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Windscreen Wipers: Your Questions Answered

Written by Melvin Brown

Apr 22, 2022

April 22, 2022

windscreen rain sensor closeup

Windscreen Wipers: Your Questions Answered

Windscreen wipers allow the car driver to have an unobstructed view of the road in rain, sleet, or snow. These simple strips of rubber, have come a long way over the years, and we only tend to pay attention to them when they stop doing their job.

This article takes a closer look at these essential parts of your car’s windscreen.

How do I know when I need to replace my car’s windscreen wipers?

To keep your windscreen wipers in good nick, manufacturers advise replacing them every 12 to 18 months. However, if you often park your car in the harsh sun, this period dramatically decreases. The rubber strip will harden and crack.

These days, wiper blades consist of durable soft rubber composite. They are designed to last, but in extreme heat they will still lose their elasticity and become less efficient.

You’ll know it’s time for new wiper blades when:

  • you hear them screech across a clean windscreen
  • you sense a strong vibration when they move
  • they are not effective in wiping stains, or
  • they leave a film of moisture on the glass
windscreen rain sensor closeup

How do I extend the life of the windscreen wiper blades?

The main wiper damage culprit is direct sunlight. Try to park your car under cover as often as possible. It’s also important to regularly check and clean the blades — at least every four months.

How do I replace windscreen wipers myself?

It’s usually relatively simple to replace wiper blades, and the packaging clearly outlines the instructions. It’s important to remember each car model’s wipers have a specific type, size, and number.

How to I stop my windscreen wipers squeaking?

The most common cause of squeaky wipers is a dirty windscreen. Small dirt particles cause friction when the wipers swipe across the glass, causing that irritating sound. Give your windscreen a good wash and rinse and the noise should go away.

How are windscreen wipers designed?

Most cars have two wipers on the windscreen and one on the rear window. The parts of the wiper that you can see are the rubber blade, wiper arm, clamp, and a section of the wiper pivot. A single motor drives both wiper arms.

Pressure points (or claws) behind the wiper distribute pressure on the back of the blade — in essence, a suspension system. The claws evenly flex the blade against the windscreen, ensuring uniform cleaning.

What are windscreen wiper blades made from?

The wiper connecting links and pivots are galvanised steel, protecting them from corrosion. Smaller parts such as washers, screws and springs are steel.

The frame of the blade is aluminium, and the blades themselves (up to 76cm long) are usually natural rubber.

windscreen rain sensor closeup

When were windscreen wiper blades invented?

The first properly functioning windscreen wiper system was invented by Mary Anderson in 1903 and patented in 1905. The Alabama local got her idea after visiting New York in frigid winter. She noticed a streetcar driver trying to see through the windscreen in a freezing downpour.

The unlikely inventor sketched a system that would eventually solve the problem. It consisted of a lever and a moving rubber-edged arm. This lever could be manually operated from inside the car. However, it required that the driver operate the wipers with one hand while driving with the other. Although her invention was used worldwide by 1913, Anderson never received a single penny for her efforts.

In the following years, a carburettor-powered wiper system replaced Anderson’s rudimentary method. Depending on how fast the engine was running, this vacuum method could wipe the windscreen at variable speeds. The problem was that when the cars were driving too fast, the systems couldn’t quite keep up.

In 1917, a Hawaiian dentist, Dr Ormand Wall, invented the automatic wiper driven by an electric motor. At this stage, the wipers hung from the top of the windscreen. They only moved to the base when electrical systems became more sophisticated.

Bob Kearns invented the intermittent wiper in 1962. Drivers could now select different intervals and speeds depending on the outside conditions. Three decades later, microsensors were built into windscreens to detect rain, activate the wipers, and adjust the speed automatically.

In 1999, the Aerotwin revolutionised the industry once again. It was the first wiper blade on the market without any joints or brackets.

Current, increasingly flexible rubber wiper blades can wipe away ice and snow. They also have non-stick coatings to prevent oily substances from clinging to them and shortening their lifespan.

In the following years, a carburettor-powered wiper system replaced Anderson’s rudimentary method. Depending on how fast the engine was running, this vacuum method could wipe the windscreen at variable speeds. The problem was that when the cars were driving too fast, the systems couldn’t quite keep up.

In 1917, a Hawaiian dentist, Dr Ormand Wall, invented the automatic wiper driven by an electric motor. At this stage, the wipers hung from the top of the windscreen. They only moved to the base when electrical systems became more sophisticated.

Bob Kearns invented the intermittent wiper in 1962. Drivers could now select different intervals and speeds depending on the outside conditions. Three decades later, microsensors were built into windscreens to detect rain, activate the wipers, and adjust the speed automatically.

In 1999, the Aerotwin revolutionised the industry once again. It was the first wiper blade on the market without any joints or brackets.

Current, increasingly flexible rubber wiper blades can wipe away ice and snow. They also have non-stick coatings to prevent oily substances from clinging to them and shortening their lifespan.

windscreen rain sensor closeup

What does the future of windscreen wipers look like?

King of electric cars, Tesla, is in the design and patent phase of replacing traditional wipers with laser beams. The idea is to target and fire a laser to remove rain and debris automatically.

Some industry leaders scoff at the concept, and it may be a way off, but it’s still kind of cool to imagine we’ll be driving around like Night Rider one of these days.

windscreen rain sensor closeup

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