Not all windshield wipers are created equal. Much like your tires, the set of windshield wipers you pick should be a good match for the weather you’re likely to encounter. Although there isn’t one product built to excel in every situation, this quick guide can help you decide on the best windshield wiper blades for your needs.
Rubber Windshield Wiper Blades
Conventional wiper blades are the most basic style available, made up of a rubber blade mounted in a metal spring-tensioned frame, and are usually the cheapest style on the shelf. But just because they cost less, doesn’t mean they are inferior. In side-by-side tests, some basic rubber wiper blades were capable of clearing water just as effectively as options that are more expensive.
If you opt for rubber windshield blades, use them only in the summer or in areas with mild winters. Because the frame is exposed, conventional rubber wipers aren’t a good option for heavy snow and ice. As frozen water accumulates within the assembly, the wiper becomes stiff and stops clearing effectively, which can be hazardous in a winter storm.
Best use: Inexpensive wipers for summer and light winter weather
Silicone Windshield Wiper Blades
Similar to conventional blades, these windshield wipers often feature a silicone blade housed in an exposed metal frame. Some brands include a wipe to pretreat the windshield or saturate the blade itself with a water repellent that coats the windshield with each pass of the wiper. This helps water bead up on the windshield for a clearer view.
Silicone wipers cost more than their rubber counterparts, but they also outperform them. In expert comparisons, some brands of silicone blades demonstrated an outstanding ability to keep the windshield clear. This advantage isn’t permanent, though, since silicone wiper blades last about as long as rubber wiper blades. After a few months of use, there is little difference in performance between the two.
Best use: Excellent performance for wet weather
Beam Windshield Wiper Blades
Beam blades are also called flat blades, six-beam blades or bracketless wipers. This style has a slimmer profile because the support no longer comes in the form of a bulky metal frame. Instead, a spring-steel band inside the blade assembly gives it strength and flexibility, molding the blade to the shape of your windshield for even wiping
The sleek design of beam-style wipers is preferable for those that want an inconspicuous wiper for their sports car or prefer a thin style of wipers that tuck out of sight. As a premium-level wiper, expect the cost of beam blades to be significantly higher. However, they will usually last longer, and professional tests show that this is the only style capable of maintaining the same level of performance for more than six months.
Best use: Long-lasting, slim wipers for rainy days
Winter Windshield Wiper Blades
Winter wiper blades encase the metal framework in a thick boot, which prevents snow and ice from jamming the wiper assembly. A well-made winter wiper also features a heavy-duty frame and stiffer blades; together these are better suited for removing weighty snow and tenacious ice.
Although these are the best windshield wiper blades for winter conditions, they’re a bit of overkill for year-round use. You can swap the winter blades at the same time you change to winter tires, rotating back to regular wiper blades again in the spring.
Best use: Sturdy wiper blades for clearing snow and ice
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 the best windshield wiper blades for your area, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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As a freelance automotive writer, I create articles, how-to guides, web content and white papers for online magazine site and automotive companies. I passionately believe that cars and motorcycles should be appreciated for the works of art they are, and fantasize about owning a white Ducati 899 Panigale to display in my living room. I am currently the Corvette expert at About.com, cover alternatively-fueled vehicles and technology at HybridCars.com, and hold the imaginary title of Formula One test driver on the back roads surrounding my Oregon home.