If you’re anything like me, you strongly dislike doing routine maintenance on your car. Things like swapping out your wipers and doing oil changes are necessary, but can you wait longer before you have to do it again? In the case of windshield wipers, you can.
The easiest way to extend your wiper’s life is to pick a high-quality option and keep it clean. Using soapy water, alcohol wipes, and towels to routinely clean your wiper and windshield will extend its life. Make sure you only use wipers for squeegeeing water from your glass and you never use them on dry glass.
In this guide, I’m going to highlight 17 ways that you can extend the life of your windshield wipers, effectively pushing back how often you need to swap them. Along the way, I’ll provide some key definitions and get into some of the science behind how wipers work and why they wear out in the first place.
Quick Definition: What Are Wipers?
I probably don’t have to explain this, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page. Your windshield wipers are the black rubber-lined pieces that are in contact with your windshield.
There’s an arm that extends from the hood of your car that articulates the wipers. As your wipers move in an arced path, they are squeegeeing your windshield.
The only job that your wiper has is to keep water droplets off of your windshield. They’re not there to clear snow, ice, dirt, dust, or pollen. I’m going to explain this concept a lot more as this guide continues.
I should also mention that only the rubber part of your wiper should ever be in contact with the glass of your windshield. If the metal or plastic drags at all, something’s wrong.
Wait, Wipers Have a Shelf Life?
Did you know that wipers have a shelf life? If you didn’t, then it’s probably time to change your car’s windshield wipers. Yes, wipers will wear down over time. Under poor conditions, you could be replacing your wipers every three or four months. However, there are some relatively easy steps you can do to extend the life of your wipers.
What Causes Windshield Wipers to Die?
Even though windshield wipers play an important role, they’re surprisingly delicate. Wipers are made from a metal spine and a rubber strip put over the metal. There’s some metal framework that keeps it all together and ensures the wiper pushes against the glass as it wipes.
Still, the only thing in contact with your glass is a thin strip of rubber. Rubber, as a material, comes with a few flaws. These same flaws are the reason why wipers die in the first place.
As you probably know, the rubber wears out very quickly. Think of the eraser on your pencil, after just one use you can notice a difference.
However, rubber only wears out when there’s friction present. If you rubbed an eraser in a vat of oil, the rubber would stay intact. It’s only when the eraser is pushed against a piece of paper that it starts to break down.
The same is true for your windshield wipers. As the rubber comes in contact with friction, it starts to wear down.
If you look at a wiper going across a well-lubricated windshield, you’ll find very little friction. That’s the main purpose of your wiper fluid — it adds a protective layer on top of your windshield, minimizing the friction and keeping your wiper’s rubber safe.
If you look at the same wiper going over a dirty windshield with pockets of ice on it, it’s a whole different story. The added contaminants have high hardness values and a lot of extra friction. As a result, the rubber of your wiper will pay the price. The rubber will break down, cracks will form, and it will start to fail.
Even if you never touch your wipers, you’ll need to replace them after a certain period of time. Why? Oxidation and chemical breakdown.
Your rubber has some added oils within the material that will break down over time. This is an unavoidable chemical reaction.
In addition, oxygen in the air will start degrading your wipers. It will actually cause your wiper to rot. You’ll notice that your wipers will turn a grayish color, they’ll become brittle to the touch, and cracks will form on the rubber.
Another rubber killer is changing temperatures. Every time your wiper heats up then cools down, you’re one step closer to replacing your wipers.
After heating and cooling a blade repeatedly, it will become cracked and deformed.
When rubber gets hot, it gets really flexible and loose. When it cools down, it stiffens up. This constantly changing material property will cause the bonds within the rubber to break down. After enough cycles, the rubber will simply fall apart and become unusable.
Understand that Wipers Will Die No Matter What
I also wanted to point out something before getting too far into this article: your windshield wipers are going to die no matter what. They are a sacrificial part of your car that needs to be replaced, even if you do everything right.
Typically, I suggest replacing your wipers every year. If you really take care of them and get higher-quality blades, then you can push that out to two years or so. After a while, you just need to know what to look for.
You should replace them when you notice the rubber wearing or hear squeaking while you use the wipers. I’ll explain these ideas in-depth in the following section.
Why Bother Extending the Life, Then?
