What the best windshield wipers have
- Outstanding performance when new. Experts say most new wiper blades – including cheap ones – can do a stellar job cleaning the windshield, so there's no reason to settle for anything less than perfection at the outset.
- Contact with your full field of view. Because different vehicles have different amounts of curve in their windshields, experts say that the best windshield wiper is one that fits your vehicle well. A poorly-fitting blade won't make consistent contact with the windshield with each swipe, resulting in missed areas and poor visibility. The best windshield wiper brands fit most car models well, but it's worth checking reviews to see what drivers of your particular car have to say.
- Good performance for at least six months. Editors at ConsumerReports.org say that most wiper blades (regardless of price) wear out after six months. However, some mechanics interviewed by Wirecutter.com say they can hold up for around a year, depending on the climate in your area. In temperate areas like the Pacific Northwest, a year is a reasonable lifespan for windshield wipers; in snowy Chicago, you might have to change them twice in one winter.
- Connectors to fit your vehicle. Hook-style connectors are the most common, but some vehicles use other types, such as 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
What size do you need? 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 windshield wipers as original equipment. Experts say you should replace factory beam blades with replacement beam blades; a bulkier, traditional bracket-style wiper blade might not fit. However, if your car came with old-school bracket blades, you should be able to choose either type with no problem
Which connectors do you have? 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, the article admits that not all windshield wipers are that easy to replace. "A variety of arms and mounts have been used over the years," author Joe Bruzek explains. "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 windshield wipers for free if you buy them there. (For example, Advance Auto Parts and Pep Boys both advertise this service).
Do you need silicone protection? Most windshield wipers are made of rubber, and this old standby still works just fine. However, pricey silicone wiper blades are favored by some mechanics, who say they last longer and help your windshield repel water. Many owners -- particularly those who live in climates with scorching summers -- also praise the silicone blades' superior durability. So, if you've had trouble with traditional or beam-style wiper blades falling apart within a few months, silicone wiper blades might be worth a try.
Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it
At first blush, it might look like it's a better value to buy just the rubber inserts for your windshield wipers, rather than replacing the whole blade assembly. However, buying the inserts is only slightly cheaper, and experts say installing them can be a pain. The windshield wiper buying guide at ConsumerReports.org says that replacing the rubber inserts requires "deft use of needle-nose pliers," while the new blade assemblies simply snap into place. Besides, if you're having problems with chatter or the blades not making contact with your windshield, it's time to replace the entire assembly, The Family Handyman points out. It's also a good idea to replace both windshield wipers at the same time. "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."
Also, don't expect your new windshield wipers to come with a warranty. The only wipers we've seen that came with one were high-end silicone wipers, like the PIAA Super Silicone (Est. $23). A warranty on a standard rubber wiper wouldn't help you much anyway, since most experts say that even the best rubber wipers don't typically perform well after six months to a year of use.
PIAA 95055 Super Silicone Wiper Blade - 22" 550mm (Pack of 1)
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