Windshield wiper maintenance is something that even the un-handiest of people can usually manage with a trip to the auto parts store and ten minutes of driveway time. Only simple tools are required, and wiper arms and blade refills are inexpensive, one of the quickest and easiest do-it-yourself car maintenance tasks, resulting in a clear, safe view of the road under adverse weather conditions.

Windshield Wiper Anatomy

Wiper assemblies have three parts, two of which are replaceable. The wiper arm itself is part of the car, a spring-loaded metal arm connected to a motor, controlled from inside the car by way of a steering column or dash-mounted control. Damage to the wiper arm, such as a worn or broken spring, should probably be referred to your mechanic for repair. The user-serviceable parts are:

  • The wiper blade assembly — this is the entire section that attaches to the wiper arm. It includes the wiper arm interface, pivoting sections that support the wiper refill and the rubber refill itself. The entire wiper blade assembly should be replaced about every two years or if you have problems with wiper “chatter.” Wiper arms have different mounting interfaces, so the wiper blade you purchase will depend on your car’s make and model.  
  • The wiper refill is available as a separate part and it’s often all that needs to be changed. Change refills every 6 months or as needed when streaking and ineffective windshield cleaning occur.

Replacing Refills

Windshield Wiper Refill

Buying refills for replacement is simple. Use a tape measure to determine the length of refill you need. Measure both wipers, since these aren’t always the same. Purchase wiper refills of the same length as measured.

Refills are held in place by spring clips on the refill that lock around the blade clamp at one end. Using needle-nose pliers, press in the inner spring clips on the old refill. Use the pliers to push the refill past the blade clamp, then you can slide the refill out of the wiper blade assembly.

Inserting the new wiper refill reverses the process. Slide the new refill through the blade clamps until the spring clips click into place.

Tip: Use an old towel to protect your windshield in case the wiper arm snaps back as you’re working.

Day-to-Day Wiper Maintenance

Taking a moment to clean your windshield when you fill up helps your wipers perform better. Using a moist rag to periodically clean the rubber blade itself, removing stuck-on dirt and grit.