If wipers were built to be replaced, what’s the point of extending their life at all? It’s a good question, and it all boils down to a few key concepts: money, protecting your windshield, convenience, and safety.
Extend Your Money
If you buy a set of wipers for $30, wouldn’t you want to extend that money as far as it can possibly go? If you make common mistakes that people often do with their wipers, you could be throwing away $30 every three or four months. Alternatively, you can take care of your blades and make that $30 last well over a year.
Forgetfulness Can Hurt Your Windshield
If you’re forgetful like me, simply remembering to swap out your wiper blades is huge. There have been times when I went months forgetting to change my blades. Every time I would get in the car and turn on my wipers, I would tell myself to remember to swap them, but then I’d end up forgetting again.
During that time, extensive damage could be done to your windshield. If your wiper is falling apart, the glass of your windshield is paying the price. Scratches will start to form and get larger while the surface of the window becomes even rougher.
It’s an Added Inconvenience
Sure, changing out your blades takes maybe five minutes tops. The real inconvenience comes from picking up the wipers and bringing them home.
If nothing else, extending your current blades will save you a trip to the auto part shop in the future.
It’s also a pain to try to remember what size wipers you have. Putting on the wrong size can lead to disastrous situations where you can’t see the next time it rains.
It Can Be Unsafe
A streaky windshield is really hard to see out of. If your wipers are due for a replacement, they’ll streak rain on your glass instead of wiping it away. Suddenly, you’re going at highway speeds with impaired vision.
Taking care of your wipers and extending their lives will help you prevent this scenario.
Pro Tip: Replace Your Own Wipers
Even if you’re not mechanically savvy or a big DIYer, replacing your wipers should always be done on your own. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that it takes five minutes to fully replace your wipers, and you don’t need to know anything about cars.
Most of the five minutes are spent taking the wipers out of their packaging. I don’t understand why they make the packages so hard to open.
I’ve been changing wipers since I was in middle school, so I have confidence that you can do it. Most wipers actually have pictorial instructions on the back of the packaging that shows you exactly how to swap them on your own.
If you have a mechanic or dealership change your wipers, they’ll charge you a ridiculous amount and you’ll waste time driving there and waiting. An honest mechanic with whom you have a rapport might do it for free, but I can’t make any promises.
17 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Windshield Wipers
To extend the life of your wipers, I put together this shortlist. Take a look at these 17 ways and give them a try.
1. Never Use Them on Dry Glass
First and foremost, your wipers should never be used on dry glass. The rubber isn’t built to be rubbed against the glass without a lubricant between the two surfaces — which is why wiper fluid exists.
Your windshield isn’t perfectly smooth, it actually has a good deal of surface-level friction. When the wiper is dragged over the dry windshield glass, the friction from the glass does some serious damage to the rubber of your wiper.
It will wear out your wipers a lot quicker. At the same time, the rubber can make cracks on your windshield even worse.
To avoid this issue, only use your windshield wipers when the glass is wet enough. That can happen from rain or spraying wiper fluid before turning on the blades.
2. Avoid Parking in Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight can break down the rubber of your wipers even quicker. As your wipers heat up and cool, the rubber becomes softer and then harder. Every time there’s a temperature change, the rubber gets more brittle and can develop cracks.
If you park outside for long enough, the rubber will degrade and need to be replaced.
3. Park in a Garage
In fact, you should park in a garage whenever possible. Not only does this help you avoid direct sunlight, but it also helps moderate the temperature of your blades.
Ideally, a windshield wiper will stay at a constant temperature throughout its life. This isn’t realistic (unless you live in San Diego, I guess), so the next best thing is to control where you park it.
Even a covered parking garage would be a good option here.
4. Wipe Them Bi-Weekly
Every two weeks you should wipe your wipers. That sounds like a strange idea, but it can seriously extend the life of your blades.
As you drive along, grime and dirt build up on the rubber of your car. These foreign contaminants have a lot of friction and can eat away at the rubber of your blades as you use them.
There’s nothing special you need to do to wipe down the blades. Grab a microfiber towel and wipe the rubber on each blade. If you look at the towel after, you’ll probably see a noticeable amount of dirt that came off of your blades.
5. Keep Your Windshield and Wipers Clean
Cleanliness is another easy way to keep your wipers like-new for longer. Remember, any bit of contamination can wear down the rubber.
