If your windshield wipers are leaving more streaks than a window washer at a skyscraper, it’s probably time to replace the wiper blades. Swapping out old wiper blades is an easy weekend project that even someone with two left thumbs can handle with just a couple of tools and a smidgen of know-how.
In this blog, I’ll talk you through the whole process of choosing new wiper blades and installing them properly. I’ve been working on cars, bikes, and anything with wheels for over a decade, so I’ve picked up some pro tips for squeaky clean wiper blades along the way. Follow my advice and you’ll be wiping away rain like a champ at Talladega in no time!
Choosing the Right Wiper Blades
The first step is selecting the proper wiper blades for your vehicle. Wiper blades come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and mounting types. Choosing incompatible ones can prevent them from correctly contacting your windshield.
Make sure to get wiper blades designed specifically for your vehicle’s make, model, and year. Check your owner’s manual if you’re unsure what size you need. I once accidentally bought 26” blades for my Mustang instead of 24”. Let’s just say it wasn’t a good look having them hang halfway off the wiper arms!
You’ll also need to match the correct blade type and mounting method. Most vehicles today use beam blades or hybrid blades with hook mounts, but some older models still use bracket mounts.
I recommend beam blades for their sleek, aerodynamic profile and consistent contact with the windshield. The wiping edge hugs the curvature of the glass for a smooth, clean wipe. Just don’t get the cheap ones or you’ll find yourself replacing them again in 6 months!
Removing the Old Wiper Blades
Alright, you’ve got the new wiper blades, now it’s time to remove the old ones. This is usually the trickiest part of the whole operation. Wiper blades are held onto a J-hook or pin on the wiper arm with a tension spring or locking clip.
Finding and releasing this mechanism can be a fiddly process, often requiring muscles you probably haven’t used since that weekend woodworking binge a few years ago. But don’t despair my friend, with my decade of experience I can guide you through this with ease!
The easiest ones to remove are blades with a locking tab that you simply press down on to release the blade. But many vehicles have that pesky tension spring instead. The goal is to press the wiper arm down toward the windshield to relieve the tension on the spring.
I usually wrap a rag around the wiper blade to improve grip and avoid scratching the glass. Then press down and simultaneously move the blade at a 45 degree angle away from the wiper arm. It may take a few attempts to get the hang of it. Just be patient and watch your knuckles!
Installing the New Wiper Blades
The home stretch! Installing new wiper blades is much simpler than removing old ones. Start by gently lifting the locking cover tab if your blade has one. They are often labeled “lift to open”. This exposes the part that will attach to the wiper arm J-hook or pin.
Next, orient and align the new wiper blade correctly with the wiper arm, then carefully push it straight onto the arm until it clicks securely into place. You should hear an audible “click” when it latches. To test for a tight connection, try to remove the blade without pressing the release tab. It shouldn’t come off if properly secured.
Repeat this installation process for the remaining wiper blade on the other side. Once done, carefully lower the wiper arms into resting position against the windshield. Congrats my friend, our wiper quest has come to a glorious end!
Testing Proper Operation
Before driving off into the rain-soaked sunset, let’s run a quick test of your new wipers. Turn the wipers on to low or high speed and visually inspect them as they wipe. Make sure they aren’t loose and flap at higher speeds. Watch that they wipe evenly across the entire windshield without any excessive streaking.
If something doesn’t look right, turn them off immediately and re-install the blade that’s having issues. An improperly installed or defective wiper can actually scratch the glass or get progressively worse over time. So double check your work!
Assuming all wiper systems check out, go ahead and tuck them back into resting position before turning off your vehicle. Then marvel in your newfound mechanical prowess as you gaze proudly at your crystal clear windshield, now ready to withstand any epic thunderstorm headed your way!
How often should wiper blades be replaced?
As a general rule of thumb, plan to install new wiper blades about once a year. More frequent replacement may be needed for vehicles in extremely hot or cold climates.
What’s the deal with that funny “claw blade”?
Some new wiper blades have a funky claw-shaped end instead of traditional rubber blades. These aptly named “claw blades” are specifically designed to conform better to curved windshields on modern aerodynamic vehicles. So while looking a bit odd, they actually work great!
Can I change just the rubber wiping insert instead of the whole blade?
It’s possible on some windshield wiper blades models, but I don’t really recommend it. The rubber and plastic blade components wear together, so mismatched pieces can lead to subpar performance. I suggest replacing the entire blade/rubber insert combo once a year for consistent results.
What should I do with my old wiper blades?
Great question! Check to see if your local auto parts shop has recycling available for old wiper blades. The metal arms and hardware require special disposal to avoid harming the environment. If no recycling, just cut and disposal of them in your regular household waste.
Replacing windshield wipers is one of the easiest DIY projects for maintaining your vehicle. Just be sure to get the specifically designed ones for your car’s make and model. Removing old blades takes a bit of practiced finesse. Installing new ones is quick and painless after you’ve done it once or twice.
Following the steps I’ve outlined while leveraging my years of experience, you can upgrade your wipers like a seasoned pro. That small bit of preventative maintenance goes a long away in keeping your view of the road ahead crystal clear, rain or shine!
So next time your windshield wipers are on their last legs, tackle replacing them yourself. Go out and grab your new wiper blades, muster some mechanical courage, and let’s get wiping!