In snow and freezing rain, wiper blades in poor condition become apparent quickly. If the rubber is rigid or chipped, it's time for new wipers. Streaking, smearing and chattering (noisy blades) are also an indication to replace.
More important, those are signs that visibility is compromised, causing a safety concern. Car owners used to go years without replacing wiper blades (and many still do ) but Consumer Reports recommends every six to nine months.
Lisell doesn't believe that wiper blades need to be changed that often, but after a year, most wipers are wearing out. The summer sun, fall debris, freezing rain and heavy snow take a toll, he said.
Cheapskates might balk at paying $20 to $40 a year for replacement, but not if they've ever driven on a busy, wet road with poor wipers that clean only part of the windshield. Combine that with an empty reservoir of washer fluid and suddenly preventive maintenance is a tiny price to pay to avoid a serious accident.
Wiper replacements are one of the cheapest investments you can make for safe winter driving, said Ross Johnson of R&R Auto Repair in Minneapolis. Even though there are silicone models with a lifetime warranty, wipers that vibrate to dislodge debris and heated blades, the expensive versions don't last any longer or work better than the cheapies, according to Consumer Reports' findings.
The magazine found that most standard wipers, priced from $7 to $24 each, performed well for six to nine months. If you're buying wiper replacements yourself, call a dealer to determine the proper size. Most vehicles now use a longer size on the driver's side than the passenger's side.