Most drivers don’t think about their windshield wipers until they malfunction. What is the purpose of windshield wipers? Are they legally required? Are they necessary? Let’s answer these questions and talk about windshield wipers.

The Importance of Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers are essential to your vehicle because they maintain a clear vision of the road and remove dust, dirt, and other debris from the windshield. Without windshield wipers, driving a motor vehicle would be next to impossible, especially during severe weather conditions.

Windshield wipers remove the following from your windshield:

  • Pollen
  • Snow
  • Dirt
  • Rain
  • Frost

At the push of a button, you can quickly remove the above items and other debris from your windshield. The wiper blade is the main component of the windshield wiper, and it must be replaced at some point.

Is It Illegal to Drive Without Windshield Wipers?

All vehicles must have windshield wipers and be in excellent condition for the best results. Windshield wipers are a legal requirement in most U.S. states. According to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), drivers who are using their windshield wipers are also required to have their headlights on, even during the day.

Are There Different Types of Windshield Wipers?

Yes. There are 3 different types of windshield wipers – conventional, beam, and hybrid windshield wipers.

Conventional Blades

Conventional windshield wipers are the standard wipers. These windshield wipers have a rubber squeegee that is attached to a metal frame. These wipers are the most affordable out of the three wiper types. Conventional blades are often found on older vehicles and are less common on newer model vehicles. These windshield wipers must be replaced every 6 months.

Beam Blades

Beam windshield wipers have an innovative design featuring a curved frame that contours to your windshield, providing the most efficient performance. These wipers are made from a single piece of rubber and wrap around the curves of the windshield. These blades are the most expensive of the windshield wiper types, but they last twice as long. Beam blades are ideal for cold weather since they lack a metal frame that can become clogged with snow and ice.

Hybrid Blades

Hybrid windshield wipers give users the best of conventional and beam blades. Hybrid blades have conventional and beam wiper designs that have a rubber shell, like beam blades, and attach to a metal frame. The metal frame allows better contact with the windshield’s curve. Hybrid blades are more affordable than beam blades and provide good performance.

Are Rear Windshield Wipers Legally Required?

In most jurisdictions, if you have a rear windshield wiper, it must be functional. Some states have a mandatory annual inspection that detects faulty or missing rear wipers while other states do not require rear wiper inspections. U.S. federal standards do not require passenger motor vehicles to have a rear wiper.

What Is the Purpose of a Rear Windshield Wiper?

For vehicles that have a windshield wiper, its purpose is to clear the rear window, providing a clear view for you to see the surroundings behind you when you’re in traffic or reversing out of a parking spot or other location.

Can Windshield Wipers Damage the Windshield?

Windshield wipers that are worn out or damaged can damage your windshield by scratching or streaking. Wipers that are worn out or damaged can scratch the surface of the windshield due to the rubber on the wiper blades wearing down and exposing the metal frame. These scratches can be permanent and affect your ability to see while driving.

Streaking can also occur. Windshield streaks are deposits on the surface of the windshield left behind after using the windshield wipers. When streaking occurs, this can be an indication that your windshield wipers need to be replaced. Streaking can also be caused by a dirty windshield due to wet dirt and accumulated dust, especially after it rains.

Windshield Wipers and Cracks, and Other Problems

Windshield wipers are an essential part of your vehicle because they help you maintain clear visibility during severe or unfavorable weather, such as fog, rain, and snow. However, if you have a cracked windshield, there are specific considerations you’ll need to take.

Windshield Wiper Blades and Cracks

Cracked wiper blades can quickly become an issue. If the arms of the blades are cracked, they won’t be able to apply the necessary pressure to the rubber, resulting in large sections of your windshield still having rain or snow on it. As time progresses, the damaged wiper arms can snap and cause the entire windshield wiper to detach from your vehicle.

Wiper Motor and Cracks

Why is the wiper motor essential? The wiper motor controls the movement of the wiper arms and the blades across the windshield. If the wiper blades are moving slower than usual or erratically, this could be a sign that the wiper motor is malfunctioning. If there are issues with the wiper motor, you’ll want to address these issues immediately to maintain good visibility during severe weather.

Wiper Fluid and Cracks

Windshield washer fluid is necessary to remove grime, dirt, and other pollutants and sometimes debris from the windshield. If your washer fluid levels are low, refill the washer fluid and ensure this feature is functioning correctly. Continuously using windshield wipers on a dry windshield can increase the risk of scratches, especially if the wiper blades are worn out or damaged and need to be replaced.

Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Windshield Wipers

Experts recommend changing your wipers every 6 months. However, different instances can occur that may force you to change them sooner. Watch for the following indications that it’s time to change your windshield wipers:

  • Hazing or streaking on your windshield due to snow or rain
  • Loud noises (this is an indication your windshield wipers aren’t functioning effectively enough to clean the windshield)
  • The rubber on your windshield wipers is cracked or split
  • The metal arm on the wipers is bent out of shape
  • Visible cracks on the windshield wipers
  • The wipers are vibrating across the glass
  • Sun damage
  • Scratches on your windshield
  • Uneven edges on the wipers
  • Missing pieces on the wipers

Can You Legally Drive a Car That Has a Cracked Windshield?

In most states, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle that has a cracked windshield. If your windshield has minor cracks, you can make the repairs using an epoxy repair kit. This epoxy kit can repair windshield chips that are smaller than a quarter and cracks that do not exceed 3 inches.

Be sure to clean the area around the crack with rubbing alcohol and a microfiber towel. Follow the instructions provided in the kit. If your windshield has one or multiple large cracks, your windshield must be replaced.

How to Properly Maintain Your Windshield

Properly maintaining your car’s windshield is essential for overall vehicle function. Using the following tips can help you keep your windshield in tip-top shape:

  • Repair chips and cracks in your windshield as soon as possible
  • Use quality windshield wipers
  • Consider installing a bug guard on your vehicle
  • Use a streak-free glass cleaner to remove grime, dirt, and residue from your windshield
  • Replace your windshield wipers every 6 months
  • Protect your windshield from extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold)
  • Avoid impacting your windshield
  • Have your windshield inspected by a professional

Remember when you’re choosing the best windshield wipers for your vehicle, consider your budget, climate, and desired longevity. Having a cracked windshield can pose different challenges for you and your wiper blades, so make sure you address any issues promptly to maintain clear visibility and safety on the road. Stay safe and happy driving!