I can see, I can see perfectly. I can see that van over there
August 26, 2009 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Why are windscreen wipers so, well, crap? Am I mistreating my wipers? Is there a better brand to use?

The entire time I've been driving (I got my license in 94) I've been unimpressed with windscreen wipers.

Unless there's a good downpour, wipers always seem to leave multiple parallel streaks across the path of the blade. It's often bad enough that I consider it a risk to my view of the road.

It's always been the same on every car I've owned. I've used Bosch branded blades, motor factor own-brand blades, budget ones and OEM ones. They've all been awful. They work for maybe a week at most and then fail. This has been on everything from a 70s Austins to a 5 year old Skoda.

In fact, they're normally bad enough that I tend to put my cars in for their MOT test with spare blades in the boot, but the testers have never failed the car on them.

Presumably I'm being fussier than the testers.

Other than washing the car and using an all-over wax, I do no maintenance to the screen or blades. I used to try cleaning the blade itself, but I've given up on that as it seemed to make no difference.

So, what can I do to improve the performance of the blades? What blades (in the UK) could you recommend as being the best?
posted by twine42 to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about the wipers themselves, but applying rain-x to the actual glass makes it so you barely need to use wipers at all, which is awesome. I would definitely recommend it if you're fed up with wipers!
posted by Grither at 10:06 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Cleaning the wipers with alcohol works really well, if they're not too worn out. Also, cleaning the base of the windsheild where the wipers park helps, so the blades don't pick up extra grit.

Rain-X Latitude brand wipers work REALLY well. Instead of a metal arm with multiple pressure points, they're one big elastic beam that applies even pressure to the whole blade against the glass.
PIAA also makes a great wiper. They're similar material to the Rain-X blades, but they come with an extra spoiler to keep the blade planted against the glass at speed.

I'm really picky about my wipers, too and I have been extremely satisfied with both brands, even though they cost more than average blades.
posted by Jon-o at 10:14 AM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Bosch Icon and Evolution also trade springs for the elastic beams. I usually get a year out of mine.
posted by jwells at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2009

We switched to the Rain-X Latitude blades last year, and they're better than anything we've tried previously.
posted by holgate at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2009

Nthing Rain-x latitude. I always thought wipers were supposed to be used only with a constant stream of window washer fluid firing at the windshield. My wipers were replaced (and I assumed I was needlessly upsold "fancy" wipers) and I nearly drove back to the mechanic to kiss him on the lips! Why do they even sell anything else? Maybe for the daredevils?
posted by syntheticfaith at 10:46 AM on August 26, 2009

The problem with wipers is that the rubber they're made of eventually dies out and cracks. Those cracks allow water to pass under the wiper when in operation, leaving streaks. This process can be accelerated by running wipers "dry", which causes dirt to cut grooves in the bottom edges. Chips in the windscreen can have a similar effect.

So what's the solution? Well, you can either replace the blades you use more frequently, and before they develop cracks, or try a different material. Most blades are made of rubber. These are not. They're made of silicone, which doesn't age like rubber. They last much, much longer, and do a better job of wiping when new, too.

I will never put rubber wipers on any car I own, ever again.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:02 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Valeo 900 series are, IMO, the best wipers you can buy. I've never had so much as a drop of water get by either blade in the 9 months I've had them on.... and I live in Seattle.
posted by lattiboy at 11:20 AM on August 26, 2009

I found spending the extra money and buying fancy silicone wipers was a huge improvement. I can see clearly now, it's amazing! However, I only bought one nice wiper, for the driver's side, and left the cheap-o on the passenger's (which really exacerbates the difference).
posted by tamarack at 11:30 AM on August 26, 2009

Nthing Rain-X. We use it on our fleet vehicles here in Colorado and most of the time the guys don't even bother turning on the wiper blades when it rains. Wonder stuff it seems
posted by Gravitus at 11:36 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I recommend using either Bosch Icon blades/wipers OR Rain X windshield fluid, NOT both. I'm currently using both, and the Rain X fluid (fancy surfactant?) covers the glass causing the Bosch wipers skip over the windshield in a way that lesser wiper blades would not.
posted by limited slip at 11:38 AM on August 26, 2009

Nth Rain-X. If your car stays clean, ie you don't live on a dirt road and/or park it under trees, you'll rarely use your wipers. Curiously, it's more effective with more rain and higher speed, which is convenient.

You may also find that your wiper blades (rubber or silicone) are drying out, for which wiping them liberally with spray silicone can restore some pliability/moisture.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:45 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

My husband bought me silicone wipers about five years ago. They are wonderful. Not only do they do a great job at clearing the windshield, but they glide noiselessly over the windshield even when bone dry. And after five years, they've only just started to degrade- they still work at least as good as conventional wipers.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 1:07 PM on August 26, 2009

I found that I stopped having this problem when I started cleaning the wipers every time I stopped for gas. I'd squeegie off the windshield, then use a damp paper towel to wipe down the wiper blade.

