How To Choose the Right-Sized Windshield Wipers

The sound of wipers cleaning your windshield of rain and snow is reassuring. Here's how to choose the right windshield wipers size replacement.

The back-and-forth swish of windshield wipers clearing away rain and snow is a reassuring sound. Wiper squeegees (also called inserts or refills), the part that actually touches and cleans the windshield, should be replaced every six months, especially after a harsh winter or blazing-hot summer. Wipers come in many lengths and designs, and it’s important to install the correct size.

The Right Size

Installing longer than recommended wiper blades (which include a metal frame and squeegee in one assembly) can cause them to jam and bump into each other. This can quickly lead to damaged blades or premature wiper motor failure. The blade can also strike and damage expensive windshield trim.

Oversized blades may not conform to the curve of a windshield, reducing visibility because the blade is not clearing the entire windshield. Blades that are too short will also not clean the entire windshield.

Choosing Right-Size Wipers

Vehicle manufacturers recommended specific wiper blade sizes for every make, model and year. Here are few ways to determine which wipers are the right size for your car:

  • Check the owner’s manual first to see what sizes of wiper blades are installed on your vehicle.
  • Measure the wiper blades currently on your car to determine the length. It’s important to measure both wipers because many vehicles use different length wiper blades. And don’t forget the rear wiper, if you have one.
  • Visit your auto parts store. All have a wiper blade/squeegee size “look-up” chart. Or you can ask the sales associate to check what size wiper blades your vehicle needs.

Choosing the Right Type of Windshield Wipers

Wiper blades come in many materials and styles. Although you can purchase and install just the rubber squeegee, it pays to replace the entire wiper blade assembly. These are some of your options:

  • Rubber squeegees: The most common and least expensive. If they work for you, keep using them.
  • Silicone squeegees: More costly than rubber squeegees. But they can last up to twice as long, wipe away more water with each stroke and are quieter than rubber wiper squeegees.
  • Beam wiper blades: Usually twice the cost of rubber blades, they are more flexible and place greater pressure evenly across the entire windshield. This makes them better for vehicles with larger, curved windshields.
  • Winter wiper blades: The most expensive replacement wiper assembly. These are heavier, covered in plastic or rubber to keep ice and snow from freezing or jamming the wiper frame. An iced-up wiper frame loses flexibility. Without flexibility, wipers cannot clear the entire windshield.

Windshield Wiper Maintenance

Sun, smog, dirt, dust and bugs constantly hitting the windshield deteriorate windshield wiper blades. Checking your wipers should be an important part of your normal maintenance routine.

  • Clean the windshield often: Never use your wipers on a dry windshield. Even a tiny piece of grit can quickly damage a wiper squeegee or windshield. Clean the windshield using a glass cleaner formulated for car windshields. Try balled up newspaper to polish the window glass.
  • Clean the wiper squeegees: To remove any junk build-up, use a clean, soft cloth soaked with premixed windshield washer solvent, or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol diluted with water, to clean the entire length of the squeegee. Be sure to protect your vehicle’s finish and rinse with clean water.
  • Run the wipers every so often: Wiper squeegees need to “flip” on every swipe for the cleaning edge to clear the windshield. A wiper that sits in one position too long can dry out, losing its ability to flip. This results in the squeegees being pushed rather than dragged across the windshield, causing wipers to hop across and leave streaks.
  • Check for damage: A torn squeegee cannot keep pressure across the entire windshield. Neither can a damaged, twisted or weak wiper blade frame or wiper arm (the part the blade attaches to). That will cause wipers to chatter or jump across the windshield. Your mechanic should have a gauge to measure wiper arm pressure.

Wipers are a critical safety feature. Don’t wait until the next rain or snowstorm to find you need new ones.

Bob Lacivita
Bob Lacivita is an award-winning ASE and General Motors auto technician, educator and freelance writer who has written about DYI car repairs and vehicle maintenance topics. His work has been featured in The Family Handyman, a Reader's Digest book and Classic Bike Rider magazine. He has been a career and technical educator for 25 years teaching automotive technology, as well as writing state, federal and organizational foundation grants. He also helped design a unique curriculum delivery model that integrates rigorous, relevant academic standards seamlessly into career and technical education.