Wiper blades are essential in bad weather but we rarely notice them until we need them. It happens to all of us, when the weather is beating down and we need our wipers to clear the mess is just the moment when they fail. Huge streaks all across the glass obscuring our vision even more. Frantically we increase the wiper speed or try squirting washer fluid to no avail.

Those situations absolutely suck. To prevent them again we need to know how our windshield wipers actually work and what we can do to make sure they leave the streak-free windshield we all desire, especially when it counts.

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Table of Contents

How Wiper Blades Work

Wiper blades are designed to move water away from your line of sight on the windshield. The blade itself is a rubber gasket attached to a plastic or metallic shaft. When attached to your wiper motor arms, it creates a sweeping effect that wipes away the water.

The only part of the wiper that touches the glass is the rubber gasket. So anything that obstructs the rubber from making contact or sitting flush with the windshield will prevent it from doing its job properly, a.k.a causing streaks.

Causes Of Streaky Windshield Wipers

There are a few different causes of windshield wiper streaking, and it’s usually a combination of these things that create that effect.

Worn Wiper Blades

This is the area you want to start diagnosing your streaking. When was the last time you replaced your wiper blades?

If the answer is “never” or “I don’t remember” chances are your wipers are way past due. Rubber deteriorates over time and loses its elasticity. Worn wiper blades can’t function the way they were designed and won’t clean your windshield properly.

Dirty Windshield

Even if your wipers are brand new they won’t be able to function properly if the glass it’s wiping against is very dirty. See there’s a misconception that windshield washer fluid and wiper blades are meant to clean your windshield, they’re not. They are only meant to clean off stuff that happens to land on your windshield when driving.

Wipers and fluid are not a replacement for cleaning your windshield by hand. Dirt, water spots, bugs, and anything else you can name gather on top of the glass. If you’re running your wipers on top of them they aren’t actually cleaning your glass, heck they might not even be touching the glass.

Running wipers on dirty glass just smears the dirt around even damaging the glass.

Scratches On Glass

In some cases, the streaks you see aren’t actually streaks but micro scratches in the glass. If enough dirt and grime accumulate on the windshield and you happen to run the wipers dry, you can actually drive the dirt into the glass causing scratches as the arms move back and forth.

This can lead to excessive force on the wiper motor causing it to wear out prematurely.

Wiper Motor Dying

As you can see streaks on a windshield result from a combination of symptoms, one progressing toward the other if left unchecked. A dying wiper motor will be pretty obvious and will cause streaking because the wipers don’t have enough force to remove the water.

The only way to make sure you have a streak-less windshield is proper maintenance.

How To Prevent Streaks

Clean Windshield Weekly

Cleaning your windshield is underrated. Just take 5 minutes out of the day once a week to spray down your windshield and all the rest of the windows with a quality automotive glass cleaner. Make sure you use a microfiber towel or something designed to clean glass otherwise you risk scratching it, and we know how that ends up.

Cleaning your windshield after big storms is important but don’t forget about when you park under a tree either. Leaves, bark, sap, pollen. It all gets stuck on there. So clean it right.

Change Wiper Blades Every Year

This is one of those things that sounds like a major expense every year but really isn’t. Spending $20-$50 a year to ensure your wipers are fresh when you need them is definitely a worthy cause because seeing is a major part of driving as we all know.

Rubber starts to deteriorate after about a year, but manufacturers have different timelines on when their product should be changed. Yearly changes are easy to remember and easy on the wallet.

Use A Ceramic Glass Treatment

Now, this is considered optional maintenance but it can greatly reduce how often you have to clean your windshield. Ceramic glass cleaners have hydrophobic properties that repel water. Hydrophobic literally translates to “fear of water”.

When you apply a glass treatment like this it greatly reduces the amount of dirt and debris that sticks to your windshield, so that means less cleaning. It also has the strange effect of literally repelling water so when you do use your wipers, they don’t have to work nearly as hard. If you haven’t experienced this it’s definitely worth it just to see.

Now ceramic glass treatments aren’t permanent but definitely can be made part of a bigger detailing job. If you’re looking to tackle a ceramic coating for your whole car check out our Diy guide here, we break it down into simple steps making it incredibly user-friendly for those attempting it at home.

Best Practices For Wiper Usage

Now that we know how to maintain our wipers, I just wanted to go through a couple of tips on how not to prematurely damage them or our windshield.

Ensure You Have Enough Wiper Fluid

Wiper fluid is essential to remove all the stuff that sticks to our windshield and blocks our view when we’re driving. It’s also important for the rubber on our wiper blades because they aren’t designed to run on a dry surface.

Keep your reservoir topped up by checking periodically. Most cars have a warning light on the dash that will tell you when you’re low on wiper fluid but in case you don’t just check once a month while getting gas and you should be good.

Don’t Run Windshield Wipers Dry

You know now that wipers are designed to move with fluid on the glass surface so avoid running them dry to wipe off dirt and debris. It can cause scratches on the glass and cut into the rubber, like rubbing sandpaper together. Get out a microfiber towel and wipe the glass by hand.

Don’t Run Frozen Or Icy Wipers

This is the opposite of dry wipers but can have the same effect. If your wipers are jammed up with ice crystals don’t run them. The Ice will scratch up the glass and can even break off chunks of the rubber blade on the wiper.

Try to remove the ice by hand as much as possible and make sure to have winter-grade wiper fluid if you deal with this type of weather often. Wiper fluid can freeze if it’s cold enough.

Upgrade To Better Windshield Wiper Blades

Lastly, consider better wiper blades. Tons of companies make quality affordable wiper blades that work really well. I prefer Bosch Icon because I believe they contour to the windshield better and I’ve had good experiences with them. However many other brands work just as well.

Just avoid the really cheap ones or ones that have multiple colors unless you have experience with them. Generally, with wipers, I’ve found you get what you pay for so it makes sense to pay up a little for quality.

In Sum

Streaky windshield wipers are an easy fix once you how to deal with them. So next time your neighbor asks you how to deal with them you can tell them with confidence.

Plus it’s pretty nice when you can actually see where you’re going in the rain.

As an Amazon Associate We earn from qualifying purchases. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

We might receive commissions if you click on our links and sign up/make purchases. However, please know this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try to keep things fair and balanced to help you make the best choice for your needs. Thanks.

 
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