Why Do People Leave Their Windshield Wipers up in the Winter?

More people are pulling up their windshield wipers during inclement weather to prevent them freezing in place, but some prefer to let wipers stay put.

If ice and snow are in the forecast, chances are you’ll spot parked cars with their windshield wipers elevated and pointed outward like spindly arms.

The trend may be on the rise, if Farmer’s Almanac Facebook followers are any indication. In response to a poll on their page, at least 425 people said that they go wipers-up when the forecast is icy, while close to 200 reported leaving them in place.

So, is pulling up windshield wipers smart prevention or pointless? Here’s a look at both sides of the debate.

Reasons to Keep Windshield Wipers Up

For drivers who regularly battle windshield ice and snow, scraping a heavily coated windshield is drudgery. If windshield wipers freeze in place as rain turns to snow, or if snow melts and refreezes, it’s especially challenging to scrape around wipers unless they’re already pulled up.

Plus, aggressively scraping can nick and damage rubber wiper blades when they’re frozen in place, as can running frozen, stiff rubber blades across a windshield that’s still defrosting and ice-coated.

One more point for the wipers-up camp: If you turned off the car before turning off the wipers, restarting a car can reactivate the wiper motor. If wipers are frozen in place, that motor could potentially burn out trying to move them.

Reasons to Keep Windshield Wipers Down

Remote starters, as well as overall better technology, can be a reason to leave the wipers in place on the windshield, even on icy days. Cars, windshields and rear-view windows warm up faster and better than before. If you have a few minutes to let the engine run, any ice should be melted by the time you climb behind the wheel. Just always remember to always double-check that the wipers are off before exiting your car to head off the wiper-motor burnout mentioned above—especially if you have a remote starter.

Some people argue that leaving wipers up also invites vandals to mess with them. No one wants to have to add “replace windshield wiper” to their to-do list, during inclement weather, especially.

While We’re Talking Winter Wiper Blades

If you live in a region that takes the brunt of winter, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests adding windshield-wiper inspection and possible replacement to annual winterize-your-vehicle chores. You may want to invest in heavy-duty wipers designed for winter, too. Replacing wiper blades is an easy DIY.

Lisa Meyers McClintick
Lisa Meyers McClintick is an award-winning Minnesota-based freelancer specializing in travel across the Upper Midwest and to national parks across the United States. She has been a longtime contributor to USA Today, Midwest Living magazine, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and also has written for Minnesota Monthly, TravelChannel.com and AAA publications. Her specialties include watching wildlife and birding, harvest travel, hands-on art and history, gardens and wildflowers, quirky small towns and scenic outdoors. She's a member of Society of American Travel Writers and Midwest Travel Journalists Association, which named her the 2019 Travel Writer of the Year. She's also an award-winning photographer and teaches workshops on memoir and creative writing, photography, travel, and creating sketchbooks and journals.