Changing your windshield wipers helps keep you and others safe in low-visibility conditions, from rain and snow to dust and mud. It can also save you money on a service-station visit.
We’ll walk you through how and when to change your windshield wipers, and the types of wipers that are standard on older and newer cars.
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Can Anyone Replace Windshield Wipers?
Changing your windshield wipers may be one of the easiest DIY car-maintenance tasks. All you need is a needle-nose pliers and an old towel to protect the windshield. And wiper blades can be pretty inexpensive — as little as $12 per set.
Types of Wiper Blades
There are three main types of wiper blades to choose from, each with a different price point.
The most common type of wiper blades is the standard, where a rubber squeegee is held by a metal frame. The frame pivots to keep the squeegee angled properly against the windshield. You’ll find affordable standard wipers on most older cars.
The newer beam design features a solid piece of rubber serving as frame and squeegee. Instead of pivoting, the wiper is curved to maintain contact with the windshield. Without a metal frame, this wiper is less likely to get clogged with leaves or ice.
Beam wipers are more efficient and last longer. However, they’re also more expensive. Luxury vehicles tend to feature beam-style wipers because they’re seen as more sleek and modern.
This style of wiper has nothing to do with hybrid cars. The hybrid wiper has a metal frame, like the standard, but an updated blade design that’s more efficient. These wipers are priced between the low-cost standard and the higher-cost beam.
While some drivers may choose their wipers based on how much their car is worth (cheap car = cheap wipers), remember that safety is the most important factor.
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Getting Ready To Change Wiper Blades
The prep work is pretty simple, but we’ll break it down anyway.
If this type of project is up your alley, check out other ways to save on car maintenance.
Know Which Part of the Blade To Change
Standard windshield wipers contain three main parts: a lower wiper arm, a blade that connects to the arm, and a rubber liner that wipes off your windshield. It’s the rubber refill that typically needs to be changed. Beam-style wipers have only two parts: the arm and the rubber blade.
Measure the Blade You Have
Measure both of your wiper blades — the driver’s side and the passenger’s side may not be the same length.
Buy Replacement Blades
Many auto-parts store websites feature parts-finder tools that allow you to match the type of wiper to your make and model of car. At the auto-parts store, measure the replacements to make sure you’re getting the exact same size as what you currently have.
By the way, windshield wiper replacements aren’t covered by car insurance, nor do they count toward your insurance deductible.
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Installing New Wiper Blades
All it takes is three steps to remove the old wipers and insert the new ones.
Unhook the Old Wiper Blade
For standard wipers, gently pull the arm of the wiper away from the windshield glass. You may want to place a folded towel against the glass just in case you accidentally let the wiper go. Flip the rubber blade so it goes bottoms-up. Find the retaining clips near the end of the blade. Use pliers to pinch them together so you can slide out the blade.
Another style of connector is the J-hook, named for the J shape at the end of the blade. J-hooks have a tab that must be lifted or pushed to release the blade. Once released, pull the wiper down toward the base to remove it.
Insert the New Wiper
Slide the replacement blade into the same place where you just removed the old one. Make sure that the replacement blade is between the clips so they won’t scratch your windshield. Then make sure that the last clip clicks into place. Gently turn the arm back to its normal position, and release the arm of the blade.
Make sure to test your blades while parked. You don’t want an improperly attached blade flying off on a rainy day!
When To Change Wipers
There are a few reasons you might want to replace your windshield wipers. Consider keeping a pair of replacement blades in your trunk or garage so that you have them when you need them.
It’s recommended that you change both wipers at the same time, even if only one is giving you trouble. Now is a good time to check your wiper fluid as well.
How Often To Change Wipers
Experts recommend changing wiper blades every year. But it depends on what type you have and how hard they have to work. Inexpensive standard wipers should be replaced every six months. Beam-style blades last twice as long.
In regions with long, icy winters and/or dry, dusty summers, you may need to replace your blades more frequently. In balmier climates, every two years might be sufficient. To be on the safe side, you can proactively change them at predetermined intervals — possibly at the same time as your personal insurance planning check-in.
Periodically check the wipers for cracks or tears, even if you haven’t noticed any problems. Also check to see if any small chunks are missing. You don’t want to wait till you’re driving in the rain to discover a problem.
Wipers Leaving Streaks
If your blades leave streaks, this likely means that they’ve outlived their useful life. If in doubt, change your blades.
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Changing out windshield wipers is an easy maintenance task that anyone can handle. However, some auto-parts stores will install wipers for free with their purchase. Older cars tend to feature standard wipers, which have a metal frame holding a rubber blade. Newer cars commonly have one-piece, “beam-style” wipers. Beam wipers are more efficient and last longer, but are also more expensive. Standard wipers are less expensive but don’t last as long. It’s a good idea to change your wipers every six to 12 months — more if you live in an area with extreme winters.
Here’s another way to protect yourself behind the wheel: getting the right auto insurance. SoFi has partnered with Gabi to use a blend of technology and human interaction to provide you with multiple insurance quotes from top insurers in just minutes.
Can you replace a windshield wiper yourself?
This is one of the easiest car maintenance tasks, so yes. You can replace them yourself with just a pair of needle-nose pliers and a towel to protect your windshield.
Is it cheaper to replace windshield wipers yourself?
It can be. If you buy windshield blades online, they can be as low as $12-16 per set. In an auto-parts store, they can go for $23-38 per set or more — though some stores will install them for you free.
Is it easy to install wiper blades?
Fortunately, there are just a couple of simple steps involved to remove the blades and put new ones on. Although everyone defines “easy” differently, this is one of the more straightforward car maintenance tasks.
Photo credit: iStock/hxyume
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