We tend to take our wipers for granted. We don’t think about them when it’s not rainy, or the wind is not blowing dust and debris across our windshields. Even when we do flick them on to get better visibility in bad weather, it’s usually an absent-minded motion that happens almost by reflex. The problem is, if you don’t inspect your wipers regularly, they may not perform the way you need them to when it matters most. This can lead to frustration while driving, and in many cases accidents, often with tragic consequences. Did you know that 21% of all fatal crashes are linked to poor weather and visibility as a primary cause of the accident, according to the Federal Highway Administration? Only distracted and drunk driving cause more preventable traffic deaths, and if all three are in play, you’ve got a statistic waiting for a place to happen.
Knowing the summer travel season is getting ready to kick off, we at Two Fingers Automotive thought now would be a great time to talk about your wipers: when to check them, what to look for, causes, and signs of damage, and when you should replace them. It’s our way of helping you and the precious cargo you carry every day—your family and passengers—get where you’re going safely!
When should I check and change my wipers?
Most manufacturers recommend you change your wipers every six months to a year for best results. Manufactured synthetic wiper materials are often more durable. They have a longer expected service life, but they still won’t last forever, and it’s still a good idea to check them regularly. In general, Two Fingers Automotive recommends you check your wipers at the following intervals:
- Every time you fill your tank. Most people will find that this averages out to about once a week.
- If you don’t fill your tank regularly, for example for those working from home, you should check your wipers every month, but every two weeks is better. Even if you’re not using them, the elements, sun, wind, precipitation, and temperature changes can all affect your wipers’ shape and performance.
- After every time you use your wipers intensively, such as when driving through heavy rain, snow, fog, or dust storms.
What am I looking for?
Some common signs of potentially hazardous wiper wear include:
- Tearing, warping, cracking, unusual wear, or buildup of dust and debris on your wipers
- Odd noises such as scraping, grating, or shuddering sounds when you use your wipers
- Poor visibility even when using wipers
- Streaking on the windshield
If you notice any of these signs, you should immediately change out your wipers to ensure the best possible performance and optimum visibility in bad weather.
Why does bad weather damage my wipers? Isn’t that the whole point of having them?
Technically, yes, windshield wipers are designed to stand up to the elements—for a while. However, unlike your car’s upholstery, for example, wipers are a dynamic part of your car, meaning they need to be able to move freely, correctly, and predictably to keep your field of vision clear. Most cheaper windshield wipers are made of rubber, which is more prone to sun, heat, and wind damage including cracking, drying, and tearing, but even higher-grade silicone wipers with multiple blades only last so long. Usually, the manufacturer’s packaging will tell you how long your wipers should be expected to last with normal wear and use.
Some people think that windshield wipers are a “do it once and fuhgeddaboudit” sort of thing. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Your windshield wipers must remain in constant contact with your windshield to work properly. If they’re torn, warped or cracked, they may not be able to make contact with the windshield and clear away obstructive moisture, dust, and road debris. This not only leaves you with a muddled field of view through your windshield, but it can also cause more damage to the wipers, making them wear unevenly and work improperly. If left long enough, faulty or damaged wipers can also lead to damage in the motor that makes the wiper arms work—and if that motor goes out, you could be stuck with a repair bill that makes even high-end replacement wipers look like a bargain!
What do I do if my wipers are damaged?
The first thing you should do is replace your wipers immediately. Once you’ve done so, and they’re securely anchored to the wiper armature assembly, test them to make sure they’re contacting the windshield correctly and leaving a clear view behind. If you notice areas where the wiper isn’t touching the windshield, or if the wiper doesn’t connect at all, do not attempt to force it! It’s possible that the wiper armature has been damaged or bent by using damaged wiper blades for too long, and that’s not something you’ll likely be able to fix yourself.
Instead, bring it to Two Fingers Automotive!
We’re proud to serve Mooresville, NC, and the surrounding area with master mechanic services for most domestic and foreign brands, gas and diesel engines, cars, and trucks. With over two decades of automotive repair experience, knowledge, training, and certification, we can get your ride safely back on the road for less than you might expect, so you can drive confidently knowing your vehicle has had the best care, service, and repairs.
We at Two Fingers Automotive hope you’ve found the May Maintenance Tip useful, informative, and educational. Keep driving safely, and we’ll be back next month with another helpful tip to get the best performance and the longest life from your vehicle!