An example of a new-style “blade” wiper. Click image to enlarge
By Glen Konoroski
For the past three or four years now, many of the aftermarket manufacturers and vehicle automakers have been promoting the virtues of the newly designed steel blade wipers. These are the level wiper blades that use a flat piece of spring steel bonded to the length of the wiping rubber blade.
On paper, all this spring steel and rubber bonded together seems pretty good. It should, in theory, offer superior wiping as compared to the conventional models we have used for years.
Conventional wipers generally use a pivoting U-shaped shaft with smaller pivoting shafts attached to it in significant locations along its length. These smaller shafts hold the rubber blade by means of two springy steel strips running the length of the rubber wiper. These smaller shafts apply pressure from the wiper arm to the wiping blade at certain points and the steel strips along the length of that rubber wiper distribute that pressure equally. It sounds a little complex but it all works quite well.
As for the blade wiper, all the force of the wiper arm is distributed in the middle of the unit. The curved spring steel blade that is bonded to the rubber distributes that pressure on to the rubber-wiping blade.
To find out how well these new wipers worked, I installed a pair of the blade wipers on a 2005 Dodge Caravan. This van is on the road about 83 hours a week. The blades I used were a good 56 cm (22 in.) in length to really show the virtues of the new design. As well, to compare the two designs together, I installed a conventional wiper and a blade wiper on a PT Cruiser, which has a real curved windshield.
A conventional wiper. Click image to enlarge
After going through two sets of blade wipers on the Van over a period of 60,000 km, I have to say that the blade wipers really don’t seem to wipe any better that the conventional blades. Unlike the conventional blades that wipe better in sections or streak when they get old, the blade wipers just don’t wipe as well, generally leaving a haze on the windshield.
On the PT Cruiser, which uses smaller blades, the blade and conventional wipers worked equally well. In wet slushy or icy conditions the blade wipers showed no difference in ability. They allowed ice to build up on them just like the conventional wiper blade even though blade makers claim the opposite.
At almost twice the price of quality conventional wipers, the blade wiper, in my opinion, really didn’t offer any better wiping ability. For the added price of the blade wiper, you could almost change your wipers twice as often getting the best wipe possible all the time.
My conclusion is to save your money and buy a quality conventional blade (app. $10.00 and up depending on size) and change it every year to year and a half for good wet weather visibility.