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How Long Windshield Wipers Last and How to Replace Them

Understanding how long windshield wipers last and when to get a wiper replacement is crucial as you venture out on your road trip. These components are not only vital for safety and required by law to be in functioning condition to operate on the road. 

You don’t have to be a magician to go from streak to shine. Today, we are taking a closer look at signs that it is time for a windshield wiper replacement and how to replace them. Let’s dive in!

How to Change Wiper Blades on a Honda Civic

What Causes Windshield Wipers Wear Out?

There are a wide range of reasons why your windshield wipers wear down. Continuous exposure to harsh weather conditions, like extreme heat, ice, and UV ray exposure, will wear out the rubber blades over time. Additionally, dirt, debris, and road grime accumulate on the windshield’s surface, leading to increased friction and wear on the wiper blades. Furthermore, if you live in a rainy or snowy location where you repeatedly use your wipers, the excessive wear will shorten their lifespan.

How Long Do Windshield Wipers Last?

The lifespan of windshield wipers can vary depending on usage and environmental conditions. On average, high-quality wiper blades can last anywhere between one to three years before showing signs of wear. However, extreme weather conditions and frequent use can shorten their lifespan up to a single season or 6 months. Regular maintenance like cleaning the wiper blades and windshield can help prolong their effectiveness and durability. It’s essential to keep an eye out for signs of deterioration, like streaks, skipping, or uneven wiping. Replacing worn-out wipers ensures clear visibility and safer driving in adverse weather.

Streaky windshield showing it is time for a windshield wiper replacement
Even some windshield wash fluids can damage wiper blade material

Signs It’s Time for a Windshield Wiper Replacement 

As your windshield wipers age, several telltale signs indicate it’s time for a replacement. Keep an eye out for the following signs to determine if it’s time for you to replace your windshield wipers.

The Rubber Is Cracking or Peeling

When you notice visible cracks or peeling on the rubber of your windshield wipers, it’s a clear sign that they are reaching the end of their lifespan. Cracked rubber blades can lead to inefficient wiping, leaving streaks, and reducing visibility during rainy or snowy conditions. Replacing the worn-out wiper blades promptly will ensure a clean and unobstructed windshield, enhancing safety on the road.

The Wipers Make a Squeaking Sound

If you can’t see any wear on your wipers, you may hear it. If your windshield wipers emit a persistent squeaking or chattering noise while in use, it may indicate that the rubber has damage or is dried out. This issue can lead to poor contact with the windshield, resulting in uneven wiping or a streaky finish.

There Are Streaks After Using

Streaks or smudges on the windshield are not only annoying but can be hazardous if they obstruct your view. If your wipers leave streaks on your windshield, it is a sign it is time to install new wiper blades for a clear and streak-free windshield. Regularly inspecting and replacing the wiper blades when streaks appear is crucial for maintaining optimal visibility on the road.

Pro Tip: Need a new windshield? Check out our guide on RV Windshield Replacement: Everything You Need to Know.

Man doing windshield wiper replacement
Streaks and squeaks are signs it may be time to replace your windshield wipers.

How to  Fix Streaky Windshield Wipers

Before you replace your windshield wipers, you can use a few simple at-home DIYs to extend their life cycle. We’ll take a closer look at what to try.

Wash With Warm Soapy Water

Before you replace your streaky windshield wipers, you can try washing them with warm soapy water and a soft cloth or sponge first. This will help remove dirt, grime, and residue buildup from the rubber blades that may be leaving streaks behind on your windshield. 

Apply Rubbing Alcohol

Contaminants on the wiper blades can create stubborn streaks that soap can’t remove. Rubbing alcohol can be effective. Dampen a clean cloth with rubbing alcohol and gently wipe the rubber blades to remove any stubborn residue. However, continual use of rubbing alcohol can dry out the wiper blades, causing the rubber to crack.

Try Using a Wiper Trimmer 

A wiper blade trimmer is a tool to reshape and restore the edges of windshield wiper blades. If the wiper blades’ edges are uneven or jagged, a wiper trimmer can smooth and reshape the rubber. This tool helps to trim away any damaged edges, optimizing the blades’ contact with the windshield and reducing streaks and skipping. Keep in mind that these tools remove the original edge of the blade and have the possibility of damaging it. We recommend having a set of new blades on hand if you plan to use one of these. If it works, great! you can extend the replacement interval, if not switch it out.

