Last year it seemed as if every time I drove my motorhome it was raining, which led to the realization that I needed new and better wiper blades. All it takes is a few hours behind the windshield in a torrential downpour to give you some perspective on the significance of good wiper blades. In our October 2009 article “Clear Vision,” we covered in great detail how important it is to use windshield water repellent; we hope you are already following that tip. Combine that with a great set of wipers and you are ready to hit the road no matter how hard it is raining.
My coach (a 2008 Tiffin Phaeton) came from the factory equipped with a large wiper arm and J-hook that made finding replacement wiper blades difficult and expensive. After a little research I found out the OEM now offers a new upgraded wiper arm that allows the use of “traditional” automotive-size wiper blades, which is exactly what I wanted. Next, I ordered a set of new wiper arms and installed them, something I will describe in this article. With the new arms in place I could select wiper blades from one of many stores, including department stores, auto parts stores and Camping World.
There are several different types of connectors used among wiper arm and blade manufacturers, with the most common being the 9-by-3 or 9-by-4 J-hook. The 9-by-4 is often used on larger vehicles but sometimes you can even find a motorhome with the side pin or bayonet style. After a careful examination of your wiper arm and current blades, you should be able to identify the correct replacement blade. If in doubt, take a photo of the blades and take it to your local dealer; a service person should be able to help you pick the right model.
Going back a few years, most coaches had slightly smaller front windshields and they used 26- to 28-inch wiper blades. Today, however, many of them come equipped with 32-inch blades just as our Tiffin did. The larger size gives you a larger pane of clear glass to look through, but honestly you don’t normally need or use that entire 32 inches of viewing area. We mention this because locating 32-inch wiper blades can be difficult while 26- to 28-inch models are plentiful.
Another advantage noted on the 28-inch wiper blades is they seemed less likely to chatter and shimmy back and forth while in use like the 32-inch models did. I assume this is due to their shorter and perhaps slightly stiffer design. After installing numerous pairs of wiper blades, as well as testing and researching them, I concluded that for my purposes a 28-inch blade is plenty long and cleans a huge area of the windshield significantly above and below my normal viewing area.
Years ago, buying a wiper blade was a simple matter with only one or two choices for each size and the nice person who filled up your car with fuel would also check your wipers and install new ones for a dollar or two. Today the search for blades will present you with more options than you ever imagined. The traditional style blades with a metal frame and a rubber insert are still available but they are now less common than the new flexible-style frameless blades. This new design promises better contact between the glass and the entire length of the wiper blade. The old metal frame style relied upon four, six or even eight pressure points along the blade to keep it pressed securely against the sometimes-curved glass windshield.
Iif you are driving with old, worn-out wiper blades that are wiping against untreated glass, get them taken care of now. Not only is it a safety issue, but you will notice an improvement in your fatigue level when driving in the rain once you are able to see better. Don’t delay any longer and be sure to use a wiper blade cover when the blades are not in use. This greatly reduces wear and UV damage on the rubber blades and increases their lifespan.
Flip through the guide below to see the basics of installing your own wiper blades.