Windscreen wipers: helping you see clearly this new year

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Winter’s very firmly upon us and you might well have had a nasty surprise the last time you went to clean your windscreen and found your wipers leaving a streaky mess across the glass.

It’s certainly a bugbear you’ll find among many of the used cars for sale in the UK – new wiper blades are rarely a consideration for sellers and chances are if you’re buying anything less than a brand-new motor you’re only a couple of months away from needing new wiper blades.

Wipers aren’t exciting, but they’re vital bits of safety equipment and as such it’s important to stay on top of maintenance by regularly replacing them.

How long does a set of windscreen wipers last?

For the best performance, you should be replacing your wipers approximately once a year. You might get longer out of a set – for example, cars that are parked in a garage most of the time won’t have so much sunlight to degrade the rubber and may last longer. The same goes for cars you only drive occasionally or don’t often take out in the rain.

To prolong the life of your wipers, you should keep your windscreen clean, especially of gritty debris that could damage both the wiper blades and your windscreen itself. Don’t use the wipers to remove ice on a frosty morning, and don’t just pull them off when they’re frozen to the windscreen – defrost them properly.

When should I replace my wipers?

You’ll notice that your wiper blades require replacement when they stop working as effectively as they should. Wiper blades at the end of their life may leave streaks or upswept areas on the windscreen, or they may judder and scrape across the screen instead of undergoing a smooth sweep.

How do I know which wiper blades I need for my car?

Almost every large retailer that sells windscreen wipers – Halfords, for example, or – has tools that can tell you the right size of blades for your car’s make and model, just by inputting your registration.

Your car’s manufacturer will also be able to tell you the correct size of the blade, and failing that you can always check the old ones before you dispose of them. Wiper blades are measured in mm and are often sold in car-specific sets of two, but if you want a single blade you can purchase them separately.

What kind of wiper blades can I buy?

There are two main types of blades on sale. The first is the old-fashioned type, with a metal linkage called a whippletree to distribute pressure evenly along the length of the blade.

You can also buy more modern ‘flat’ or ‘aero’ wipers, which use a tensioned metal strip along the length of the blade.

Flat wipers tend to last longer and perform more effectively, but you may prefer the old style particularly if you’re fitting them to a classic car.

You can also spend extra money and have blades made of silicon instead of traditional rubber. Silicone is longer-lasting than rubber and clears screens even more effectively, but does cost more.

How should I clean windscreen wipers?

First, clean your windscreen.

You’ll then need a rag or cleaning cloth and a cleaning solution – you can use screenwash, soapy water or even a vinegar/water mixture.

Lift the blades up and run your damp rag along the full length of the wiper blade until it comes away clear and the wipers are fully clean. It’s well worth cleaning the full wiper mechanism while you’re at it, too.

Wipe away the excess with a clean cloth and you’re all set.