You might take them for granted — until it rains, and suddenly your safety depends on them. Windshield wipers always need to stay in top condition because you never know when you’ll need them to help you see the road.
Wipers take a beating from extreme temperatures, acid rain, road salt, sand, and ice scraper abuse. The rubber can crack, split, tear, become contaminated with road film or chemicals or warp from long exposure to heat, cold or ice. Improvements are being made in blade materials, but air pollution still takes its toll.
You can clear up many windshield problems by replacing the blades. If water beads up on the glass, or if wiper action creates a hazy, oily film, clean the glass and replace the blades. Beading and hazing are most often caused by car wax build-up or driving behind a vehicle that was losing brake fluid or engine oil. If wipers leave streaks or “skip” on each stroke, the arm may be bent or applying incorrect pressure. Blades and arms should be inspected every four to six months.
Meanwhile, every time you wash your car (weekly, hopefully), clean the rubber blade with a mild detergent and rinse with water. You’ll remove most pollutants attacking the rubber, help increase blade life and reduce windshield smearing. If taking a rear wiper-equipped Subaru through a commercial car wash, temporarily tape the rear wiper to the glass to avoid damage during the wash.