Skip to main content

While most of us would say we love our cars, we often forget to perform common maintenance tasks. Getting your oil changed is a no-brainer, but when’s the last time you checked your oil level? It would be best if you were doing that every time you stop for gas, and it can save you from an expensive repair.

Your windshield wipers might not seem that important in comparison, but they’re still essential safety tools. These components will naturally wear out over time. When should you buy new ones?

The importance of functional windshield wipers

Windshield wipers
Windshield wipers | Getty Images

Without windshield wipers, it would be impossible to drive safely during a heavy downpour or snowstorm. They also keep your glass windshields clean and free from bugs, bird droppings, and other dirt and debris. However, regularly wiping excess moisture and grime causes your windshield wipers to break down.

During the summer, intense heat from the sun’s UV rays can warp the rubber on the blades. The rubber can also crack and completely fall off due to the freezing temperatures in the winter. Even the exhaust fumes emitted from your car contribute to rubber deterioration.

When the rubber is too worn down, it will leave smears across your windshield instead of clearing away debris effectively. Limited visibility isn’t the only problem you might encounter. Without enough rubber left to conceal the metal part of the blades, the metal could leave scratches on your windshield.

Is it time to replace your windshield wipers?

Ford says you should replace your windshield wipers at least once a year. If you live in an area with harsh winters, you may need to replace them more often. A good pair of windshield wipers usually costs around $20.

If your windshield wipers leave behind streaks every time you use them, they’re probably due for a change. A chattering sound when the blades are used may also indicate that the rubber portion has worn down. 

Windshield wipers will also start to squeak when they’ve accumulated too much dirt, though you can sometimes remedy this by cleaning them. Ford recommends using a simple windshield washer fluid. If the rubber portion is falling off the wiper arms, get them replaced immediately.

How to change your windshield wiper blades

While you can have your windshield wipers replaced by a mechanic, it’s one of the most straightforward DIY maintenance tasks. Your car’s manual will usually have the exact wiper blade measurements to reference. Wiper blades on the driver’s side can sometimes be longer or shorter compared to the passenger’s side. Because of that, it’s always best to check the manual before you buy a new pair.

Once you’ve got your replacement blades, angle your wiper arms away from the windshield. Before removing the old blades, don’t forget to protect your windshield. The exposed metal arm could possibly fall and crack your windshield, so keep the glass covered with a few towels.

You don’t need tools to remove the old blades from the wiper arms. However, separating the two components can take a lot of pressure. Once they’re off, pop the new ones into place, and they’re on.

You’ll typically hear a clicking sound if you’ve installed them correctly. Once everything looks good, lay the arms back into their neutral position. Start your car and activate the windshield wipers to confirm that they work properly.

You can make your new wiper blades last as long as possible by cleaning them regularly. Also, give your windshield a good once-over with the provided windshield cleaner whenever you stop for gas. No reason to make your new blades wear down faster than they have to.


Three Do-It-Yourself Car Maintenance Projects to Try Next