Originally created 04/16/04

Windshield wiper tips

April is National Car Care Month.

It's also the month for showers and low-angle sun, which can create serious problems if your windshield is dirty. One way to clean it, of course, is with a spritz of washer fluid and a wipe by the windshield wipers. But after a harsh winter, there's a good chance your wipers aren't working up to snuff.

Manufacturers recommend that you should change your wiper blades at least every six months. You can time the change of blades to when you change the batteries in your smoke alarms, or when you change the clocks from standard time to Daylight Savings Time. While changing the wipers at the start of winter might not be necessary, changing in the spring after they've undergone freezing and dealing with ice on the windshield is a good idea.

You know what it's like to drive with worn wiper blades. You can't see well through the windshield - whether it's raining or other cars are slinging mud at you. Often you're looking at the windshield rather than through it. And if you're like many drivers, when the wipers are bad, you're also out of wiper fluid.

Check the condition of your wiper blades by first lifting the arm off the windshield against its spring tension to the point where the pivot point locks the arm in an upright, or "park," position. This will expose the blade so you can check its condition.

First check for general contamination caused by road film or car wash chemicals. Then check the brittleness of the rubber, which is caused by sitting too long in the sun. Brittle blades chatter against the windshield when you use them.

Also check for breaks in the rubber. The surface where the rubber meets the windshield should be one continuous line, or you'll get streaking. Often, these imperfections are caused by running the blades against the ice and snow of winter driving. That's why it's often best to change your blades in the spring. Rear window blades are subject to more contamination problems than the front blades simply because of all the grime that deposits on the rear glass.

While you have the wiper in "park," check for the attachment of the blades to the arms. The clips that perform the job may be damaged due to age or an improper installation the last time the blades were replaced.

In this circumstance, when you replace the blades, you'll want to buy a full-blade assembly rather than just the blades to get a fit that's at least the equal of a factory installation.

Measure the blade. Most likely, it will be between 15 and 21 inches long. You'll need this dimension when you go to buy a new blade, although most stores have charts that help you select the right blades.

You should only buy refill blades if you know what brand and type of blades are currently on the car. Otherwise, buy a complete assembly.

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