LAST UPDATED: September 4, 2020
Best Windshield Wipers: The Best Replacements for Your Worn Out Wipers
Improve your visibility and drive safer in style with new replacement windshield wiper blades
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PUBLISHED ON September 4, 2020
Most of us don’t think about how worn out our windshield wipers are until the first big thunderstorm, bug swarm, or blizzard of the season reminds us in streaky detail. Inspecting your wipers every spring and fall can help keep you safe out on the road. Replacing them is as easy as picking up a new set and swapping them out. Read on for an in-depth look at the different types of windshield wipers and our hands-on wiper testing roundup to help you choose the best replacement or upgrade windshield wipers for your ride
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy Windshield Wipers
- Improve road safety. Like brake pads, windshield wipers are maintenance items that require replacement before they cause more severe problems. Scored windshield glass is a minor annoyance compared to the potentially catastrophic result of poor visibility at 100 feet per second.
- Worn out wipers. Windshield wipers wear out as they work, and they have a tough job. They are always on-call and ready to leap into action to clear water, snow, ice, and smashed bug guts from your windshield. Replace your wipers before they retire.
- Severe duty. Harsh operating environments demand more frequent wiper blade inspection and replacement. Dusty deserts, seaside salt, relentless sunshine, and long winters can finish off wipers before their time.
Best Windshield Wiper Testing Criteria
We tested over a dozen pairs of wiper blades in simulated and real-world conditions on flat and curved windshields. This custom-built dual nozzle sprayer served as the simulated part of our windshield wiper testing. The static test is not entirely accurate, as there is no air moving across the windshield, but it gave us an inside and outside look at the wipers in action. We couldn’t find a giant fan or wind tunnel anywhere around here, so supplemental road testing through driving rain and swarms of bugs rounded out the best windshield wiper review.
Fit to Finish
Here’s a quick word about the product links to our review favorites. All of our test wipers were 16” bayonet mount, but unless you drive an old Montero or Toyota Starlet, the right size and type wipers for your vehicle are different. Look up the correct size and type for the make, model, and year of your vehicle. Measure each wiper blade and note the connector type. The right connector makes the difference. A poor connection between the wiper arm and blade will result in poor performance. Today’s crop of windshield wipers falls roughly into the three categories.
Windshield Wiper Types
Frame wipers have an articulated steel or composite frame structure. Hinges in the frame distribute pressure across the blade through four to eight claws. Frame wipers are also known as conventional, standard, or traditional. Up until a few years ago, the frame wiper was the most common type. The frame and claw design was initially designed so a worn rubber blade could be swapped out with an inexpensive refill. Most drivers replace the entire assembly as a unit today.
Beam wipers get their name from the continuous spring steel beam that replaces the standard steel frame and claw structure. The pre-stressed steel ribbon eliminates pressure points for even pressure across the entire length of the blade. The low-profile design helps prevent high-speed chatter. Beam-type wipers excel on modern low-slope compound curve windshields and are standard equipment on the majority of new vehicles.
Hybrid wipers bring features of frame and beam wipers together. Each manufacturer has a slightly different idea of what a hybrid wiper is, so the category is less clear cut. Some hybrids combine a conventional steel frame wiper with a protective aerodynamic shell. Others add articulated all-weather armor to beam-style wipers to help fight off heavy snow and ice. Improved aerodynamics, all-weather performance, reduced noise, and four-season durability are some hybrid advantages.
Top Brands of Windshield Wiper Blades
Bosch Auto Parts is one facet of the company that Robert Bosch founded in 1889. Bosch started as an electrical engineering company and soon launched into the automotive industry with an innovative high-voltage ignition magneto in 1902. Windshield wipers are just one category of a comprehensive line of automotive and powersports replacement parts offered by the Gerlingen, Germany-based company. Consistent high quality from our reasonably priced DirectConnect best frame pick to the premium ICON blade wiper makes Bosch a popular favorite.
Rain-X is a multinational company specializing in windshield treatments and car care products. Kraco Enterprises acquired Rain-X in 2010 but maintained the Ecolab Vehicle Care Division as the chief producer of Rain-X products. Rain-X also offers a commercial line of products for car washes and automotive professionals. The Rain-X-Latitude was our pick for the best beam-style windshield wiper, and the company manufactures a full complement of wipers including the budget-friendly Weatherbeater
Michelin was founded in 1889 by Edouard and Andre Michelin as a tire manufacturing company. Today, the company is a global manufacturer of automotive tires and accessories with headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand, France. Michelin’s puffy white mascot, Bibendum (the Michelin Man), has lost a few pounds through the years but stands resolute behind every product and Michelin Guide recommendation. We like the Michelin Cyclone Hybrid, and the company offers a full range of windshield wipers from the budget-friendly RainForce to the premium Stealth Ultra.
