Phil's car tips: Windshield wiper blades Phil Amato, First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE - All windshield wipers are not created equal. There are basically two types of wiper blades, natural rubber and synthetic. There are many variations for both of these materials, but the most important difference is how long they last. The synthetic wiper is made to last longer since it can resist heat and wear longer than the natural wiper. The draw back is the synthetic wiper is usually far more expensive than the natural wiper. Automotive expert Scott Lind has some easy steps to help choose the right wiper for your needs.Remember, the most expensive wipers are not always the answer.
Not everyone can afford the more expensive wiper. The natural rubber wiper will work, but must require replacement more often. If you plan to keep your vehicle for an extended period, the frequency of replacement of the natural wiper will equal the initial cost of the synthetic wiper which will provide a longer life and better heat resistance.
Choose a wiper that will fit your driving habits. There are wipers designed for high speed driving. If you have a performance vehicle and drive at high speeds, these wipers will stay in contact with the windshield to provide better visibility. These wipers also come in handy to those who drive a lot on the interstate at speeds over 70 MPH. The box is usually marked with statements about speed ratings for the wiper. These wipers can be costly, so if your mainly driving on surface streets, you may not want to spend the extra money.
Ease of installation
Some wipers are sold as a "blade" and some are sold as a "refill". The "blade" will be a more simple installation, but the "refill" will be less expensive. Lind suggests for most people, the "blade" is the best purchase as it will take far less time to install and give a greater chance of a positive outcome. Always replace both wipers. Sometimes it seems the driver side blade is worn more than the passenger side or maybe you want to save money by replacement of just the driver's side blade. The problem with a single wiper replacement, comes when you turn right and need to see through the passenger side front window.
Keep a spare
Always keep the old wipers in the trunk. If you loose a wiper while driving, you can damage the glass with the wiper arm rubbing on the windshield. If you have the old wipers, you can re-install the wiper to use temporarily until a new wiper can be installed. I good idea is to place the old wipers inside the center of a roll of paper towels that we suggested you use to keep the wiper arm from striking the windshield. This way you will have both in place if you need them in an emergency.
A question Lind has been asked most by consumers is, "Is there a way to visually inspect a wiper to see if it is about to go bad?". The answer is, "Yes, sort of," according to Lind. You can look at a wiper to see if the rubber is becoming "crystallized" due to heat and age. This will appear as a slight sparkle in the rubber and the rubber will appear slightly gray. Also, you can feel the wiper to see if the rubber has become hardened. If the wiper is no longer flexible, it will "jump" across the windshield causing that annoying chatter sound. When you observe the wiper while sitting on the windshield, it will appear to be bent slightly. If you lift the wiper and it does not flex into a straight position it is probably on its way out. Remember, just because the wiper chatters does not mean the wiper is bad. The wiper arm has a spring tensioner built in that can fail causing the same issue. This spring is designed to provide about 1 lb of tension against the windshield. In some performance vehicles, the tension can be as much as 2 lbs to compensate for high speed air pressure pulling the wiper away from the windshield. Some of these vehicle even have a wind deflector to hold the wiper down with even greater force when driving at high speed.
Lind has been asked a number of times as an automotive expert, about the use of windshield chemicals such as Rain-X. These films provide for water to resist "sticking" to the glass, thus making wiping the windshield easier for the blade. Lind says those chemicals are not necessary. . If your wipers are doing their job, these products are not doing theirs. Your windshield already provides a surface that resists the "sticking" of water simply with it's shape. Today's vehicles are made to use the wind to assist in the cleaning of the windshield while you drive. These products simply amplify what is already being done by the engineering of the glass and that is just not needed with the wipers available for today's vehicles. In fact, in some cases, the products if applied incorrectly can actually cause visibility issues to occur during direct sunlight on the windshield such as driving into the sun. So, Lind's advice is to save the money on the windshield product and spend it on better wipers.
Another issue Lind has seen in his years as an automotive repair shop owner has been wipers that stop in the up position when turned off instead of the down position clearing the view of the driver. This is called the "clock" position or "neutral" position for the wipers. This is usually caused by the wiper motor timing being defective. Sometimes this can be corrected by re-timing the wiper motor. Most repair shops with mild technical ability can perform this operation for a small charge and it will allow for a much better view of the road. In some case, however, the wiper motor itself is defective and will need to be replaced. Always ask if the shop can reset the timing first, before condemning the wiper motor, this will show your knowledge of the issue and help prevent being ripped off for a wiper motor you may not need. If the wipers have stopped working completely, there is a fuse to the wipers in almost every vehicle made today. Consult the owners manual or even YouTube for a reference to the fuse box and how to replace the fuse for the wiper motor. If you find the fuse and it has not failed, there could be an issue with the switch or motor that will require further diagnostic work.
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