Windshield Wipers 101

Although you may always want to drive in dry, sunny conditions, you have to be prepared for when the weather is less than preferential. Mother Nature simply won’t provide good weather all the time. Luckily, your windshield wipers are here to keep your view clear even when rain is pelting at your windshield. Like many simple parts of your car, your windshield wipers are easy to overlook. Don’t wait until something is wrong before you pay attention. Wiper blades are critical for a driver’s ability to see. Here are all the things you need to know about your wiper blades.

The Invention of the Windshield Wiper

In 1903, Mary Anderson was riding a trolley in New York City. She noticed the driver was having trouble seeing through the windshield due to the snow and he was repeatedly reaching around the window to wipe the snow off by hand. When she returned to Alabama, Mary came up with the idea to create a device that would let the driver operate a windshield wiper from the inside of the vehicle. Later that year, she filed for a patent for a window cleaning device with a spring-loaded arm and rubber blade. By turning the handle inside the vehicle, the arm will move water and snow from the windshield. She was rejected by every company. In fact, Henry Ford wouldn’t have started to mass produce his Model T until 1908.

Windshield Wiper Development

Mary Anderson’s idea was not forgotten though. Once vehicles rose in popularity and increased in speed, the need for windshield wipers was essential. Other companies waited for her patent to lapse so they could copy her idea. In 1922, Cadillac began installing the wiper as a piece of standard equipment on its cars. From the early hand-cranked wipers to the later vacuum powered ones, windshield wipers continues to develop through the 1960’s.  In 1962, the intermittent windshield wiper was invented by Robert Kearns. Instead of constantly wiping across the windshield when activated, these wipers could pause for short intervals between wipes without prompting from the driver.

Modern Windshield Wipers

On most cars, the two wiper blades rest parallel to each other and swipe up and down in the same direction. There is also a less popular alternative where the two blades rest in the middle of the windshield and wipe in opposite directions. The rarest option is one with two blades that rest vertically on the sides of the windshield and some cars even have a single wiper blade that cleans most of the windshield with one swipe.

No matter the type, every windshield wiper is made of:

  • Blades
  • Motor
  • Arm
  • Transmission
  • Tanks, tubes and windshield wiper fluid pump

How To Tell if Your Windshield Wipers Need Replacing?

The more you use your wiper blades, the faster they wear out. However, even when there are noticeable problems, most drivers will avoid replacing them. Wiper blades should be replaced every 6 months to 1 year based on the following factors.


  • Extremely sunny conditions can wear down rubber and cause it to crack.
  • Freezing winter temperatures can also prematurely age wiper blades

Blade Material:

  • Rubber wiper blades are usually the cheapest, but they also wear out fastest.
  • Blades made from stronger materials, such as silicone or halogen-hardened rubber, may last over a year.

Overall, it is pretty easy to tell when your wiper blades are past their prime.

  • They make a chattering sound or a scraping sound on your windshield
  • They will leave behind streaks as they pass back and forth
  • The rubber on the wiper blades will be cracked or broken
  • They do not reach all the areas of your windshield

When replacing your wiper blades, replace all of them, including your rear blade.

Wiper Blade Care

There are a few things you can do extend the life of your wiper blades. Regular cleaning with a damp paper towel will remove any dirt, road tar, or grime from the blade. Removing built-up gunk will allow the wiper to connect with the windshield better, eliminating streaks and smears. Cleaning your entire windshield will also help this. During the winter, position your wiper blades away from the windshield. This keeps the blades from freezing to the window. Along the same lines, don’t use your blades to scrape ice off your windshield.

Having the correct windshield wipers is important. The wrong size can result in diminished performance and can even damage the wiper system itself. Take the guesswork out of your windshield wipers and take it to the Auto Clinic of Stuart. We will help you get on the road safely and make sure your vehicle stays in good working condition.