Also, when living in Seattle, I'd habitually replace them every fall. Living in the desert now I replace them whenever I notice the rubber has disintegrated and I'm now scraping a sharp metal skeleton across the half inch thick layer of dust and construction debris that's obscuring my vision.
posted by krisak at 1:28 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

In addition using Rain-X on the windshield get Rain-X brand windshield wiper fluid. It helps remove stuff (dirt, bird droppings, bugs, etc) from the windshield that causes streaks.
posted by gregr at 2:02 PM on August 26, 2009

At the recommendation of my GF's father (a former professional race driver and still an auto enthusiast), I got my wipers and screen spray treatment from http://www.silblade.com - they are silicone blades, as mentioned above, and they are certainly compatible with the spray they also sell. I use both, and have been very happy since I got and installed them.

I'm not sure where you are from, but if you have snow & ice, Silblade has a "winterized" version that will keep ice out from the blade joint, which is nice. They ship from Upstate NY (Ballston Spa).
posted by GJSchaller at 3:55 PM on August 26, 2009

Consumer Reports tested windshield wipers recently, and has some advice.

The good news is that three of the top four wipers were also the least expensive. The not-so-good-news: wipers are only good for about six months or so. When brand-new, every wiper tested earned “Very Good” or “Excellent” marks. But after six to nine months of regular use, performance quickly declined.

Replace your wipers every six to twelve months for best performance—don’t wait until the rubber is cracked and you’re seeing streaks on your windshield.

Without disclosing the full ratings, the best brands were Valeo 600 and RainX Latitude -- but Anco 31 and Michelin RainForce were almost as good, and cheaper than both. On the other hand, Anco AeroVantage rated very poorly, as did Michelin HydroEdge and Michelin Optimum -- and I'd avoid anything from Trico. The point is that specific brand lines can matter. (CR included some "beam blade" designs, but did not distinguish between silicone and rubber blades.)

Personally I tend to get around a year out of wipers. I don't use alcohol, I use silicone lube after periodically wiping away grime and debris. These are water replacers and seem to help the rubber keep its suppleness longer. (I also use them on door and window gaskets, and refrigerator gaskets.) But mainly keeping them clean is important. Like krisak, I take every opportunity to just run a paper towel up and down them.
posted by dhartung at 9:07 PM on August 26, 2009

I ONLY use my wipers when the windshield is wet. Be dilligent about it. I have had my current OEM Scion wipers on for 3+ years now. No Rain-X, no problem. People always complain about this, and I don't know, it could be confirmation bias, but mine always last for years.
posted by kenbennedy at 11:53 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

kenbennedy is the control subject.
posted by Jon-o at 7:37 PM on August 27, 2009

An old thread that nobody will probably ever read. Nonetheless.

What I have determined through years of experimentation is that wipers just go bad. They are wear items, you use them up in exchange for being able to see. At the same time, I agree that I hate changing them and that they never last nearly as long as I think they should. I'll check out the silicone ones!

But kenbennedy is definitely onto something. It's no coincidence that the streaks always appear in the same spot as a little baked on spec of bird poop or something. If it's dry out, go run your hand across your windshield. It will most likely feel gritty. You can't see it, but it is like sandpaper on your wipers.

What I try to do with moderate success is to clean my windshield when I get gas. I hate the foul, urine smelling bluish liquid they thoughtfully provide at the gas station, so I keep a bottle of Windex in the trunk. Fire up the pump, walk around the car and squirt the windows, and then walk back around wiping them off. The less grit on the windshield, the longer my wipers last, and the less often I have to run the wipers dry.

The other thing (especially if you've got a chatter problem) is that enviromental "gunk" can get onto the glass and make it sticky. A drop or two of road tar, diesel fuel or motor oil can turn into a sticky, nearly invisible paste in almost no time. The below will fix it.

If the windshield is still gritty feeling after a good washing (and it probably will be), you can clean it fairly effectively with "Bar Keepers Friend". I've seen it recommended on car shows, and I've used it myself. It does not seem to harm the glass at all- I've used it on much softer materials with almost no dulling or scratching. Wet the windshield, gently scrub it and rinse it off. Do it a couple of times, let the stuff soak for a while (without drying out). The trick is to gently lift off the grit and flush it away without lifting it and then scratching the windshield with it by scrubbing hard.
posted by gjc at 7:56 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older Seeking shared online multi-part project managing...   |   What software should I use to design a Webpage... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.