When do you need to change your windscreen wipers?

When do you need to change your windscreen wipers?


Wiper blades are one of those things you probably don't think about very often. If your wipers work, you're happy. But if they fail, it can seriously affect your car and in turn your day-to-day life. 

Correctly working wiper blades are incredibly important for safety and security reasons. The last thing you want is to be driving in heavy rain with no visibility through your windscreen. 

Overly worn windscreen wipers could also cause you to fail an MOT – meaning it’s vital you check them often and make sure everything is in good working order.  

It’s generally recommended that you replace your wiper blades every 12 months. If you’re unsure about the condition of your wiper blades, there are some obvious things you can look out for.  

In this article, we’ll delve into how to tell when it’s time to purchase new wiper blades, as well as take a look at where to get them, how to install them, how often should you be changing them as well as the cost of replacing blades at a garage 

When to change wiper blades

When it comes to wiper blades, we recommend changing them at least once a year. Wiper blades may survive longer than this, but by replacing them at least once a year, you’ll ensure they’re always performing as intended.  

This will give you maximum visibility during rainy or snowy weather. It’s worth noting this applies to your rear windscreen wiper as well as the front! 

As well as routine changes, if your windscreen wipers display any streaking, skipping, splitting, or squeaking – it’s almost certainly time to invest in some new blades. You should also change your blades if they are damaged, cracked, or torn in any way.

If you live in an area where ice and snow are common, you should change your wipers more often than once per year - harsh elements may cause damage faster than normal.  

Is driving with bad wipers illegal?

Wiper blades that don’t clear your windscreen will result in an MOT failure, and driving with faulty wipers is illegal.  

Doing so could see you face a £50 fixed penalty – but worse yet, if the police view your driving with poor visibility as reckless, they could hand out a £100 on-the-spot fine. This fine could further increase to £5000 if the case is taken to court.  

Checking your wiper blades, and replacing them if needed, is incredibly easy to do. It could save you a lot of money and hassle. 

How often should you change wiper blades?

This is an important milestone to take note of when owning a car, especially in a region with varying weather conditions such as the UK. Both for maintenance costs and safety reasons.  

In short, there is no fixed time scale as there is with oil changes or other maintenance. Wiper blade degradation depends on various factors including quality of blades, weather experienced, usage conditions, how the car is stored and more.  

As a rough estimate, new wiper blades are typically needed every 6-12 months, as a guide, every time you check your oil, inspect your wiper blades as instructed below, this will ensure you don’t get caught out. 

Why do wiper blades degrade?

The rubber on wiper blades will wear down over time as debris gets trapped between the blade and the windscreen. Additionally, the rubber can warp and distort over time due to heat exposure. 

Conversely, cold weather can degrade all types of rubber quickly, this is why it’s very important to not use your blades to clear ice in the winter months.  

Wiper blades also simply wear out. The rubber is made to be soft enough to not damage the windscreen, which means it will wear down with use. 

How to make wiper blades last longer

There are a number of simple ways to make your wiper blades last longer: 

Clean the windscreen manually. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to keep your windscreen clean and dry.  

You’ll remove any dirt or debris that might be set on your windscreen, that would cause wear to the wipers as they scrape over it, windscreen wipers are only designed to move rainwater. 

Prolonging the life of your wiper blades:

  • Avoid using your wipers in dry conditions. 
  • Clean your wiper blades as frequently as possible to remove built-up dirt. 
  • Avoid de-icing your car with the wiper blades. 
  • Lift up your wiper blades when it snows. 

Windscreen wipers replacement cost

With windscreen wipers being such a safety critical component, it’s important to get them fixed as soon as possible to avoid having to risk a dangerous and illegal situation. 

Wiper blade replacement cost

Wiper blades range in price from £5 up to £70 per blade, depending on the make and model. The higher-end blades are often costly where off-the-shelf blades cannot be fitted, and dealers are the only source for the new parts. 

Many retailers such as Halfords or Wilco offer free fitting or very cheap fitting, often no more than £10. 

Wiper mechanism and motor cost

To move the wipers across the screen, a moderately complex system of arms and gears is used, usually situated under the scuttle panel or inside the engine bay. This is driven by a motor, both parts can and do fail. 

