Changing out your wiper blades is a common piece of maintenance that most drivers know about. However, not a lot of drivers know the frequency at which they need to swap out the blades.
Yes, wiper blades have a shelf life. It’s probably shorter than you expected. There are variables that will change how long your blades last, but they don’t tend to last longer than a year. Typically, you’ll find yourself replacing them every 3, 6, or 12 months, depending on how often you use them, the quality of the wipers, and where you live and park.
If you don’t know the shelf life of your wiper blades, you came to the right place. I’m going to address whether or not wiper blades have a shelf life, and I’ll answer your questions along the way.
What Do Wipers Do?
The wiper blades are the rubber and metal pieces that touch your windshield. Their only purpose is to clear away obstructions from the glass so you can see through it easier.
Namely, it will get rid of bird droppings or rain that cloud up your window. They make it a lot safer to drive.
How Wiper Blades Work
If you look closely at a wiper, it’s pretty easy to understand how it works. There is a metal spine that supports a strip of rubber. The rubber is the only piece that should be touching the glass of your windshield.
As the arms of the wiper articulate, the wipers go across your windshield.
Do Wiper Blades Have a Shelf Life?
To answer the question: yes, wiper blades have a shelf life.
If you haven’t changed your wipers for enough time, you’ll notice that rain gets smeared across the glass instead of wiped off nicely. This is evidence that your wiper blades have a shelf life.
If there’s anything you should know about rubber, it’s that it wears down pretty quickly. This effect happens even quicker if the rubber comes in contact with a harder material, like glass.
As the rubber squeegees across the windshield and deals with any obstructions on the glass-like dirt and mud, the rubber will wear down. It will crack, defects will form, and the efficiency of the wiper will go down.
However, once they start smearing rain it’s already too late — ideally, you’d want to change the blades before this happens, so you won’t experience the unsafe driving conditions associated with a smeared windshield.
How Long Do Wiper Blades Last?
If you look at the package your wipers came in, you won’t see an expiration date. That’s because the shelf life varies dramatically from user to user (I’ll discuss this idea more later on).
In general, your wipers will last either 3, 6, or 12 months depending on the quality of the wipers. Basic wiper blades might only last about 3 months. Better ones can go 6 months, and top-tier blades can last about 12 months.
Personally, I’ve had wipers that lasted a few years and I had other wipers that were done within a few months.
Signs That You Should Replace Your Wiper Blades
As I keep mentioning, ultimately there are a lot of variables when it comes time to swap out your wiper blades. To make things easier, here are a few signs to look for:
- Streaking. This is when you see arced lines following your wipers as they move.
- Chattering. When the rubber is curved, the blade will vibrate and skip along your windshield. Your wipers are chattering if you see vertical lines across your windshield.
- Squeaking. Listen for squeaky blades. This is a sign that the rubber is aged.
- Visible damage to the rubber. Any time you see a wiper with cracks, splits, or pieces missing, it’s time to replace it.
- Unwiped areas of your windshield. If your wipers pass across your windshield and you notice sections of unwiped rain or dirt, your wipers probably have a crack or deformity in them.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to swap out your blades.
Pro Tip: Keep Backup Blades to Quickly Replace
Personally, I have a set of replacement wiper blades in my garage. The second I notice my blades are smearing, I’ll replace them.
If you’re better at sticking to schedules, you might set a reminder every 3, 6, or 12 months to replace your blades (depending on the quality and level of use). As I mentioned, the best time to replace them is right before they start to smear.
Things That Affect a Blade’s Shelf Life
As I mentioned, there are some variables that will change how long your wiper blades last. Here are some of the big factors:
Amount of Use
First and foremost, your wipers won’t last as long if you use them every day. Of course, this is up to the weather in your area. Cars in Seattle are going to replace their wipers far more often than a driver in Phoenix.
That doesn’t mean that you should resist the urge to wipe away the rain. If you can’t see clearly through your windshield, it’s time to put the wipers to use.
Using the Wipers Incorrectly
Did you know that you should never use wipers on a partially dry windshield? If it’s not raining hard enough or you don’t use your wiper fluid, you could do a lot of damage to your wipers as well as your windshield.
This is where a little judgment has to come in. If you think the windshield is wet enough to run your wipers, then go for it. However, you should never try to wipe off things like pollen, dirt, or bird droppings without dousing the glass with wiper fluid first.
Whether or Not Ice is Involved
In the northern half of America, cold winters are always a concern for drivers. This means learning how to drive in freezing rain, considering winter tires, and dealing with a car that’s too cold to start in the morning.
It also means wipers that can get damaged due to ice.
Here’s another pro tip for you: never use your wipers to get rid of the ice that’s on your windshield. This will quickly do damage to your blades and require you to swap them out sooner.
Ice is surprisingly jagged and tough. As your wipers’ soft rubber goes across this rough surface, it will chew up the rubber. If you do it enough times, you’ll have to replace your wipers.
In addition, you should flip your wiper arms up overnight if you’re expecting freezing temperatures or snow. If you don’t, your wipers can get frozen to your windshield and get damaged as you remove them.
Storage of Your Vehicle
If your car is parked outside, your wipers will wear out quicker. Rubber isn’t very comfortable in the great outdoors. It will crack, curve, harden, and split a lot faster. The result? Blades need to be swapped out more often.
Pollen, Dirt, and Mud
Another downside of parking outside is that you’ll have to deal with pollen, dirt, and mud that cake up on your windshield. Just like ice, these natural annoyances will wear down the rubber on your windshield wipers.
As tempting as it might be to splash wiper fluid and let your wipers go to work each morning, it’s a lot better to quickly wash your windshield instead.
The Quality of the Wipers
There are a lot of different brands and models of wiper blades. Even though their function is the same (and admittedly pretty simple), each wiper is different.
You’ll find options with different types of rubbers, different thicknesses, and completely different shapes. All of these combine to make up the overall quality of the blade.
Higher-quality options will cost more money, but they’ll also last longer. I’ve tried different wipers across the quality spectrum, and I tend to go with the middle-most options. They’re not cheaply made like the inexpensive options, and they don’t cost way too much like the high-quality ones.
This will still boost how long your wipers last as compared to basic wipers.
Remember: Change Your Wipers in Pairs
People have a lot of questions when it comes time to replace your wiper blades. My bit of advice is to always swap them out in pairs.
Even if you just notice one wiper is streaking, the other one’s shelf life is probably right around the corner. It’s going to save you headaches and time if you just swap out both blades at the same time.
It also reduces the risk of accidentally putting the wrong size blade on your wiper.
What Happens if You Forget to Change Your Wiper Blades?
What happens if you forget to change your wiper blades and they’re already streaking and squeaking? It’s not the end of the world. Your windshield won’t shatter, and you won’t notice any mechanical issues.
The biggest problem is that your visibility is going to be worsened as you drive through rain or snow. Since you can’t see as well, you’ll be in a more unsafe position.
In addition, going too long without changing your wipers could do some damage to your windshield. One of the worse scenarios is if the rubber becomes far too degraded increasing the risk of the car windshield being scratched by the wiper’s metal components.
Remembering to change out your wiper blades routinely will help you drive safer and keep your windshield healthy. For more car tips, check out the rest of my site. In addition, check out this list of car products that will help you get through winter.