How Long Do Windshield Wipers Last?

Windshield wipers are an important safety feature and they don't last forever. Checking wipers for damage or wear before you need them is a good idea.

The back-and-forth swish of windshield wipers clearing your windshield of rain and snow is a reassuring sound. To ensure good visibility, windshield wiper squeegees (AKA inserts or refills — the part that actually touches and clears the windshield) should be replaced regularly, especially after a harsh winter or blazing summer.

You also need to inspect the wiper frame that holds the squeegee for damage, as well as the swinging arm assembly.

How Long Should Windshield Wipers Last?

Depending on weather and other factors, wiper squeegees should last six to 12 months. To be on the safe side, you should replace your windshield wipers every six months. Ultraviolet light, heat, cold, engine exhaust, smog, dust, dirt, road salts and grime all make wiper squeegees deteriorate.

To extend the life of your wipers in winter, remove snow and ice from the windshield with an ice scraper and defrosters before driving. Relying strictly on your wipers to clear your windshield of ice will quickly damage the squeegees.

Using your wipers to push excess snow off the windshield can easily twist or bend the wiper blades and/or arms. A damaged or weak wiper blade frame or arm cannot keep equal pressure across the entire windshield, causing poor visibility.

Also, before a snowstorm, consider lifting and tilting the wiper arms away from the windshield if your vehicle has this feature, to keep the squeegees from freezing to the glass.

How To Know When It’s Time To Replace Windshield Wipers

Replace your windshield wipers as soon as you notice they’re damaged, noisy or not clearing the windshield properly. Signs include:

  • Streaking or smearing of water;
  • Blades hopping or jumping across the windshield;
  • Torn or worn squeegees with a split or rounded edge, rather than square;
  • Sweeping passes clearing only part of the windshield.

Windshield Wiper Maintenance Tips

Checking your wipers for damage and wear should be an important part of your normal maintenance routine.

  • Clean the windshield frequently: Never use your wipers on a dry windshield. Even a tiny piece of grit can quickly damage a wiper squeegee or windshield. Clean the windshield with a glass cleaner formulated for cars. Try balled up newspaper to polish the window glass.
  • Clean the wiper squeegees: To remove junk build-up, use a clean, soft cloth soaked with premixed windshield washer solvent, or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol diluted with water, to clean the entire length of the squeegee. Be sure to protect your vehicle’s finish and rinse with clean water.
  • Run the wipers every so often: Wiper squeegees need to “flip” on every swipe for the edge to clear the windshield. A wiper that sits in one position too long can dry out, losing its ability to flip. This results in the squeegees being pushed rather than dragged across the windshield, causing wipers to hop and leave streaks.
  • Carefully spray a small amount of WD-40 on the wiper arm pivot pin and spring assembly under the wiper arm: This prevents rusting and keeps the squeegees snug against the windshield.
  • Always shut off your wipers before turning off your vehicle: And don’t forget about the rear wiper, if you have one.

Robert Lacivita
Bob Lacivita is an award-winning auto technician and career and technical educator and freelance writer who has written about DYI car repairs and vehicle maintenance topics, as well as writing state, federal and organizational foundation grants, and helped design a unique curriculum delivery model that integrates rigorous, relevant academic standards seamlessly into technical/vocational training, for more than 20 years. His work has been featured in Family Handyman, a Reader's Digest book and Classic Bike Rider magazine, among others. Bob and his wife lived through 20 years' worth of DIY home remodeling while parenting two (now grown) boys and now relax by watching their three fabulous granddaughters.