By Joe Bruzek on January 6, 2014
Replacing wiper blades can be intimidating to the uninitiated. The swiping arms of plastic connectors, rubber and metal may seem like a riddle with steps only Indiana Jones can unlock, but it's actually an easy task on many newer cars. Some auto parts stores offer complimentary installation when you buy wipers there. Even so, it's easy enough to consider doing it yourself if you found a sweet deal online or bought wipers elsewhere.
Newer cars favor an easy-to-replace hook-style wiper arm where the blade simply slides over a metal hook and clips into place. Replacing the blades on a hook-style arm is the process we'll detail since they're so common. We'd be lying if we said all wipers were the same or this easy to replace. A variety of arms and mounts have been used over the years. The stubborn ones with pins and unique latches can churn up rage so deep that the new wipers may turn into boomerangs before they're ever installed.
Even blades using the same mounting style doesn't guarantee every wiper blade will come off the same way, so check your owner's manual for guidance.
1. Measure the wiper blade length with a tape measurer or ruler; you also can check the owner's manual or an in-store catalog when buying wipers. Uneven-sized wiper blades are normal. Cars.com's previous long-term tester, the 2013 Subaru BRZ, used a 22-inch driver-side blade and 20-inch passenger-side blade. Realizing you have the wrong size only after sitting in the cold rain surrounded by empty wiper boxes and rogue clips is easily avoidable.
2. Set wiper blades in an upright position on the windshield. With ignition in accessory mode, switch the wipers on until they're mid-swipe and then turn the car off so the wipers are standing straight up, perpendicular to the hood line. It's often easier to remove the blades with the arms up unless the hood or some other obstruction keeps you from pulling the arm away from the windshield. Most cars allow this trick, though some wipers return to base position when the ignition is off. Also, replacing only one wiper at a time will ensure you have another blade to reference if you run into problems.
3. Lift arm away from the windshield and pivot the blade. With the wiper arm pulled away from the glass, pivot the wiper so the whole blade is perpendicular to the arm; some may have a clip or tab to pull for full rotation.
4. At this point, have a towel or rag ready so once the blade is removed you can rest the bare wiper arm against a soft material on the windshield.
5. Release the connector and pull the blade downward. This step may vary, but with most blades you can pull the connector's lower tabs outward to release it from the hook, or push a button to release the blade. Once disengaged, pull down to remove the whole blade from the hook. You might need to give it a tap-tap-a-roo or good tug to work past debris or corrosion.
6. Gently rest the bare hook against a rag on the windshield. The wiper arm is spring loaded, so don't let the bare metal hook drop quickly; it can whack the glass and crack the windshield. The rag also protects the glass from being etched, if for some reason the wipers unexpectedly swipe.
7. Pull new wiper blade connector into the bare hook. With the blade pointing toward the windshield, slide the new wiper blade connector into the hook and give the blade a good pull upward while listening or feeling for a click. Often you'll have to guide the hook through the blade first before pulling up and engaging the connector with the hook.
8. Once secured, lower the wiper blade and repeat process on the other side.
9. Lastly, test the wipers after installation so you're not testing them in the next downpour with a passenger-side blade flopping around scratching the windshield.
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Email Joe