How to Change Wiper Blades On Your Car

Learn how to replace your vehicle's windshield wipers before the next storm.

Next Project

10 - 20 minutes




$20 - $80


Stop annoying streaks and chatter from worn wiper blades. Make your car safer by replacing them in minutes.

Tools Required

  • Needle-nose pliers

Materials Required

  • Wiper refills

Replacing windshield wipers is an often overlooked but essential vehicle maintenance task that’s critical to safe driving. I still remember driving through a New England snowstorm with worn-out wipers that just couldn’t do the job. I’ve never made that mistake again.

If it’s been a while since you’ve replaced your wipers, make it the next item on your to-do list. Learn about different wiper types, how to shop for the right size and how to do the job yourself. For tips, I consulted two automotive industry experts.

About the Experts

Larry Morrison is the manager of Napa Auto Parts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A former auto mechanic, he’s been in the auto parts industry for ten years.

Robert Downie is the service advisor at Veryl’s Automotive Services, a full service repair shop in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He has more than 25 years experience in the automotive industry.

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Understanding windshield wiper types

There are three types of windshield wipers: Traditional, beam and hybrid.

  • Traditional windshield wipers: Consist of a metal frame and brackets that attach to a rubber wiper blade.
  • Beam windshield wipers: More streamlined than traditional wipers, beams feature a single piece of curved spring steel with a thick rubber or silicone blade. “You get even contact with the glass using a beam style wiper,” Downie says. They also feature a built-in spoiler for improved performance at highway speeds. Almost all new vehicles ship from the factory with beam wipers, Morrison says.
  • Hybrid wipers: Combine elements of traditional and beam styles. These have a traditional metal frame but offer more aerodynamic elements.

Besides these, Morrison says you can also purchase winter wipers in each style that handle snow and ice.

Traditional windshield wipers and beam wiper TMB Studio

Step 2

Diagnosing common wiper problems

Windshield wipers are constantly exposed to the elements and may break down, especially the rubber wiper blade. Here are some common wiper problems you may encounter.

  • Smearing: When this happens, the wipers smear rain and snow instead of clearing it. “Wipers tend to wear in one direction, and get a bend to them over time from sitting on the windshield,” Downie says, “This can cause smearing.” My wife had this wiper problem a few years ago. New wipers cleared the problem right up.
  • Chattering: When this happens, wipers screech or rapidly skip across the glass. Problems with chattering wiper blades may be due to a dirty windshield, or dirty or worn blades. After driving on dirt roads during a recent trip to Vermont, the wipers on my truck started chattering. Once I got home and gave my windshield and wipers a good cleaning, the chattering stopped.
  • Poor contact: The wiper may clear only some of the windshield, leaving other areas untouched. On a traditional blade, this usually indicates a worn-out rubber blade. As the rubber breaks down, the blade only touches the glass at the bracket contact points.

Snow and ice can also pack into the frame of a traditional wiper and push the brackets and the blade away from the glass. This is a great reason to upgrade to a beam wiper, particularly if you live in a snowy climate. A bent wiper arm can also cause this issue and may need to be replaced.

A women sitting in her car TMB Studio

Step 3

Buying the proper size replacements

Windshield wipers are available in various lengths, so make sure to purchase the correct size for your vehicle. Use a tape measure to check each blade, or find the information in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Better yet, Morrison recommends you ask the staff at your local auto parts store. “We can look it up on our computer, to make sure you get the right size,” he says. “We just need your vehicle make, model and year.” Many auto part stores maintain self-serve electronic catalogs to look up wiper sizes.

The new wipers will also need a compatible attachment bracket for your vehicle’s wiper arm. Manufacturers have taken most of the guess work out of this step.

“Most cars on the road today are going to have a j-hook wiper arm,” Morrison says. “But companies usually include multiple adapters, so chances are good that the wipers you purchase will fit on your vehicle.”

However, Downie says some vehicles have specific attachment points and require an original manufacturer replacement part.

A person holding measuring tape standing besides her carTMB Studio

Step 4

Removing the old wiper blades

To begin, pull the wiper arm away from the glass and into an upright position. Double up a bath towel and place it over your windshield to prevent glass damage if the wiper arm snaps back. Once you’ve pulled back the arm, pivot the blade so the bottom of the blade flips up away from the vehicle.

Locate the release tab, usually near the point where the blade and wiper arm connect. Press, push or squeeze the tab while holding on to the wiper blade. Some models may require a screwdriver to pry open the attachment clip.

Once you’ve disengaged the locking mechanism, grasp the blade and slide it down toward the windshield until you feel it separate from the wiper arm.

This will be the method to remove most wipers. if yours are different, Morrison says all replacement wipers come with directions inside the packaging. “Just follow the how-to for any that are harder to take off,” he says.

A Close up of wiper blade being removed from a carTMB Studio

Step 5

Installing windshield wiper replacements

On many vehicles, the driver’s and passenger’s side wipers are different lengths. Make sure to have the corresponding wiper size for the side of the vehicle you’re working on.

If your new wiper comes with a plastic guard, remove it before installation.

With the wiper arm still upright, grasp the wiper and slide the attachment bracket onto the hook arm from below. Pull the wiper up and away from the windshield until the bracket and wiper arm click into place. “For most wipers, that’s all you’ll need to do,” Downie says. “It’s pretty easy.”

On some models, you may need to push down a clip to secure it in place. For any other attachment styles, consult the product’s directions.

Gently pivot the wiper so the blade faces the glass, then place the wiper arm back into position. Release the arm and repeat the process for the other side.


How frequently should I change out my windshield wipers?

Try to replace them every six months if you park outside, or live in the desert or other dusty conditions. If you live in milder conditions or park in a garage, Downie recommends changing them once a year.

Are premium windshield wipers worth it?

Yes. Premium windshield wipers offer superior performance and last longer than less expensive options. “Some of the cheaper blades use plastic frames instead of metal, so aren’t as durable,” Downie says.

Is WD-40 safe to use on wiper blades?

Yes. Use WD-40 to lubricate the pivot point on the wiper arm for a quieter, smoother operation. According to Downie, WD-40 could be used to condition the blade and make your wipers last longer.