Before we begin, a note: this is all useful & interesting information, but not everyone wants to become an windshield wipers expert. If you just want to find the right blades quickly, use our wiper blade lookup -- we've done all the hard work for you. Otherwise, read on.
If you have the right blades for your car, installing them is easy. The hard part is finding the right blades. It should be easy, but it's not. You might look for a 'size chart' to figure out how long your blades should be, but what you really need are three dimensions of information:
To make things even more complicated, your vehicle may require different kinds of blades for the driver, passenger, and rear wipers. So there are hundreds of different potential combinations of length, connector and blade type.
A final complication is brand. Consumers are frequently unaware of brand differences between windshield wipers, possibly due to the relative infrequency with which they replace wiper blades. All of this adds up to a bewildering array of choice at the auto parts store.
Read on for a more detailed description of each of these dimensions.
Length is the best-understood differentiator of wiper blades. Typical front wiper blades are between 16 and 28 inches long. Rear wiper blades are between 11 and 16 inches long. The recommended size varies by manufacturer, and sometimes even between wiper blade product lines. The variation isn't as large as it is with other fitted consumer goods, like shoes, but it's enough to make looking at the size chart for a particular brand important. Even if your car came with 22" wiper blades, any given brand may require 21" or 23" blades.
It's important to get the length of your wiper blades correct. You should not guess, or measure the blades with a ruler. Use the size recommended by the manufacturer of the blade.
Once you find blades of the correct length, you need to attach them to your car. There are three common types of connectors for conventional blades:
The connectors may be wider or more narrow depending on the type of car you have. Wiper manufacturers typically describe this width in millimeters (abbreviated mm)-- 5mm, 7mm and 9mm are common widths.
Until about ten years ago, almost every car sold in the United States and Canada used one of these connectors, most commonly the hook. They are equally easy to use and capable at holding the wiper in place. What's important when you're shopping for wipers is finding the connector that's right for your vehicle. Many blades come with adapters in the package to fit all these different connection types. Others are prepackaged with a specific connector. In either case, if your blades don't have the right kind of connector, they are not going on your car.
Newer cars have different kinds of connectors, which causes additional confusion. If your car came with beam blades, most (but not all) of the time you have one of the following connector types:
Sometimes, cars with beam blades still use the 'classic' attachments. And most manufacturers make beam blades that fit on to older cars that originally came with conventional blades. Trying to put conventional blades on a car that requires beam blades is one of the most common wiper mistakes.
For many decades, the only type of wiper blade available was what we now call a conventional blade. A triangular metal frame contains four to six arms, which press a thin strip of rubber against your windshield. Virtually every car made came with this type of wiper until about ten years ago.
The latest invention in wiper technology is a beam blade. The triangular metal frame has been replaced with a single, thin, stiff piece of plastic; the wiper blade is embedded in this plastic frame. Because the frame is solid, there is uniform pressure of the wiper blade against the windshield. And because the frame is thinner, it's more aerodynamic. Originally found only on luxury cars, today many vehicles at all price points come with beam blades.
Some cars and trucks require beam blades. Our wiper size lookup will recommend them for those vehicles. In many cases this recommendtion is because conventional blades cannot be properly attached to your wiper arms. We recommend conventional blades whenever appropriate for your car or truck. Conventional blades cost significantly less, and in 2010, a top product review publication found beam blades gave no obvious performance benefit over conventional blades.
There are five major manufacturers of wiper blades. These five account for the majority of wipers on the market today. They are:
There are also two secondary manufacturers, Michelin and PIAA.
Each of the major manufacturers produces a quality product. However, we have found that only one manufacturer has the right balance between quality and price: Anco. We believe this because their 31-Series line of conventional wiper blades has both high, long-lasting cleaning performance and very reasonable prices. For that reason, we recommend Anco 31-Series wipers for vehicles that take a conventional blade.
For newer cars that require a a beam blade, we sell the Anco Contour blade, a highly rated premium wiper.