Wiper motors parts costs are usually in the region of £100-£160, The mechanism can be extremely expensive if the entire system needs to be replaced, in most cases though, joints or bearings can be changed separately.  

Fitting costs can vary wildly depending on the car, at the bottom end - on simple or older cars - can take as little as 1-2 hours. At a rough rate of £50 per hour equalling between £150 to £260 for the whole job. 

If your car is particularly complex, especially if it has a cramped engine bay, a mechanic may bill up to 4 hours to remove wiper motors and mechanisms. 

How to check wiper blades

It’s good to do this before a long journey, as well as periodically to avoid being caught far from home in a downpour. Wipers that leave streaks across your screen can be very dangerous  

  1. Lift the wiper arms and visually inspect the edge of the blades for tears or cracks 
  2. Remove any debris such as leaves or dirt from the blades and below them 
  3. Clean the screen with a suitable glass cleaner and microfibre towel
  4. Check if there is sufficient wiper fluid in the reservoir
  5. Operate the windscreen washer (make sure to do this before operating the wipers on a dry windscreen) 
  6. Check for streaks or patches where the wipers have not cleared the liquid 

How to change wiper blades yourself

Fortunately, replacing your wiper blades is relatively easy to do.  Here are the simple steps involved: 

Check your owner’s manual

Before you start, you will need to check your owner’s manual for the correct wiper size and type for your car. The wiper size is usually described in millimetres.  

Make sure the new blades are of the same size or slightly wider than the existing ones. The wrong fit may result in windscreen damage or failure to clear water properly.  

The blade type can be either rigid or flexible, depending on what's appropriate for your vehicle. 

Clean your windscreen

To make sure your windscreen is clean and ready for new wiper blades, you should use a cloth or sponge to wipe it down.  

Never use abrasive cleaning products on the windscreen, as they can scratch the glass and reduce visibility. 

Also, avoid using any glass cleaners on your windscreen. Most of them contain alcohols or ammonia-based chemicals that could damage your wiper blades over time. 

Protect your windscreen

Lay a piece of cloth or paper towel across the windscreen of your car. This is to protect the glass from being scratched or damaged by the wiper blade arm, which could snap back if accidentally nudged. 

Remove your old blades

As you lift up the wipers, gently push down on the locking mechanism and hold it down while lifting up on the wiper arm until it’s released from its groove.  

The exact locking mechanism may vary from vehicle to vehicle and if you’re unsure simply consult your car’s handbook, or look for an instructional video online. 

Once you’ve done that, you should be able to easily remove your old windscreen wiper blades and wipe away any dirt or debris that has built up around where they attach to the arms. 

Clip in your new wiper blades and place your wipers back down

Now that you’ve removed your old wiper blades, it’s time to replace them with new ones.  

This should be a relatively simple process; clipping them in using the same mechanism that was used to remove the old ones.  

Care should be taken with the plastic coverings and clipping mechanism – be patient and don’t try to force it. Doing so could result in damage to the plastic housing or the blade itself. 

Test your new wipers

Once you have installed your new wiper blades, give them a couple of test wipes to make sure they are working correctly, by operating the screenwash function.  

Make sure the wiper doesn’t show any signs of streaking, skipping, splitting or squeaking. 

Can you get wiper blades fitted?

Getting wiper blades fitted is an incredibly simple process, and most mechanics and automotive retailers offer a fitting service. For example, Halfords offer a windscreen wiper fitting service for around £5. 

Halfords’ wiper blade fitting service is great if you want to avoid the hassle or don’t know how to change wiper blades – although you’ll still have to fork out for a new pair of wipers. 

Where to buy wiper blades

Although there are many online retailers that sell wiper blades, including amazon, we’d recommend paying a visit to a trusted automotive retailer such as Halfords or Euro Car Parts.  

You’ll be able to speak to an expert and make sure you end up buying wipers that are right for your car. Additionally, as already discussed, they may also offer a fitting service for you – meaning you can get your wipers changed as often as you need to, hassle-free. 

What wiper blades are the best ones to use?

Not all wiper blades are the same, manufacturers such as Bosch and Michelin are well known for producing high-quality blades, and the benefits of these are often both improved performance and longevity.  

Because new products are introduced all the time, it’s best to check a source like Auto Express for a run-down of the best blades.

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