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How to choose and replace windshield wiper blades for driving safety

Replacing windshield wiper blades is a low priority task for most of us. One remembers that the windshield wiper blades are worn out only – and suddenly – when it rains or snows. When the skies clear up, the thought is quickly forgotten. This on-and-off act of procrastination continues, often until the wiper blades are worn well beyond usefulness. But consider these road safety tips: Worn and poorly operating windshield wiper blades can be dangerous. A split second of impaired vision holds potential for an accident.

Replacing and even upgrading wiper blades takes minutes and can improve visibility even in the worst of weather conditions, which improves your driving safety. This is a task best performed on a balmy day with a cold drink in wait, instead of during a freezing rainstorm in a parking lot.

Bewildering assortment
Making the plunge into the store to purchase new wiper blades is the first step. The second is being presented with a bewildering array of choices. At its most basic, the windshield wiper is a thin strip of rubbery material attached to an assembly that holds the strip against the windshield. Windshield wipers squeegee water, snow, dirt, bugs and the like off the windshield to clear up the forward line of vision. If most of your driving is done in a temperate climate, then the simplest of wiper refills or wiper blades may be the answer to your windshield wiper needs. If harsh weather or swarms of insects are more the norm, then upgrading to heavy-duty or high-performance wiper blades may be a better solution for seeing clearly.

Sun baked
A rainstorm or snow squall may serve as a reminder to replace the windshield wiper blades, but extremes in heavy weather are not the main factors in wiper blade decay. Wiper blades receive their greatest abuse while baking in the hot sun. The same UV rays that make the days of summer long and lazy can cook the flexibility and usefulness out of the material the wiper blades are made of. The wiper blade needs to be soft to conform to the shape of the windshield. The irony is that the end of summer often brings with it some of the worst in weather. Worn blades that worked fine during the occasional summer squall or shower will usually display their uselessness when the first winter storm hits.

Wiper blade refills
The first and often least expensive option in upgrading the windshield wipers is a fresh set of wiper refills. The wiper refill is simply a replacement for the strip of rubber that meets the windshield. Wiper refills are a good option if the wiper blade assemblies are still in decent shape. These refills come in a variety of lengths and widths. Swapping in the new for the old can restore clear vision in seconds. Measure both or all wiper blade lengths and note the width before purchasing wiper blade refills. Even though it may not look it, wiper blades are often different lengths. Check width requirements as well. A pair of pliers and a bit of patience is all that's required for wiper refill replacement.

Wiper blade assembly
Next up the grade in windshield wiper improvement is to replace the entire wiper blade assembly. This type of replacement is best if both the rubber wiper refill and wiper blade assembly have seen their better days. Here is where upgrades to heavy-duty replacements can be made. Factory wiper blades are often manufactured with low cost in mind. Aftermarket wiper blade replacements can bring improved performance with a simple remove and replace. Heavy-duty wiper blades specifically constructed for use in more severe weather are designed to move heavy snow and slush off the windshield. Some of these wiper blades are encased in an additional sleeve of rubber for added snow-removing squeegee effect and protection from corrosive road salt.

Sport mode
Choosing a sportier wiper blade upgrade may be the answer if most of your driving is done in a more temperate climate where heavy-duty or severe weather wiper blade upgrades are not required. Improvements in the rubber compound in the wiper material can help clear vision during spirited driving. Multiple edge wiper blades satisfy the “more is better” school of thought. Some sportier blades even feature built-in aerodynamic devices and foils designed to better hold the wiper blade down on the windshield during spirited or high-speed driving. A vast array of colors and finishes is also available for a custom look, along with improved performance.

Seeing clearly
Whether you choose a simple refill replacement or an upgrade to multiblade carbon-fiber finish custom units, the key is remembering to replace worn windshield wiper refills or wiper blades before the big storm or winter season hits. Attempting to drive through a heavy snowstorm in the middle of the night is absolutely the wrong time to find out the windshield wipers are not working as well as they should. A yearly checkup well before the big storm is lucid thinking. Replacing windshield wipers at regular intervals will help keep you seeing clearly in the worst driving conditions.
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