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Best Winter Wiper Blades

By: Angela Stringfellow on November 28, 2016

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. $18) when it comes to winter weather performance. Nearly 3,500 users at Amazon.com give these wiper blades a rating of 4.3 stars overall, and the benefit they mention most often is their long life. While most windshield wipers begin to deteriorate, streak and crack after six months to a year, numerous users say the Bosch Icon blades are still going strong after a year or longer, and a few report getting three years or more out of them. Multiple reviews compare them specifically to the Rain-X Latitude a budget beam blade covered below, saying the Bosch Icons justify their higher price tag by lasting more than twice as long.

While hands on testing is not done, editors at TheWirecutter.com name the Bosch Icon windshield wiper blades as their top pick, noting that these wiper blades are recommended more often than any others by the auto shops they interviewed. In a comparison test at CarBible.com, Chris Longhurst tests the Bosch and the Rain-X Latitude and is disappointed in the performance of both blades in wet weather, saying they don't maintain good contact with the windshield at their ends. However, performance in winter driving conditions is exemplary -- enough so that he raises their overall rating to 4.5 stars.

Owners posting opinions to Amazon.com and other sites say the Bosch Icon wiper blades couldn't be simpler to install. With a dual rubber blade design, the Bosch Icon wiper blades are resistant to heat and ozone deterioration, contributing to their longer lifespan. A flexible, asymmetric spoiler distributes uniform force along the entire length of the blade to hold it firmly in place, even in tough conditions, for optimal performance.

Using tension spring arching technology, these wiper blades are designed to custom-contour to the curvature of any windshield for a great fit each time. However, while most owners at Amazon.com and AutoAdvanceParts.com say the Bosch Icon delivers a clean, streak-free wipe, some complain that its curved shape doesn't conform well to the windshield of their car, leaving gaps in coverage -- similar to what Longhurst found. However, when the fit is right, the Bosch Icon wiper blades deliver a seamless squeegee effect, leaving nothing untouched and perfectly wiping every drop of rain from your field of view in all types of driving conditions.

While the Bosch Icon gets the lion's share of recommendations, the Rain-X Latitude (Est. $14) is also worth considering -- if you can find it (more below) 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. On top of that, the Rain-X Latitude has a fairly modest price tag for a beam blade: just a few dollars more per wiper than the traditional-style Rain-X Weatherbeater (Est. $10).

The Rain-X Latitude is one of the wiper blades that is tested by TheWirecutter.com, and is a recommended runner up to the Bosch. In TheWirecutter.com's test, it worked well for most drivers, with only one of eight having issues with the Rain-X blades from the start. However, in testing at CarBibles.com, like the Bosch Icon, its wet-weather performance is somewhat less impressive. However, as was the case with the Icon, in snow and ice "is where they really shine."

Users at Amazon.com are just as divided as the experts. In nearly 3,200 reviews, owners award the Rain-X Latitude wipers 3.8 stars out of 5 overall. About half award it 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. Some suggest tweaking the mount results in a better fit.

Durability seems to be a plus. TheWirecutter.com's testing found that the Rain-X Latitude wiper blades typically lasted between 9 and 12 months, though a few of the testers said they developed problems with streaking toward the end of that time.

Availability, however, is an issue. Rain-X also now offers an updated version of the Rain-X Latitude, the Rain-X Latitude Water Repellency Wiper Blades (Est. $17), which applies Rain-X's water repellency solution to the windshield. This version hasn't received the same volume of feedback as the original Latitude wipers, but they have an equal overall rating of 3.8 stars out of 5 in more than 400 owner-written reviews at Amazon.com. Many 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 that one issue with the updated version is that when the solution runs out, which typically happens a few months after they are installed, these wiper blades tend to begin streaking.

Silicone wiper blades for extreme conditions

Some wiper blades use silicone inserts in place of the traditional rubber ones. Manufacturers report that these silicone blades coat the windshield with silicone as they wipe, causing it to shed water more easily. 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.

Some silicone wipers are favorites of drivers who often deal with extreme conditions, although performance isn't consistent, even across different models from the same brand. The PIAA Super Silicone Wiper Blades (Est. $23), for instance, earn a solid rating of 4.4 stars out of 5 in more than 730 owner-written reviews at Amazon.com. They also are an upgrade pick by TheWirecutter.com, though that recommendation is based on feedback from experts and users, rather than hands-on testing.

These wiper blades are a hybrid model with a traditional bracket-style design coupled with high-quality silicone-rubber compound blades with an active silicone coating that treats your windshield with every swipe, making water bead on the surface and wick away easily for better visibility.

Owners posting feedback to Amazon.com and AutoAnything.com, where more than 200 users give the PIAA Super Silicone wiper blades a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5, say they're quiet, easy to install, and work as expected, with the beading effect evident immediately. Several users say they've lasted for well over a year with no streaking evident even after repeated exposure to harsh sun, ice and snow.

PIAA also makes a beam-style blade with silicone inserts. The PIAA Si-Tech Silicone Wiper Blade (Est. $25) gets good ratings from owners at both Amazon.com and AutoAnything.com, although its scores are slightly lower than the PIAA Super Silicone Wiper Blades, earning a 4-star rating from more than 250 owners at Amazon.com and a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 at AutoAnything.com in just under 45 owner-written reviews. Owners 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. PIAA claims that its silicone blades last twice as long as rubber because they stand up better to heat and ozone, and the reviews bear out this claim. Owners say both the Super Silicone and the Si-Tech last much longer than a traditional rubber wiper blade — in a few cases, as long as seven or eight years. The biggest complaint we saw about both models is that they're difficult to install. The blade comes 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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