Driving tests

How to clean windshield wipers like a pro

Our windscreen wipers are crucial for maintaining a clear view through the windscreen and thus one of the most important factors essential for safe driving. A dirty windscreen wiper creates a smeary windscreen thus reducing your vision. And on the other hand, small pieces of grit trapped under the wiper blades can easily result in scratching the windscreen.

During heavy rain, sun strike, dusty conditions, or a snowfall, there’s a decrease in the visibility and blurry light through your windscreen which is a signal for dirty windscreen glass.

Leaving your wipers to get dirty like this makes them much less effective

What most drivers do is use the dirty brush in the dirty water at petrol stations and give a windscreen glass a quick clean. This isn’t effective enough to remove all the dirt. In fact, most of the time, your wipers will leave uncleared spots on the windscreen glass when you clean them that way. Therefore, here is how to clean windscreen wipers like a pro.

What you’ll need:

  • Paper towel or clean rags (a few of them), but avoid using steel wool as this can damage the windscreen glass
  • Washer fluid (window cleaner) or hot soapy water
  • Rubbing alcohol

The cleaning process

  1. After assembling all your cleaning products, make sure that your car is clean. If it is not clean, wash the windscreen and rinse off the dirt and all the stuck debris using a garden hose and soft brush or cloth.
  2. Lift your windscreen wipers gently from the windscreen glass to a position that makes it easy for you to clean the wiper blades.
  3. Apply a small amount of the washer fluid or hot soapy water onto the paper towel. While holding the wiper in your desired position, wipe the wiper blade from one end to the other and back forth for a couple times until there’s no dirt coming off the rubber edge of the blade. In other words, keep discarding the paper towel as you clean and repeat the process of wiping the wiper blades until the paper towel shows no coloration.
  4. Check the wiper hinged areas and wash them with hot soapy water to remove all the debris so as to ensure a smooth fluid flow.
  5. Remove the soapy film or the residues left on the rubber using a rubbing alcohol. Confirm that the wipers are streak-free and they can move in any direction.

The windscreen wipers have to be cleaned regularly because if dirt dries in them, they have a potential of damaging your windscreen. However, the rubber blades of the windscreen wipers also wear out with time. Because they sit on a hot surface in a UV-rich sunlight for most of their time, they are affected by the UV radiation from the sun, which makes them hard and brittle. In such a case, you need to replace them rather than cleaning them.

Under normal circumstances, the useful life span of a wiper blade is only 2-3 years and replacing them is simple. It is also possible to find inexpensive rubber inserts which you can install on your existing arms. But what you have to always remember is that the better the condition of the windscreen wipers, the safer it is to drive.

Wipers that don’t clean effectively can leave streaks or blurry patches. They can chatter and squeak on the screen or leave lines. They also won’t effectively remove grime from the windscreen which causes this kind of blurry effect with rain and spray.

driver training

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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