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I bring you a public service announcement aimed at fighting waste: If your wipers are bad, you

How To Fix Your Windshield Wipers

How To Fix Your Windshield Wipers

The entire arm has to be replaced. In fact, doing so can be a foolish waste of money and precious natural resources. Instead—as I recently learned wrenching on Project Chrysler—you might consider simply replacing the rubber strip, known as a “reffle.”

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I fully expect the old timers in our audience to email me about how silly it is that I’m writing about windshield wiper refills. “Who doesn’t know that?” they’ll laugh, not realizing that, in fact, many people don’t. When most people arrive at the store to replace their chewed windshield wipers, they are often greeted by a huge selection of wiper blades. You know, these things:

Have you ever wondered why you replace the entire blade? It’s not like the metal runs out. I mean, sometimes it warps a little, and the paint comes off, but for the most part, people replace their wipers because the rubber strip is a little worn. So why not just replace what failed?

This, as I understand it, used to be more common years ago, but nowadays, people just buy new blades, metal housing and all (although some people prefer beam-style blades like the one below).

The flat/beam blades shown above, which have become quite common in the last decade, are not designed to simply replace the rubber bits, but are old-school, standard wiper blades.

Signs That You Need New Windshield Wipers

These are things that are usually metal, and—as auto parts supplier Champion writes—connect a single “central bridge” to a rubber strip through “articulating links” that spring into the wiper arm. I create four to eight pressure points to help. Uniform pressure on the windshield. You’re probably familiar with this style of wiper blade, shown below on the left:

I had to replace the rear beam-style blade on my 1994 Chrysler Voyager (shown at the top of this post), but initially seeing how my arm was set up, I was a bit concerned. The problem is that my blade has integrated washer nozzles, meaning I knew I couldn’t go to the local store here in Germany and grab a new blade. “Crap, I’ll have to order one off eBay and wait a week,” I said aloud.

My mechanic friend Tim told me, “Oh, just change the rubber.” “What?” I asked. For some reason, the idea had never occurred to me, probably because wiper assemblies are so cheap these days. “Yeah, I’ll order a new belt,” Tim continued, “and you’ll at least have it ready for inspection by tomorrow. He called the store and ordered the part.

How To Fix Your Windshield Wipers

He didn’t just select a standard piece to cut to size, even though he could have. Instead, I measured my wiper at about 45cm, and the store ordered the closest size.

How To Change Your Car Wiper Blades

The next day was enlightening. Tim showed me that all I had to do was use pliers to pry out the two long metal strips that held the wiper in place. You can see in the photo below how the metal strips fill the gaps in the rubber, pressing the rubber firmly against the metal wiper “claws”, holding everything in place.

Slide both strips outward, and the floppy, now spineless piece of rubber will slide right out of the claw.

Slide a new wiper “refill” into the claw, and wiggle both strips until they reach the “stop” in the refill (shown below), and you’re all done. This takes a maximum of two minutes if you have a good grip on the thin nose.

Per wiper blade company Trico, a complete blade replacement can be half the price of just a refill. It should come as no surprise that I, as a Certified Cheap Bastard™, fully support these types of cost savings:

Does Putting The Windshield Wipers Up Make Them Last Longer?

I have to say that aside from the cost savings and environmental benefits, replacing the wiper refills is just as satisfying. I’m not sure why. But that’s just it. Try it sometime! Our car experts select every product we offer. We may earn money from links on this page.

Your windshield wipers are among the most important accessories in your car. Get caught in the rain with a bad pair of wipers and your visibility can be drastically reduced, greatly increasing the risk of an incident. And no one likes an incident. That’s why we’ve provided instructions and tips from an expert on how to safely replace your wipers.

McLaren spoke with Philadelphia Senior Technician Kevin Hines to learn the correct way to replace wiper blades efficiently and safely. Hines is North America’s only factory-certified McLaren F1 technician, which means his day job is working on $20 million exotics. If anyone understands replacing wiper blades, it’s him.

How To Fix Your Windshield Wipers

Before reading further, we recommend consulting your car’s owner’s manual for exact instructions on how to replace your vehicle’s wiper blades. Manufacturer’s recommendations may differ from the instructions below.

Why Windscreen Wipers Don’t Return To Their Rest Position

There are many wiper blade options out there, but the main thing is to make sure you have the right blades for your make and model car. When deciding which variant works best for your windshield, look for reputable brands and make an informed decision. If you want to guess, go to the OEM.

If you drive a regular car from a big name brand, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find compatible wipers at your local auto parts or department store. If you drive a less common vehicle, you may have to go online to find a seat that fits.

Most cars do not require tools to replace windshield wiper blades. You will only need both hands. Locate the blade on your car and raise the wiper arm into the air. Usually they will hold themselves in place under spring tension, allowing you to change blades easily around the room. On some cars, you may have to lift the hood to access the armrests.

Now comes the part you have to figure out yourself: how to physically remove the wiper blade from the arm. There are dozens of different manufacturer designs for this connection, but most require a bit of fiddling and some minor twisting to turn the wiper off. We recommend referring to your owner’s manual to find out how to remove the blade from your vehicle without breaking anything.

How To Replace Windshield Wipers

Once your wipers are off, be very careful. “Whenever I do a set of windshield wipers, whether it’s on my personal truck or a McLaren F1, I always protect the windshield with something,” Hines tells us.

With the wiper blades closed, the metal wiper arm is ready to make contact with the glass. If you accidentally hit it while changing the blade, it can slap down and crack the windshield. “I never like to leave the wing in the air without wiper blades,” says Hines. “I was on the verge of tears because of the broken windshields.”

Our suggestion: Take a towel or two and place it on the windshield to act as a barrier between the glass and the wiper arm. That way, if the arm suddenly swings down, it hits the towel and not your fragile windshield. The last thing you want is a quick DIY job to replace a $300 windshield.

How To Fix Your Windshield Wipers

Take the wipers you just removed and place them next to your replacement set. Make sure both are the same size and length and have the same connection points. After confirming that your new wipers will fit, pop them on using the reverse of what you did to remove the old wipers. After securing the new wipers to their respective arms, gently place the arms on the windshield.

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Get in your car, flip on the accessories, and turn on your wipers to make sure they’re working as intended. Make sure they aren’t touching any part of the car they don’t belong in, like the cowl or windshield frame. If they are not, congratulations, you did.

Brian Silvestro is Hearst Autos’ lead deputy editor for classifieds content. He spent more than seven years as a staff writer for Road & Track magazine, and still regularly contributes car reviews, industry interviews, and more. He also enjoys high mileage, rusty projects and amateur endurance racing.

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