Single Windshield Wiper Prices
- Under $10: There is a large selection of conventional frame rubber blade windshield wipers in this price range. You can spend a little and get a lot. Our best frame wiper slotted into this category and delivered an outstanding performance. Economy wipers in the two-for-$10 range will get the job done, but don't expect durability.
- $11-$20: Stepping up into the mid-price range brings a more extensive selection of features and wiper types. Conventional frame wipers join the latest beam and hybrid wipers. Mid-range is a good place to try something new, different, or better without spending a small fortune.
- Above $20: Windshield wipers over $20 each fall into the premium category. Frame wipers with pure silicone blades join the latest beam wipers and high-end hybrids. Premium wipers offer a longer service life. Extra-long wiper blades carry a higher cost.
Wiper Arm Connector
Along with length, the wiper arm connector is a crucial consideration in windshield wiper selection. Windshield wiper arm connectors vary in the automotive timeline by manufacturer. Traditional J-hook, pin, and bayonet connections for frame-type wipers join top lock, slim-tab, pinch tab, and side lock connectors for today’s beam-style wipers. The best windshield wiper will deliver poor performance when poorly attached. Some universal connector adapters are a shaky compromise at best and a wobbly failure at worst. Make sure a wiper blade will fit your wiper arm before ordering.
Year, Make, and Model
Choosing between a frame, beam, or hybrid windshield wiper comes down to the wiper arm connector and the year, make, and model of your vehicle. The best windshield wiper is a manufacturer direct factory replacement. A conventional frame wiper won’t perform as well as a beam-style wiper on today’s low-slope windshields. A cutting edge beam wiper may not be of any benefit on an older vehicle with a flat or sharply angled windshield. Hybrids offer the best of both worlds, but two wiper’s worth of steel, plastic, and rubber can add up. Excessive weight can overburden wiper arms and motors designed for lighter wipers.
Take your regional climate and operating environment into account. Heavy winter snow and ice can clog up open frame wipers. An all-season hybrid can get you through mild winters, but step up to dedicated winter wipers if you live where the word thundersnow is part of the local vernacular. Extreme temperature swings, excessive dust, and endless summer Southwest sunshine can take their toll on conventional rubber blade material. Relentless UV rays can cook the life out of your windshield wipers even if you rarely use them. Consider an upgrade to a synthetic blend or silicone compound blade material for desert climates.
Other Considerations When Buying Wiper Blades
- Wiper Arm Index: Walk out in front of your parked vehicle and look at the wiper arms. If one wiper is resting on the cowl and the other is halfway up the windshield, the arm index is out of whack.
- Wiper Arm Condition: Your wiper blades might not be the problem. Inspect your wiper arms for excessive play and an incorrect sweep angle. Lift the arm off the windshield and gently move it to check for excessive play or wobble.
- Wiper Arm Angle: Remove both wipers. Carefully place the arms back on the windshield. The end should sit mostly flat on the glass, so the blade pulls across the windshield in both directions. Bent arms can cause chatter and noise as the wiper edge pushes across the glass.
- Front and Rear: Windshield wiper blade type, length, and arm connectors can be different front to rear. Consult your owner’s manual or manufacturer’s application recommendations when ordering rear windshield wipers.
Best Windshield Wiper Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Bosch Direct Connect frame wiper blades hit the trifecta and won out over the rest of the conventional style pack. The straightforward and sturdy design, well-designed connector, and natural rubber blade make the Direct Connect an excellent stock replacement choice for vehicles that left the factory with frame-style wiper blades.
The connector was literally a snap to install on the bayonet wiper arm and made a solid wobble-free mount for smooth operation. Other bayonet connectors in the frame category were wobbly at best and incompatible at worst. The Bosch connector design held the wiper firmly to the bayonet arm for a correct and consistent sweep angle.
Performance on the road and in our spray test rig was outstanding. The all-steel frame features a six-point blade claw for even pressure on flat or curved windshields, and the precision-cut rubber blade swept away water, smashed bugs, and road grime with silent dispatch. The Bosch Direct Connect lived up to its name and delivered stock or better performance at a reasonable price.
Excellent performance and easy installation put the Rain-X Latitude above the rest of the beam windshield wiper contenders. The pre-stressed spring steel internal beam structure held the wiper blade on curved and flat windshields, and the aerodynamic shape helped reduce noise and high-speed chatter.
The Rain-X Latitude came with a pre-installed J-hook adapter and a separate multi-adapter. Swapping out the adapters was simple and the multi-adapter held the wiper blade firmly in place on the bayonet wiper arm. Rain-X claims the two adapters to cover 98% of all vehicle mounting situations. Seamless installation on a decades-old subcompact hatchback and SUV are proof.
The Latitude swept across flat and curved windshields at the ideal sweep angle despite its slightly higher than stock arm mounting height. The synthetic rubber blade has a graphite treatment for chatter-free performance in the wet and the transition back to dry. The Latitude cleared water off the windshield with authority and stayed quiet as it wiped bug guts away.
