How wiper blades work

Wiper Blade Replacement Image

Even if you don’t live in a rainy climate, your car’s wiper blades should be replaced every 12 months because the rubber gradually perishes when it’s exposed to sunlight or cold temperatures and its wiping performance worsens.

In freezing conditions make sure the wipers aren’t stuck to the windshield or rear screen before you use them (check before you turn on the ignition in case your auto wipers activate) and switch off the wipers when the rain stops to avoid putting unnecessary strain on the motor and blades.

New wipers are easy to fit, relatively cheap to buy and will boost visibility in bad weather, so they’re a wise investment.

This task requires no experience and usually no tools are needed. It’ll take you a couple of minutes.

When to change your wiper blades

“The sun causes the rubber to deteriorate over time and it won’t be long before you have streaks on the glass”

Few things are more annoying than having wipers that don't clear the screen properly, leaving a smear, usually across your line of sight. And then there's the screeching! Noisy wipers are hugely irritating. Both of these are signs that it's time to invest in a new set of wipers. 

Some people actually take their car to the garage for new wipers, but they run the risk of being massively overcharged for what is actually one of the most simple DIY jobs you can carry out. 

In most cases it's just the 'blade' section that you need to swap, not the arm.

Haynes recommends you change your wiper blades every year. Even if you live in a part of the world that doesn’t get much rain, the sun causes the rubber to deteriorate over time.

It’s important to change all wiper blades at the same time, so both at the front and the rear screen blade if you have one.

All cars are slightly different, so if it is time to change your wiper blades, find your car for specific instructions.

What are the different types of wiper blades?

There are three main styles of wiper blades: 'conventional', 'flat', and 'hybrid'. 

You can spot conventional wipers as they have an articulated metal frame with the blade attached. They're the kind that have been standard issue on many cars for decades. In more recent years flat wipers have grown in popularity. 

They comprise a thick blade with a small plastic connection block in the middle. 

Hybrid wipers are a mixture of the two, and the 'frame' of the blade acts as an aerodynamic spoiler. 

This is intended to push the blade onto the screen to prevent it lifting at speed. 

If your car currently has conventional wipers you can upgrade to flat, or hybrid wipers, for improved aesthetics and performance.

Rear wipers are usually a lot smaller than the fronts, and although plenty of cars have the same style wipers as on the front, some cars feature a model-specific rear wiper with the arm and the blade integrated as one unit. 

These need to be replaced as one, and are usually held onto a splined shaft by means of a small nut. 

Why you should change your wiper blades

Rain, hail, sleet and snow aren’t great to drive in because they hamper your visibility, so it’s important that you can rely on your wipers to clear the screen.

You may want to save money and just replace the rubber element instead of the entire blade. This is fine as long as the old blade is able to hold the rubber against the glass properly. If not, you’ll need to change that, too.

How to maintain your wiper blades

Always look after your wipers by giving them a good clean whenever you wash your car – some kitchen roll and glass cleaner works wonders.

Seeing as you're replacing the blades, use it as an opportunity to also top up your windscreen washer fluid. 

We'd always advise using the correct fluid, and not washing up liquid (It foams too much, can damage window rubbers and smears easily). 

And where possible don't buy 'ready to use' fluid as you end up paying for someone else to have diluted it for you! 

 

Fitting new wiper blades

If you're not sure how your wipers operate it's wise to check in your handbook as there are some cars where the wipers 'park' out of sight below the bonnet line, or behind the windscreen pillars. 

In these instances the wipers may need to be set to their 'maintenance position' where they come to rest in the middle of the screen, allowing you to pull the blade forward.  

There are lots of different fittings on the market but you're most likely to encounter either straight, or hooked wiper arms. 

The blades can generally be removed by sliding a latch, squeezing a pair of tabs, or pushing a clip in. You might need to use a bit of force, but don't overdo it. 

With the clips released the blades will either pull off, or (in the case of hooked arms) the wiper needs to be slid down the wiper arm to free it from the hook. 

When the wiper is separated from the arm take care not to allow the arm to snap back towards the windscreen. The spring action is very strong, and it's likely to chip or crack your screen.

Most wiper kits come with the correct attachment specifically for your car and others contain a range of fitting solutions. Ascertain what's currently on there and replace like-for-like. 
 
Refitting, as they say, is the reverse of removal. Just take note of how they come off, particularly if you have hooked wiper arms, as it can appear to be a little confusing.

Warning

Don’t forget to replace the rear wiper. It doesn’t take long for rear blades to start screeching and juddering, and a new one should silence the racket.

How to change your wiper blades

Here's an example of how it's done

A very brief summary of the task:

  1. Lift the arm from the screen and press the central lever to release the wiper blade from the arm
  2. If you’re just replacing the rubber elements (if possible), squeeze the prongs at the end of the blade and slide the rubber out; slide in the new rubber, making sure it’s held securely by the metal strips
  3. If you’re replacing the entire wiper blade assembly, simply clip it in over the wiper arm hook. Flat-bladed wipers have a slightly different attachment

Tools you will need

Few, if any tools are required for this job.

  • Long-nose pliers
  • Flat-bladed screwdriver

How to buy new wiper blades

You need to ensure you get the correct length wipers for your car as they come in many different lengths. 

Most retailers will sell sets designed for your particular car, but it's never a bad idea to measure yours first just to make sure they'll fit. 

There are a wide range of prices, with seemingly similar wipers costing considerably more than budget options. 

It's always wise to read online reviews before buying. 

Parts you may need

  • Wiper blades (buy a branded set for maximum performance)

How much does a new wiper blade cost?

Wiper blades  £10-40
Garage fee savings  £50