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Get a Windshield Wiper Replacement

When streaks persist despite cleaning and maintenance efforts, it’s a clear sign that the wiper blades are past their prime and need replacement. Choose high-quality replacement blades compatible with your vehicle’s make and model. This can ensure efficient wiping and improved visibility during inclement weather. Stores like Walmart and AutoZone sell affordable wiper blades that you can replace yourself or hire someone to replace for you.

Apply a Windshield Coating 

Adding a hydrophobic coating, like Rain-X, can enhance wiper performance and reduce streaks. These coatings create a water-repellent surface on the windshield, allowing rainwater to bead and roll off more easily. Combining a hydrophobic coating with correctly-functioning wipers results in a clearer windshield and a safer driving experience in wet conditions. These coatings can also help elongate blade life by reducing friction with the windshield. We personally are huge fans of rainx and use it on all our vehicles.

motorhome with rainx
Even our motorhome has a good coating of RainX on the windshield which helps enormously with visibility.

How Much Does a Windshield Wiper Replacement Cost?

The cost of a windshield wiper replacement varies based on factors like wiper blade type, vehicle make, and brand. On average, standard wiper blades can range from $10 to $30 per pair, while premium options with advanced features may cost up to $50 or more. However, if you are not replacing your windshield wipers yourself and opt for professional installation, you’ll incur additional labor costs from the auto repair shop. 

While it may be tempting to buy the cheaper wiper replacement option, investing in higher-quality wiper blades can lead to better performance and longer-lasting results, ultimately saving you money.

Pro Tip: Install RV windshield curtains for some Extra Privacy and Insulation on the Road.

Caitlin from Mortons on the Move driving to Tuktoyaktuk
Streak free views are essential for safe driving and enjoying scenic views on your road trip.

Beam Vs Standard Blades

Beam blades are a type that uses a single piece of material to create the curve and hold the rubber blade. Standard blades use a more complex metal structure to hold the thin blade in place. While beam blades tend to look cleaner and have a more aerodynamic performance, they don’t always wipe better.

Packaging and manufacturers claim they are a superior wipe, but we have found they don’t always work for all vehicles. Some vehicles with multi-curve windshields need wipers that will conform to a different shape. Beam blades are great for flat windshields but sometimes fall short on steeper curves. You might find them missing a corner.

Beam blades do tend to perform better in freezing conditions where ice and snow might get caught in standard blade metal structures. This will cause standard blades to not flex properly and miss parts of the windshield.

We suggest sticking with whatever type of blade has worked in the past for your vehicle. If you are having problems, however, trying the other type might help.

Can You Replace Windshield Wipers Yourself?

Doing a windshield wiper replacement yourself is a relatively simple task. Other than the replacement wiper blades, no other special tools are necessary. Buy wiper blades that are compatible with your vehicle’s make and model. Refer to the owner’s manual or use an online wiper blade size finder to determine the correct size for your car. 

Carefully lift the wiper arms away from the windshield. Place them in a vertical position to access the old wiper blades. Locate the release tab or button on the wiper blade connector. Press or slide it to detach the old wiper blades from the wiper arm.

WARNING: Avoid dropping the wiper boom on the windshield without a wiper attached to prevent potential damage or cracks to the glass. (I found out the hard way)

Align the new wiper blades with the wiper arm’s connector. Next, secure them in place by pushing or sliding the connector until it clicks into position. Ensure the blades are securely attached to avoid any potential hazards while driving. Gently lower the wiper arms onto the windshield. The wiper blades should rest smoothly on the glass and not be in contact with any obstacles that might hinder their movement. Test the new wiper blades by turning on your wiper system and checking for smooth and effective operation. Look for any streaks, skipping, or unusual noises that might indicate an improper installation. 

Streak Free Windshield Wiper Hack | Car Detailing Tips and Tricks

Go Streak Free on Your Next Road Trip

By keeping an eye on the signs of worn-out wipers and knowing how to fix streaky blades, you can ensure a clear and unobstructed view during your next road trip. With safety as a top priority, a windshield wiper replacement can help with reduced visibility during rain or snow. So, take charge of your wiper maintenance, and enjoy a streak-free journey. Remember, a clear view keeps you safe and allows you to fully appreciate the wonders of the open road.

When was the last time you replaced your windshield wipers? Tell us in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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