the windshield. Some reviewers suggest that these problems may be due to faulty installation, as getting the blades to sit flat against the windshield can be a tricky process. We even saw a few complaints that the wiper blades tend to come off easily when they're lifted to clean the windshield, and occasionally even while they're in use.

Reports on durability are also a mixed bag. While some owners describe these windshield wipers as long-lasting, others complain that they developed streaking or skipping problems after just a few weeks or months of use.

Rain-X also offers an updated version of the Rain-X Latitude, the Rain-X Latitude Water Repellency (Est. $15), which applies Rain-X's water-repelling solution to the windshield with each wipe. Depending on where you shop, this blade can actually be less expensive than the original Latitude, but feedback isn't quite as strong-- for example, an overall rating of 3.7 stars out of 5 from more than 1,500 owners at Amazon.com. Some retailers, such as AdvanceAutoParts.com, offer only the Rain-X Latitude Water Repellency windshield wipers, though the original version can still be found at Amazon.com and elsewhere. Owners say one issue with the updated blades is that they tend to begin streaking when the solution runs out, which typically happens a few months after they are installed.

Silicone wiper blades for extreme conditions

Some windshield wipers use silicone-infused inserts in place of basic rubber ones. Manufacturers claim that these special blades coat the windshield with silicone as they wipe, making water bead on the surface and wick away easily for better visibility. Silicone blades also last longer on average, which is why they're the only windshield wipers we've seen that come with any sort of warranty.

The best-rated windshield wiper with this feature is PIAA Super Silicone (Est. $23). Wirecutter.com recommends these blades as an "upgrade pick" based on feedback from experts and users. These wiper blades combine a traditional bracket-style design coupled with durable, silicone-infused rubber blades. Wirecutter.com quotes Travis Decker, an auto shop owner in Portland, OR, as saying these wiper blades are "the best I have ever used." He explains that the silicone-infused blades both last-longer and leave a water-repellent film on the windshield for better visibility.

We found more than 1,000 reviews for the PIAA Super Silicone at Amazon.com and AutoAnything.com, with solid overall ratings of 4.3 stars out of 5. Owners say these wipers perform live up to the manufacturer's claims, clearing water effectively and leaving behind a rain-shedding film that really makes difference. They're also quiet, easy to install, and durable. Several users say they've lasted for well over a year, especially in dry climates. However, some users warn that the wipers don't work well in winter conditions. Not only do ice and snow build up on the brackets, they say, the package actually states outright that using the wipers on an iced-up window will destroy the blades.

For those who do a lot of winter driving, PIAA also makes a beam-style blade with silicone inserts. The PIAA Si-Tech (Est. $30) gets solid overall ratings from owners, although it doesn't score quite as high as the PIAA Super Silicone. Overall, it earns 4.1 stars out of 5 from more than 350 owners at Amazon.com and 4.5 stars out of 5 from about 50 reviewers at AutoAnything.com. Users say it's quiet and cleans well without streaking, and the hydrophobic silicone coating really works. What impresses owners most, however, is these wiper blades' lifespan. Several owners the Si-Tech lasts much longer than a traditional rubber wiper blade — two, three, or as many as seven years in some reports.

The biggest complaint we saw about PIAA wipers, aside from their high price, is that they're difficult to install. The blades come with multiple adapters, but some users say it's tough to figure out how to use them — and with some types of blade arm connectors, they don't work at all.

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