Follow These Tips to Keep Your Windshield Clean

A well-maintained wiper and washer system will keep you safe when the next snow- or rainstorm hits while you’re working a route.
Follow These Tips to Keep Your Windshield Clean
Blade manufacturers recommend replacing your blades every six to 12 months, depending on climate and driving conditions. (Photo by Ed Wodalski)

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Wiper blades are like a leaky roof – you don’t think about them until it rains. Equally frustrating is having mud or winter slop splashed on your windshield and only hearing the hum of the pump when you press the washer button.

Keeping your wiper blades and washer fluid in tip-top condition might not be high on your maintenance list, but like that leaky roof, you’ll appreciate a clean, streak-free windshield the next time it rains or snows.

To extend the life of your blades, wipe off the rubber element with a damp paper towel to clear away dirt or debris when you fill up your vehicle. It’s also a good time to look for nicks or tears. In the winter, pull blades away from the windshield prior to a storm to prevent sticking, and use an ice scraper or defroster, not your wipers, to deice the windshield. Wiper manufacturers recommend changing blades every six to 12 months and have adopted Groundhog Day as a reminder date.

When replacing blades, be sure to double-check for the correct size and connector system. A blade that is too short or improperly installed can lose its effectiveness and scratch your windshield. You can find the correct blades for your vehicle online or at your local auto parts store. You might also want to determine if a conventional, beam or hybrid blade is right for you.

Blade technology

Conventional blades are best recognized by their skeletal framework and claw-like grips. The more aerodynamic beam blades feature a one-piece design. An encased spring allows the blade to conform to the curvature of the windshield. Small spoilers direct wind up and away from the windshield at highway speed. Beam blades, which have been on the market for about 10 years, are also less susceptible to snow and ice buildup.

Hybrid blades combine the aerodynamic features and all-weather performance of beam blades with the multiple pressure points provided by the best conventional, or bridge-style blades, says Kat Himaras, brand manager for ANCO wiper blades, Federal-Mogul Motorparts.

“As a result, you get strong, consistent blade-to-glass contact through the full range of wiper arm motion,” she says.

Another option is to replace conventional blades with winter blades in the fall as part of your annual maintenance. Winter blades, designed for extreme weather, have a rubber cover over the frame to prevent slush from freezing joints.

“The worst thing on a wiper blade is ice,” says Peter Bukaty, group brand manager for ITW Global Brands, maker of Rain-X products. “Ice has a jagged edge and it’s hard. It can shear and cause nicks in the rubber. When you get nicks in the rubber, that part of the squeegee isn’t touching the windshield. You’re going to have a streak where that damage takes place.”

And don’t run wipers across a dry windshield unless your blade is a Rain-X Quantum. Quantum beam blades have a paste-like, semi-wet, water-repellant technology embedded in the lip of the squeegee. The blades also have an indicator dot at the tip that turns yellow, telling you it’s time for a change.

Squeegee blades are made from either natural rubber or a synthetic blend. While natural rubber provides good wiper quality, it will degrade over time, especially when exposed to UV rays. Most premium blades use a synthetic blend for greater durability.

Choosing a wiper

So how do you know which wiper blade is best for your vehicle?

“One thing is to copy what came on your vehicle,” Bukaty says. “When original equipment manufacturers develop blades for a particular vehicle, they take the technology into account to make sure it’s what will work best with that windshield.”

Another determining factor can be price.

“Some people aren’t willing to pay for a premium beam wiper blade that may cost $15 to $25. They may just want to pay $7 to $12 for a conventional blade,” Bukaty says. “The hybrids are usually priced in the middle – $14 to $20.”

Wiper blades used on commercial trucks are similar in technology to those used on autos or pickups.

“The sizing may be different, but it should work fine for either application,” he says.

Washer fluids

When it comes to washer fluid, there are three basic formulas: summer blend, winter blend and all-season. Some fluids have a bug remover. Rain-X also adds a water repellent to its products and offers an additive that can be mixed with other brands.

Ron Fausnight, ground technical manager for ITW, says the most important thing is to match the washer fluid to your climate. Summer fluids contain mostly water and detergent, while winter and all-season blends have methanol to prevent freezing. If you live where the temperature drops below freezing or drive from a warm to cold environment, Fausnight recommends using all-season or winter fluid year-round.

“The winter formulas work in the summer just fine,” he says. “But the summer formulas do not work in the winter.”

If you have summer fluid in your vehicle, you can gradually replace it with a winter blend as the weather turns colder, although it’s recommended that you simply pump it out on the windshield in fall and refill your system with winter or all-season fluid.

A word of caution: Since most washer fluid contains methanol, it can irritate skin and burn the eyes. Ideally, gloves and safety glasses should be worn. If you do get some on your hands or splash it in your eyes, be sure to rinse the area with water. Methanol can be toxic if ingested in large amounts, so keep open containers away from pets and children. Methanol vapor is also flammable. If you have an open container or spill a large amount in a closed environment, it’s best not to light a match or do grinding or welding until the vapor has dissipated.

A final tip: Keep your washer fluid reservoir full and tightly capped, especially in winter, to prevent the methanol from evaporating and reducing the fluid’s effectiveness.



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