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I Can See Clearly Now! A Lesson on Winter Wipers

We asked Trent Pickering of Pickering’s Auto Service what’s one of the most ignored part of an automobile.  His answer surprised us!  It wasn’t tires or engine oil.  He didn’t say transmission fluids or the brake system.   “Windshield wipers” was his answer.

“About the only time that drivers think about their wiper blades is when they can’t see clearly while driving, and by then it’s too late.”

Your windshield wipers are very important to your safe driving efforts.  Pouring rain, slushy sleet, mucky mud, heavy snow – each season has a weather event that makes it important to pay attention to your windshield wiper blades.

And, while we are talking about the seasonal changes; did you know that your wiper blades should be changed up in different driving conditions, just like your tires?

Let’s talk about winter.

Cold weather locales can wreak havoc on your wiper blades.   As snow and ice builds up and then freezes, the blades can get stuck to the windshield requiring that they be chipped away…often damaging the rubber on the blade. 

The wiper motor can also take a beating with the weight of the snow.  What often happens is that you arrive home and have had your wipers on.  You exit the car failing to turn the wipers to the “off” position. Overnight, snow falls and the weight of the snow is too much for the motor. In the morning, because it’s in the “on” position it just keeps trying to clear the snow from your windshield.  If the weight is just too much, it eventually burns the motor out.  Pickering’s Auto Service in Lakewood and Arvada Colorado see this happen to a lot of vehicles because of the weather in their coverage area.

“It’s a repair expense that can be avoided with just a little thought and preparation,” says Pickering.

To prevent this from happening, many drivers believe it is best to place their wiper arms up and away from the windshield.  That way if the wipers are left on – no harm, no foul.  And, as an added bonus, it makes it easier to clear your windshield completely with the wipers up and out of the way.  Certain wiper blade manufacturers even suggest that you lift your wiper blades up to protect the rubber, should a storm or freezing temperatures be in the forecast. 

Sounds like we have a winning solution to this cold season problem, right?  Not so fast…

Others in this industry claim that you should leave the wiper blades down because you can damage or weaken the springs on the wiper arm.  Additionally, when the wiper blades are left up, these items are easily and frequently damaged by vandalism.

So what’s the right answer? You should know this before you make your decision:  cold weather causes windshield glass to become brittle.  You probably already know that cold temperatures and temperature fluctuations will often cause a chipped windshield to run and crack. Previous cracks usually become bigger, longer and deeper when the temps drop.  So before you decide that leaving your wiper blade in the up position is the best option, consider what might happen if the wiper arm gets caught by the wind and is blown down, striking the windshield when it’s cold. You have a very good chance of waking up to a cracked – or even shattered windshield!

Although this doesn’t solve the “up” or “down” wiper position battle, you should also be aware that there is such a thing as winter wiper blades.  These seasonal blades are built more durable to handle heavy snow and freezing rain.

Regardless of what you decide to do remember that it’s recommended that you change your wiper blades every 6-12 months at minimum, as they become less effective as time passes. Signs that your blades are due to be replaced include:

Streaking: if streaking is a problem, upon inspection you will probably noticed that the rubber on your wiper blades has hardened and is cracked or gouged. The sun’s ultraviolet rays, tree sap or even road tar and grit can cause damage to your blades. 

Smearing: Smearing occurs when the wiper edge is no longer sharp due to wear and tear. Moisture residue is drug across the windshield resulting in cloudiness and impaired visibility.

Squeaking:  Squeaking may occur when the old wiper has a worn rubber blade and the blade does not move smoothly across the windshield any longer.

Chattering: Wiper blades that need to be replaced may skip or vibrate across the windshield.  This can happen when the blades are worn down by hot and cold temperature cycles.  Not using your wipers for a long period of time can also cause chattering.

Also know this: You should never use any liquid other than windshield washer fluid in the wiper reservoir. Using things like dish detergent or dishwasher spot-free additives, etc. can ruin the rubber on the blades.  Also know that the metal section of your wiper blade arms may be affected by use of “foreign” windshield washer fluids.

So even though windshield wipers are a very simple system overall, there is still a lot that can complicate them. Leave it up to the professionals at Pickering’s Auto Service to help you out when it comes to this and other repairs and maintenance needs on your vehicles.

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