For your windshield, I would suggest using a glass cleaner like Windex. It works really well and most people already have a bottle somewhere in their homes.
For the blades, soapy water and a microfiber towel will work wonders. This goes beyond the bi-weekly wiping that I mentioned a second ago. Instead, you want to clean your blades and remove any dirt that is hiding in the rubber.
If you wash your car semi-regularly, then this would be a good time to deal with your wipers and windshield. The wipers can be cleaned as you wash your car, but the Windex should be applied after washing and drying your car.
6. Put Them Up Before Inclement Weather
Have you ever walked in a parking lot before a big snowstorm or especially cold day and saw a lot of wipers pointed to the sky? What might seem like a cultist ritual is actually a way to prevent premature death for your wipers.
Here’s why it works: snow and ice will tear apart your wiper blades. If your wipers are sitting against the glass of your windshield, you’re creating a shelf for ice and snow to build on. This adds pressure to your blades but also starts wearing them down with abrasive snow and ice.
If it’s cold enough, then ice will fuse your wipers to the glass. You won’t realize this until you turn on your wipers or lift them the next day. After moving your frozen blades, the damage is already done. The rubber will be weaker and will most likely have defects thanks to the ice.
7. Never Use Them on Ice
Speaking of ice, you should avoid it at all costs if you want to keep your wipers healthy for longer. This doesn’t mean that you should move to Florida, it just means that you should never use your wipers as ice scrapers.
Believe me, I know how tempting it is to spray fluid and let your wipers go at their max speed to deal with an iced-over windshield.
While this might be convenient, you are quickly killing your blades. Every time a wiper goes over ice, the rubber becomes weaker. Ice is surprisingly abrasive and can chip away at the rubber of your wipers.
It’s common for a wiper to start squeaking during winter, right after a series of cold days. Why? At that point, the ice did enough damage to crack the rubber and you’re hearing the sound of a defective wiper blade.
8. Inspect the Rubber Routinely
To understand how much life is left on your wipers, you should get into the habit of routinely inspecting them. You don’t have to grab a magnifying glass or any special equipment.
Lift the wiper and take a look across the rubber. You’re looking for cracks, missing chunks, or rubber that’s coming apart. If everything looks good, then squeeze the rubber in a few locations. Check to see if the rubber is stiff or it degrades in your hand.
If you notice any of these flaws, then you’re due for a wiper replacement. Although wipers don’t have to be sold in matching pairs, it’s a good idea to grab two new ones so you don’t forget about the other one down the line.
9. Fix Squeaky Wipers ASAP
Any time something in your car is squeaking, it should ring alarm bells. In the world of physics, a squeak is a clear sign that something’s wrong. Two parts are colliding in a way that they weren’t designed to.
In the case of your windshield, a squeak means that the rubber isn’t at its full health or something’s wrong with your windshield glass.
Whatever is causing the squeak, you should start troubleshooting it immediately. Follow my guide to stop squeaky wipers quickly.
Oftentimes, a squeak means that your wipers need to be replaced.
10. Apply Some Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is a surprisingly good way to rejuvenate your blades. Even after cleaning your blades, there can still be residue and grime that’s latched onto the rubber of your blades. An alcohol wipe will fix this problem.
Grab an alcohol wipe or apply some isopropyl alcohol to a towel. Lift your blades and wipe along the full length of the rubber. You might need to use a second wipe if the first one dries out too quickly.
You won’t have to dry the blades because this type of alcohol dries very quickly. When both blades are done, just give them a minute to air dry then put them back down.
I don’t do this as often as I wash or wipe my blades, but I still do it once a month. It’s a quick process, which makes it nice.
11. Carefully Use Fine-Grit Sandpaper (Yes, Really)
Another pro tip I learned over the years is that you can actually sand down your wipers. It seems like a weird prank, but it’s a legitimate DIY way to bring your wipers back to life.
Over time, the outer layer of rubber will degrade on your blades. Fine-grit sandpaper only takes a little bit of material off at a time. If you use this type of sandpaper on the rubber of your wipers, then you’ll file down the rubber and expose brand-new rubber under the surface.
After carefully scrubbing off the outer layer of deteriorating rubber, you’ll be left with new rubber that will wipe smoothly across your windshield.
However, you should never use sandpaper on your windshield. This will destroy the integrity of your glass and can lead to a full windshield replacement. That’s an expensive and time-consuming mistake to make.
