DIY Car Maintenance: Swap Out Windshield Wipers Yourself

Windshield wipers from inside car
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Routine maintenance is one of the most expensive aspects of owning a car. Most of a vehicle’s parts will eventually wear out, but that doesn’t mean you have to take your car to a mechanic for every little thing. For instance, if your wipers are leaving streaks on your windshield, it’s easier than you think to replace them yourself and pocket the extra cash.

How to Determine if Your Wipers Need to be Replaced

First, you need to recognize the signs that your wipers are in need of replacement. Windshield wipers should be replaced every six to 12 months, according to AutoBlog. You can find specific maintenance recommendations for your car in your owner’s manual.

However, if your wipers are leaving streaks or patches on your windshield or scraping across the glass rather than gliding, you may need to replace them sooner. Any time you notice your wipers performing at a sub-par level, it’s a good idea to inspect them for warning signs.

Drivers who live in harsh climates, such as those that are very hot and dry or those with extreme cold and ice, will likely need to replace their wipers more frequently. Hot climates can cause your wipers to crack, and salt and grit from winter roads can wear them out quickly.

Buy the Right Wipers

To find out what kind of windshield wipers fit your car, check your owner’s manual.

If you can’t find the answer in there — or you’re just feeling particularly lazy —  ask an associate in an auto parts shop if they can help you find the right ones. Usually, they’ll ask for the make, model and year of your car, so have that information handy.

While there are several different price ranges for windshield wipers, you’ll want to splurge on this purchase. Wiper blades range in price from $10 each for the Valeo 600 Series to $27.99 for the Rain X Quantum, but you can generally get a quality blade for around $20 each.  

Since you’re saving a chunk of change by doing the maintenance yourself, it’s important to upgrade your windshield wipers’ quality. The cheap ones don’t last very long, so you’ll lose money in the long run by having to replace them more often.

Remove the Old Set

Before you begin the switch, protect your windshield. Grab a blanket or a towel and place it between your windshield wipers and the surface of your windshield. The last thing you want to do is accidentally drop the wipers onto the windshield, potentially damaging or cracking the glass and creating even more maintenance problems.

Once your windshield is protected, lift up the arm of the first windshield wiper you’d like to replace.

This video has step-by-step instructions to help you remove your windshield wiper.

While all windshield wipers are different and may require a varied process, most will have a small button or latch to release them. Once you’ve pressed the button, slide the windshield wiper off the hook and lift it off to remove. Now, toss it! You don’t need it anymore.

Attach the New Windshield Wiper

The next step is attaching the new windshield wiper. Slide the new windshield wiper onto the arm and snap it into place. Close the hook to secure it, and gently lay the arm back down. Repeat the process on the second windshield wiper.

Depending on the brand you’ve purchased, this process will be a bit different. Refer to the instructions accompanying your new windshield wipers for specific guidance.

Once you’re finished, remove the blanket from your windshield and test out the new wipers either in the rain or in the path of a sprinkler. If neither option is available, ask a friend or family member to spray your car with a hose while you test out your wipers. If they are installed correctly, they will glide smoothly over the glass. They shouldn’t wiggle around in the arm or leave streaks on your windshield.

Doing your own basic car maintenance can be a great way to save your pennies. You won’t just save money on the labor — you’ll also save money on the parts, since many dealerships will charge you an additional profit for them. But be sure you know what you’re doing before you tackle the task — if you don’t, you may end up spending more money to clean up the mess.

Meg Thomson is a content editor at The News Wheel, a digital automotive magazine covering the latest car news, reviews and how-tos.