The Michelin Cyclone brought the best aspects of a conventional steel frame wiper together with beam-type aerodynamics. The Cyclone packs a standard frame-type wiper at its core and adds a flexible cover for all-weather versatility. The Cyclone plowed through a tropical storm out on the highway and was quiet in less-demanding everyday operation.
The conventional steel frame mounting adapter was easy to install and made a solid connection to the bayonet wiper arm. The lightweight rubberized covers didn’t tip the scales into the red zone like some of its plastic-clad hybrid competitors and lent the Cyclone a sleek low-profile look. The covers act as a protective shield against snow and ice that would otherwise clog up a conventional frame wiper.
Choosing the best hybrid windshield wiper was a tough call. The Cyclone conventional frame hybrid wipers worked best overall on our two vintage test vehicles. Most of the beam-type hybrid connector adapters did not work well with our bayonet wiper arms but could work fine on a more modern vehicle. Consider a beam-based hybrid like the Trico Sentry if your vehicle came from the factory with beam wiper blades.
ANCO combined the latest beam wiper design with innovative features in its premium all-season Contour wiper. The spring steel wiper blade sits inside an articulated housing that helps keep even pressure on the windshield. The Contour also has a water deflector on the leading edge. The duckbill shaped plastic deflector scooped up water and visibly threw it off the windshield on our test rig.
The Contour delivered excellent performance out on the road, and the rubber compound quietly cleared the glass of water, bugs, and mud. Installing the Contour was a cinch, but the combination connector is probably better suited for J-hook or pin-style wiper arms. The bayonet arm fit loose in the connector and resulted in some lateral play. Plastic duckbill deflectors and articulated housings made the Contour slightly heavier than its premium beam counterparts.
An articulated protective cover and smooth beam-type blade earned the Trico Sentry our beam-based hybrid mention. The lightweight polymer shell features concealed hinges for flexibility and adds a measure of strength to the underlying spring steel beam. The Sentry cleared the way forward through soaking rain and made the dry windshield transition in silence. The shell also helps to prevent chatter and noise at highway speeds.
The unobtrusive low-profile design blends in with older and newer vehicles, and the side mount connector keeps the wiper arm closer to the windshield for consistent performance. Other beam and beam hybrid connectors positioned the wiper arm too high off the windshield and resulted in excessive deflection and unpredictable behavior. The Trico Swift connector adapter did far better than most, but still left us wishing for a slightly firmer on grip bayonet wiper arm.
DIY Tips for Windshield Wipers
- Take it slow and go easy when installing and removing windshield wiper blades. The majority of wiper arm connectors are easy to remove. A tiny screwdriver to lift a cover or clip and some pliers are probably all you need to get the job done.
- Don’t force it. Bent wiper arms from heavy-handed installs cause a large percentage of windshield wiper problems. Suspect your wiper arms if new wipers chatter or streak just like the old ones.
- Protect your glass and paint. Place a clean blanket, piece of cardboard, or similar material under the wiper while you work. Unintentional release of the spring-loaded wiper arm can damage the windshield. Belt buckles and brass buttons easily scratch the paint.
Q: What causes windshield wipers to chatter?
A: Road grime, dried bug parts, and grease can cause chattering wiper blades. Thoroughly clean the windshield first. Wipe down the blade edge with a clean damp cloth or a cotton ball and some household rubbing alcohol. While the wiper arms are raised, check for excessive play and tighten things up as needed.
Q: How long do windshield wipers last?
A: The lifespan of the wipers depends on the type, materials, and operating environment. An economy frame wiper might last six months. A premium hybrid with a synthetic or compound blade can clear the way forward through four seasons. Premium level beam wipers with pure or blended silicone blades can endure for over a year.
Q: How can you tell it's time to replace your wiper blades?
A: Streaking, chatter, noise, and poor visibility are obvious signs of wiper wear. The best way to tell when to replace your wipers is before they start causing problems. Inspect your windshield wipers in the spring and fall. Look for cracks, wobble, and uneven blade wear. Top off your windshield washer fluid and go out for a road test.
With so many different kinds of vehicles on and off the road, there is no one-size-fits-all best windshield wiper. A direct manufacturer replacement is the safest bet, and ironically, some automakers have returned to replaceable refills like old-style frame wipers.
Aftermarket windshield wipers are your next best option. Getting the correct size and connector are more important than gimmicks. A well-fitted budget wiper will outperform a poorly-fitted premium wiper. Neither will work on a rickety or bent-up wiper arm.
Know your vehicle. That linkage and motor behind your wiper arms might not handle the latest technology. The heaviest hybrid beam wiper in our test weighed nearly twice as much as the lightest conventional frame-type. Besides, modern wipers just look goofy on an older or classic car.