12. Turn Them Off When You Don’t Need Them
It might seem obvious, but the less you use your wipers, the longer they’ll last. Imagine that every windshield wiper has a little “ticker” on it that tells you how many wipes you have until it’s time to replace them.
I bring this up so I can point out the obvious — you should turn off your wipers when you don’t need them.
Even I’m guilty of not doing this. I’ll cruise along through a rain shower then realize a few minutes later that it’s not even raining anymore but my wipers are still on. Your top priority should be focusing on the road, but you should think about turning off your wipers as soon as the rain dies down if you want to preserve your blades.
13. Make Sure You Use Plenty of Wiper Fluid
Whenever you need to use your wipers and it’s not raining hard enough, don’t forget the fluid. Your philosophy with wiper fluid should be that you overuse it. Not using enough will damage your wipers and windshield long-term.
Luckily, windshield wiper fluid is one of the least expensive replaceable parts of your car. That should be a good enough reason to douse your windshield with it whenever you want to run your wipers.
14. Don’t Use Them to Scrub Dirt Off Your Glass
Your windshield wipers are essentially big squeegees. You wouldn’t use a shower squeegee to clean dirt from your kitchen floor, so why would you use your car’s wipers to clean dirt from your windshield?
It’s a common misconception that wipers are the guardians of your windshield. People will use them to clear snow, ice, pollen, and dirt. Be careful with this mentality. This is a very quick way to prematurely kill your wiper blades.
Your wipers use a very delicate rubber. It doesn’t like rubbing against hard, high-friction things like dirt, grime, pollen, ice, and snow.
Instead of using your wipers, use a microfiber towel. If you don’t want to grab your hose and do a full wash, you can use a waterless washer like ONR Wash & Shine. You apply this product to a microfiber towel, use it to wipe your windshield, then use a dry microfiber towel to dry it.
It’s not as fast as using a wiper, but it will save your blades.
15. Consider Using a Wiper Protectant
I very recently learned that there’s a line of products that can protect your windshield wipers. They’re a general-use towel that gets rid of dirt and grime while adding a layer of protection.
A buddy of mine recommended that I try it on my wiper blades, and the results are really nice. It adds a layer of UV protection which is always important for windshield wipers. It also helps keep the rubber moisturized so it doesn’t crack from drying.
16. Opt for High-Quality Wipers
If you want to see serious results, you might need to change the wipers you’re using. The difference between “cheap” and “premium” wipers could equate to a full year of extra use.
Growing up, I would just use the least expensive wipers I found on the shelf. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with them, but I would end up replacing them multiple times a year.
Nearly two years ago, I swapped to some nice Bosch wipers and I haven’t had to replace them since. The impressive part is that the Bosch blades are not six times as expensive as the “cheap” options, but they seem to last at least six times longer.
Wiper blades are definitely an example of getting what you pay for. If you want to minimize the number of times you swap out your wiper blades, pick up a high-quality pair.
17. Try a Rain Treatment on Your Glass
People seem to be pretty split on this subject, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. If you want to make your blades last longer, you should add a “rain-proof” treatment to your windshield.
Specifically, I use a Rain-X treatment which is just a few bucks on Amazon. Use a micro-fiber towel cloth and apply it evenly all over the windshield to coat it with the liquid solution.
The water creates a hydrophobic layer on your windshield. This causes rain droplets to bead up and roll off your glass.
People who oppose using Rain-X will point out that this product adds a layer of polymers to your windshield. It’s true that your wipers weren’t designed to slide over these polymers, but it doesn’t do any damage to your wiper blades or glass.
For those that prefer the solution to automatically coat the windshield via the wiper fluid nozzles, you can also go for this alternative.
Simply add it to the existing windshield wiper fluid reservoir and every time you use the wiper fluid, it’ll automatically coat the windshield portion where the windshield wipers make contact.
It also adds a level of visibility to your windshield when it starts to rain.
The only notable side-effect of these treatments is that your wipers might squeak when you use them. Unlike other squeaking culprits, this one isn’t dangerous. As long as you can ignore the annoying squeak, you have nothing to worry about.
There you have it. I just covered 17 ways to extend the life of your windshield wipers and provided (probably too much) information along the way. If you want to see more DIY guides, explore the rest of my blog. Also, be sure to see what products I highly recommend for any car owner.