A clear view of the road is essential to safely operating a car. With rain, snow, dirt and bugs fighting to block your view, a good pair of windshield wipers is indispensable. Before you start thinking about how to change windshield wipers, you should first identify which wiper blades you’ll need for your specific vehicle and climate.
• Conventional blades. Conventional blades are the everyday wiper blades that you see on practically every car, comprised of a rubber blade supported by a flexible metal or plastic frame. For most conditions, these are perfectly fine, but prices can vary based on brand and quality. Branded blades can be more expensive, but you can often save money by buying other styles.
• Wiper blade refills. Because they are constantly exposed to the sun, the rubber part of the wiper blade tends to wear out much sooner than the metal frame. As long as the frame isn’t broken, you can usually save money by buying wiper blade refills instead of a full set of blades. Be wary, however, since not all wiper blade refills fit all wiper blade frames.
• Winter blades. To effectively clear your windshield, the wipers need to flex; however, ice formation can restrict movement and cause your windshield to frost over. Winter blades are constructed much the same as conventional blades, except that they have a rubber cover and boots to keep water, snow and ice out of the frame. This type of windshield wiper is typically more expensive than conventional wipers.
• Beam blades. Beam blades are different in that they have no external frame, but are instead supported internally by a spring-metal beam. Some high-end automakers have gone so far as to include these as their factory-supplied blades. Thanks to their aerodynamic shape, they tend to stick to the windshield better, even in windy conditions, and they are unaffected by ice buildup. Beam blades are perhaps the best-quality and best-performing blades on the market and are useful all year round, but as a result they’re also the most-expensive.
How to Change Windshield Wipers
There are three common windshield wiper arms on the market — hook, post and bayonet — each of which holds the windshield wiper blade in place in all types of driving conditions. To change a wiper blade, be sure you first buy the right blade for your make and model by inspecting the list of compatible vehicles, usually included on or in the package. While you’re at it, don’t forget to top off your washer fluid reservoir.
Typically, hook- and post-type blades require no more than a dexterous hand and some patience. Using your fingers, pinch or depress to release the locking tab and simply remove the blade. Slide the new blade into place until you hear the locking tab click. A small flathead screwdriver can make some hook- or post-type blade installations easier.
Bayonet-type blades usually require a specific wiper blade, though most aftermarket blades come with adapters. Be careful when using a screwdriver in close proximity to your windshield, as one slip can easily chip or crack it. A couple of rags serves as a cheap insurance policy against damage.
Pro Tip: Wiper arms can be lifted far from the windshield, and allowing the wiper arm to slap the windshield without a blade on it can easily crack the glass — and lead to a very expensive repair.
Check out all the vision and safety parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on windshield wipers, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.