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Kate on Cars January 2013 ~ WiperMania


Kate on Cars January 2013

by Kate Jonasse

Your vehicle’s windshield wipers are not really something most people think about until they are in the car when it’s raining. In this article, I intend to tell you more than you ever thought you wanted to know about your car’s windshield wipers. There’s something for everyone here. Let’s start with a brief history of windshield wipers:

History and Evolution 

Did you know that windshield wipers were invented by a woman? Mary Anderson came up with and patented the idea in 1903 after seeing how drivers in New York needed to stick their heads out of the windows of their cars to see while driving in the rain. Mary’s wipers initially needed to be operated by hand, and soon became standard equipment on new vehicles.

In 1922, an automatic windshield wiper version came out, much to the relief of driver’s all over the country. Windshield wiper technology has since been improved upon. Rain-sensing technology allows many cars to automatically turn the wipers on when it starts sprinkling, and they’ll wipe faster as it rains harder – all without the driver cranking or even pushing any buttons or turning any handles. Many cars’ headlamps even have their own windshield wipers to further aid in visibility.

Replacing Your Car’s Wipers 

Wipers typically need to be replaced about every 6 months to a year (not every 6 years like some driver’s try to get away with – you know who you are). When wipers get worn out by UV rays and the elements, they no longer have a nice seal on the windshield. This results in squeaking, streaking, smearing, skipping and chattering.

Installation Tip: When installing you wiper blades, read the instructions if you’ve never installed them before. And be careful with the metal arm when you lift it up to replace the blade. If you remove the blade, the spring-loaded arm can slam into your windshield glass and crack it. I think you would probably prefer to not have to replace your windshield if you can help it. If you want help installing your wiper blades, stop by my shop and we’ll help you.

Windshield Wiper Maintenance - “Kate, you’ve got to be kidding me.” 

I’m not kidding. I’m not saying that your engine will fail or some other expensive repair will occur if you don’t do this, so obviously up to you. The worst thing that will happen is you’ll have to buy a new set of wipers before you wanted to. But part of my philosophy is “waste not, want not.”

But if you want to keep your wipers healthy for as long as possible, there are several things you can do. Wash your windshield at every fuel fill-up, because sap, dirt, bugs or anything else on the glass can cause wipers to develop tiny tears, which leads to streaking and smearing. Do not try to use them to de-ice your windshield – use a scraper or some other method like planning ahead and turning on your car’s defroster for a few minutes before you need to drive anywhere. I like to use a bowl of warm water to do light to moderate windshield de-icing - it’s instant and let’s me speed off to work right away (I like to think that every minute counts in life). It’s also good to inspect and clean your wipers with a clean rag every so often (I actually do this periodically.)

Buying Tips: What type of wipers should you buy? Personally, I use beam-blades style wipers. They are sleek-looking and do a good job of hugging the windshield. Whatever style wiper you choose, make sure it’s the right length and style for your vehicle. The blade shouldn’t hit anywhere on the car other than the windshield (like the cowling or the A-pillars that are on the sides of the windshield glass.) If you decide to buy and install your own wipers, if you can, try them out in the parking lot of the store before you drive away. Sometimes new low quality wipers can streak right out of the box – this isn’t normal, take them back.

Email me or come to my shop if you have any wiper questions, or any car questions at all. My email inbox is always open.