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Windshield Wipers, Washer Fluid, and What You Should Know

While we often discuss the proper care and routine maintenance for your vehicle, there are a few items that we seldom think about until we absolutely need to. Among these are the windshield wipers and fluids that help us see when the weather becomes less than agreeable. Today, we’re going to take a dive into the world of wiper blades and windshield washer fluid, their importance, and what brands are best for you.

Wipers, Blades, and Washer Fluid: How They Function

When we use our windshield wipers, we don’t usually think of the inner mechanics of how they work, only that they keep our windshield clear of rain and snow. To appreciate these modern marvels, it’s essential that we understand how they function.

The wipers are operated by a small electric motor. This moves a linkage back and forth that is connected to the wiper arms, making them move up and down your windshield. The blades attached to the wiper arms are similar to the squeegees that you might find at your local service station, and serve the same purpose.

The washer fluid that gets sprayed onto your windshield is kept in a reservoir underneath your hood. When you activate your windshield washer, a pump sprays this fluid through nozzles into streams directly onto the windshield.

A close up shows windshield was fluid coming out of a nozzle.

The Types of Windshield Wiper Blades

Depending upon the leisure activities that you take part in, or where you call home, you might have the need for a special set of tires. Wiper blades are classified in a similar way. These are some different types that are available for different budgets and purposes.

Frame-Style Wipers

These are the most common type of windshield wiper blades. They’re reasonably priced and produced by many different manufacturers. A rubber blade is installed in a simple metal frame that helps it form fit to the contours of your windshield. It can be used in normal to moderate weather conditions.

Winter Wipers

If you live somewhere that experiences heavy snowfall during the winter months, there’s a good chance you have a pair of winter tires installed when the temperature drops below freezing. Snowfall provides a significant hindrance to visibility as well as traction. Winter wipers are usually encased in rubber to enhance their ability in colder climates. These are built similarly to frame-style wipers, but the rubber covering keeps snow and ice off the frame. This prevents them from freezing up, losing their flexibility that keeps the blades in contact with the windshield, and keeps them working well in even the worst winter weather conditions.

Winter windshield wipers are shown on a frozen windshield.

Premium Beam Wipers

If you’re looking for year-round usage, sleek design, and versatility, then premium beam wipers will be your best bet. They’re made of minimal parts, just silicone and rubber, and don’t have the metal frame that other designs have. They’re strong, flexible, and adhere to the shape of your vehicle’s windshield. These are the cream of the crop when it comes to wipers.

Recommended Brands of Wiper Blades

Walk into any auto parts store, and you’ll quickly realize that there are multiple brands of any specific item meant to enhance your vehicle’s performance. How do you choose the right one? If you’re looking to save a few bucks, you might opt for whatever’s cheapest, but you also get what you pay for most of the time. Purchasing a top-tier brand means paying a little bit more, but obtaining peace of mind from quality assurance. Here are some picks that might be fitting (pun intended) for your vehicle.

OEM Blades

If you have difficulty selecting which blades are best, you should get a pair of OEM wiper blades for your vehicle. The advantage of this is that you know you will be getting blades that are specifically made to work with the vehicle you currently drive. This will also alleviate the stress of finding the right pair of aftermarket blades.

Trico Flex Wiper Blades

If you’re on a budget and don’t want to overcomplicate the selection of your wiper blades, Trico Flex wipers are cost-effective, adequate, and relatively easy to install. They’re also widely available, and can be found at distributors such as WalMart.

Rain-X Silicone Endura Wiper Blades

If you’re looking for top-tier quality in your wiper blades, then Rain-X is the brand to trust. Receiving high marks from Car & Driver Magazine, these blades are constructed from silicone instead of traditional rubber compounds. As a result, they’re more effective in harsh weather conditions and last much longer than conventional wiper blades.

Bosch Evolution Wiper Blades

This is when innovation and technology get applied to the concept of the wiper blade. They remarkably quiet when compared to others on the market. While there have been some points of contention regarding the difficulty of the installation, they appear to be worth it. With the ability to match the contour of just about any windshield, they seem to be an investment worth making.

How Often Do I Need To Change My Wiper Blades?

Changing items such as your oil is a routine based on regular intervals. But because the usage of your wiper blades will vary depending upon where you live, you might need to change them more often than someone who doesn’t use them a lot. On average, it’s recommended that you change your windshield wiper blades every 12 months. You might need to change them more frequently if you live in a rainy area and use them a lot. Counterintuitively, you may also need to change them more often if you live in a dry area, where the hot sun and low humidity dries out rubber quickly. Most people discover this during the first monsoon of the season, when suddenly their wipers can’t clear the windshield effectively.

A mechanic is shown installing a windshield wiper blade.

Choosing the Best Windshield Washer Fluid

Once again, picking the ideal washer fluid heavily depends on the weather in your location. Some people opt to use water instead of spending money on washer fluid. While this is certainly a cost-effective choice, it’s not a very practical one. If you live in a location where the temperature goes below freezing, the water in your fluid reservoir will freeze. Not only will it not spray onto the windshield, but water expands when it freezes, which can lead to burst hoses, nozzles, or even the fluid reservoir itself.

Washer fluid contains chemicals that are specifically formulated to remove dirt, bugs, road grime, and debris from your windshield to help you maintain visibility. This is the standard blue fluid, which looks like Windex and is essentially quite similar. It’s the least expensive solution, but may not wash as effectively as others, and is still prone to freezing in particularly cold temperatures.

Several companies make different types of fluid that are optimized for different times of the year. Washer fluid formulated specifically for summer is usually green in color. It contains special additives that make it more effective at removing dirt and bug guts from your windshield. Winter fluid is usually orange, and its additives prevent it from freezing when standard blue fluid would. It also helps melt snow and ice from your windshield, though you should be sure to clear as much as you can with a brush and scraper first.

Some brands, such as Rain-X, also include additives that polish your windshield and leave a clear film behind that rain will just slide right off of as you drive down the road. You may find yourself using your wipers less, or even not at all, with a windshield coated in Rain-X.

A Final Word on Windshield Wipers and Fluid

As we’ve seen, there are many parts and types of wiper blades that are meant to maintain visibility when the weather becomes less than agreeable. No matter where you live, there’s a good chance you’ll need to use your windshield wipers regularly. Making sure that you have an adequate pair of wipers and some capable fluid is just as crucial as getting your oil changed on a regular basis. It’s an unpredictable road out there, and it’s important that you can see clearly at all times.