Windshield wipers are among any car or truck’s most important safety features – and maybe the most frequently forgotten. If you’ve ignored them for months or years, even a modest rainstorm will leave you with a blurry and potentially dangerous view of the road.
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Thankfully, replacing your windshield wipers is inexpensive and easy.
Here are the steps to replace your windshield wipers.
Step 1: How to Choose the Right Replacement Windshield Wipers
There are two main things to consider when picking new wiper blades: do they fit your needs, and do they fit your car?
If you live in a tropical environment, it may not make sense to pay extra for models that focus on being cold-resistant or for ice. Conversely, if you regularly dig your car out of a snowbank before work, you’d regret skipping the upgrade when the blade is frozen to your windshield.
Your owners’ manual may recommend a specific style or brand of wiper, and it’s always a safe bet to follow their lead. This is especially true for luxury, exotic, or otherwise rare vehicles.
For the most part, you’ll be perfectly fine with any mid-range wiper blade on the market. Watch out for “premium” blades that overpromise on features and cheap knockoffs that won’t clear the windshield properly.
What Size Windshield Wipers Fit on My Car?
Since vehicles vary in size and shape, so do wipers. Larger windshields require longer blades, so you’ll need to check what size you need before purchasing. In some cases, the driver and passenger side blades are different lengths, so you’ll need to keep that in mind too.
Additionally, different models may use different styles of connectors to attach the wiper to the windshield.
There are several ways you can figure out the size you need:
- Check your owner’s manual. Often, manufacturers will provide the exact size and style of connector for you to reference. Most manuals are now available online for easy referencing.
- Many auto parts stores will provide paper or digital reference tools in the windshield wiper aisle. You can search for your car’s year, make, and model to find the exact product(s) they have in stock that will fit.
- Ask an expert. Either a salesperson in the store or your mechanic can help you find what you need.
Of course, if you are overwhelmed or unable to do the work yourself, any mechanic will happily provide that service.
Use our Service Center Search to find a great mechanic near you.
Step 2: How to Remove Your Old Windshield Wipers
To make them easier to remove, run your wipers with your vehicle in Park. Then turn off the engine when the blades are midway through a wipe. This will make the wipers easier to reach.
Once they’re in position, pull the old wipers and wiper-arm mechanism up and away from the windshield. You should feel the blade reach maximum extension at about 90 degrees from the windshield. Don’t force the arm past that point, or it could break.
Now, carefully remove the worn-out blade. Often, there are tabs or a button where the wiper arm meets the blade assembly. You can press the tab to unlock the mechanism. Mechanisms get dirty from mud and road salt, so it may take some extra pressure to release the tabs.
The blade will usually separate from the wiper arm with a click. You may then need to slide it off or twist the blade if it’s held in place with a J-hook connection.
Warning: Use a blanket or towel to protect your hood and windshield while working. It’s not uncommon to accidentally nudge the wiper arm and have it snap back into place against the windshield. The metal arm can crack or otherwise seriously damage the windshield without the blade attached.
Step 3: How to Install Your Replacement Windshield Wipers
Putting new wipers back onto the wiper arm mechanism is essentially the reverse of what you did to remove the old ones.
If your new wiper clicks into place by pressing metal or plastic tabs, slide it on and press. Once you hear the ‘click,’ your new wipers are ready for action.
The job is slightly more complicated if a metal pin or J-hook is involved when you remove the old wiper. With a pin system, it’s mainly about positioning the wiper blade to align correctly with the wiper arm. Many pins automatically lock into place once inserted into the connection point, or you may need to pull or push a small flap out of the way first to engage the lock.
A J-hook system requires positioning the metal hook through the wiper connection point. Once again, there will likely be a flap or rotating section where the blade and wiper arm meet. Like a pin, many J-hooks lock into place with a firm (but not too firm) push.
If you’re struggling to install a new wiper blade, chances are something isn’t aligning correctly.
Step 4: How to Test Your New Windshield Wipers
After installing your new windshield wiper blades, turn them on and spray some washer fluid over the windshield to test them out.
Look for any issues, such as:
- Missed spots or streaks after the blade passes.
- Wobbly or otherwise loose-fitting blades.
- Any unusual scraping or squeaking noises.
If any of the above happens, readjust the blades to ensure they are correctly aligned and locked into place. This way, you won’t discover the issue the hard way the next time it rains.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Replace My Windshield Wipers Myself?
Absolutely. Replacing windshield wipers is one maintenance task that nearly anyone can do.
Here’s the tricky part: Not all wipers are installed the same way. Some use J-hook connections with tabs. Others unclip with the push of a center-mounted button. Some versions are held in place with a metal pin, while others have a rubber blade that slides off the wiper arm.
In the example images, our vehicle uses a J-hook, but if your car has a different connector, the steps are the same. The blade packaging (and your owner’s’ manual) should have instructions for your specific connector.
When Should I Change My Windshield Wipers?
The most obvious sign that your wiper blades are worn out is streaky windows. If it’s raining and the blades are no longer clearing the windshield properly, it’s time for new ones.
Additionally, the wiper blade’s rubber can dry out and crack apart, or the hinges that help the blade conform to the window’s curve may lock up.
Of course, the sun almost always shines in some parts of the country. If you live in one of these pockets, consider yourself lucky, but keep in mind that heat, humidity, and harsh UV rays can damage wipers too.
The point is this: No matter where you call home, don’t ignore the health of your car’s wiper blades.
How Long Do Windshield Wipers Last?
You can expect to get six months to a year of use from a pair of wiper blades. If you’re starting to worry that your car’s windshield wipers are overdue to be replaced, then you’re probably right. It’s never too late to start some good wiper habits.
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