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Are Windshield Wipers Universal?

Car windshield with rain drops and frameless wiper blade close-up.

No, windshield wipers are not universal. When you consider that vehicles are all different sizes, it is easy to see why. Windshield wipers are also called wiper blades, and they come in a wide range of sizes and styles.

When you are shopping for windshield wipers, size is going to be the most important thing on your mind. You will find them in sizes that range from 10 to 28 inches long. In addition to being different sizes and styles, windshield wipers are also different for each side of the vehicle.

You will usually need the sizes for each side of the car to match. The two sides of the car for the wipers are not usually noted as left or right but are noted as either #1 or #2, or with either a “D” or a “P” for driver and passenger. Finding the right size and the right side is not going to be enough.

The right type and style matters as well. Learn more about windshield wipers and whether or not they are universal right here.

The different kinds of wiper blades and mounting types can seem confusing, but we’ll break it down

Drops of water after a heavy rain over windshields.

There are several different types of windshield wipers that can help you to understand how these blades are not universal. The most common kinds of wiper blades are as follows:

  • Standard windshield wipers
  • Spoiler windshield wipers
  • Retrofit flat wiper blades
  • Hybrid windshield wipers
  • Flat windshield wipers
  • Vehicle-specific windshield wipers
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The standard or traditional windshield wipers are among the most common kind of wiper blades, and these blades range in sizes from 10 inches to 28 inches. These windshield wipers look like coat hangers and can be fit on many different cars, trucks, or vans. If there is any kind of windshield wiper that is universal, it is this one.

In many cases, these windshield wipers can be replaced with a different type of wiper blade as well. The type of windshield wiper that is called a spoiler looks like a spoiler that can run along the back of a car. These will run along the entire length of the windshield wiper and keep the blade of the wiper closer to the glass.

This ensures that the wiper can function at higher speeds. You will typically see these blades on the driver’s side only but you might see these blades on either side of the car. A newer kind of windshield wiper is the flat style, and this is often an upgrade.

This windshield wiper can be fit on most vehicles and do not have the coat hanger shape to them. Here you will see metal running between the rubber section of the wiper. The advantage here is an aerodynamic advantage that makes the car go faster.

If your car comes with these blades, you will likely have to keep switching out to new ones of this style. However, you can have the entire wiper modified on the car if you really don’t like them, although that will become a more expensive repair. Vehicle-specific wiper blades are precisely what they sound like.

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This is a windshield wiper that is specific to the make and model of the vehicle. When you need new wipers of this part, you will need to contact the dealership for your car to order them. They can usually be installed very easily, and in many cases, even on your own by just snapping them in.

Speaking of installation, windshield wipers can also vary by mounting type. There are many different kinds of mounting types where you can attach the windshield wiper to the blade many different ways. The different types of mountings for windshield wipers are hook, slim-top, slide-lock, bayonet, top-lock, and pinch-tab.

Here are the many different things to look for when you are choosing windshield wipers for your car

Windshield wiper removing a snow.

When you are choosing wiper blades for your car, you may easily get confused by mounting types, and types of wiper blades. You’ll also get confused by what you are supposed to have in a wiper blade, and wonder which features are most important. Choosing a wiper blade is simpler than it looks.

Design, of course, is going to play a key role here. A very common design in today’s newest wipers is the hinge-free style. This makes for a more aerodynamic design, and it also prevents the wiper from freezing during colder weather.

At the same time, if your wipers do not have a hinge, you may find that the wind sticks to the surface of your windshield easier as well. Obviously, performance is more important than design, unless design features can keep wind and precipitation at bay. You want your wipers to remove material, be it weather, dirt, or bugs, from your windshield, no matter what.

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Look for wipers that have seams to them that are newer rubber so that they will not harden over time. Colder climates will demand a lot more from windshield wipers than other climates will. Research reviews online when you are buying new wiper blades.

See how drivers in winter climates are working with the wiper blades that you are considering. Performance is key. Your wiper blades may not cost that much, but if you do not have the right ones, you could be in a very expensive accident, or worse, a fatal one.

Do your research to see what wipers are functioning the best in the climate you live in. Of course, price and affordability will play a role in what kind of wipers that you get. Windshield wipers are not that expensive.

You should not have a problem getting exactly the kind of wipers that you need or want, in your budget.

Getting the right size of windshield wiper can be trickier than it looks

Rainy bokeh windshield wiper.

It can be very easy to get the wrong size wiper blade. Then, you have to either order a new one, or go back to the hardware store and get another one. What should be a small errand can wind up being a day long chore.

Measurement is key here, but it is easier than you think to find the right kind. You may be able to find the right measurement in the owner’s manual of the car. At the same time, you can also just bring in the part to the hardware store, and get someone in-person to help you out here.

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Note that your car may have two completely different windshield wipers before you bring them into the store, or make a purchase. You’ll also note that the rear wiper is smaller. Although the sizes may vary, the most common size of wiper blade is between 19 inches and 22 inches.

You will find the shorter sizes on the imported vehicles. You can check the wiper size of your car online.

Knowing when to replace the windshield wipers is also half the battle

Like every part of car maintenance, knowing when to do something on it can be stressful. But this one is an easy one. Is one of your wipers broken?

Do they both work well? If they aren’t working, you fix them, if they are working, you don’t. You may want to change the style or design of your wiper blade, in which case you will want to change them whether they are working well or not.

At the same time, there is many a car adage that will say something like, why wait until you are in a blizzard with a broken wiper to make a point of getting a new one. So it does help to be a little preventive here, even if the wiper isn’t broken already. Every windshield wiper is going to deteriorate in time, whether it is high-end or not.

It’s just the nature of the mechanical beast. With wiper blades, acid rain, dirt, mud, and hail even, will damage the wiper over time. You also have salt in oceanside locations that will contribute to the wear and tear of your wiper blade.

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Additionally, you might see splitting or streaking, or a kind of skipping of the wiper blade when it begins to get old. Elements such as sap from trees, road mud and tar, and strange debris can very easily get caught in wipers since that is what they are meant to remove. And, if you don’t use the wiper very often, you also run the risk of causing damage.

There are signs you can look for to determine if you need wiper blades or not. Look for damage to the frame of the wipers at the different components of the blade. You may find there is damage to the connections of the blade.

You may also find corrosion along the edges of the wipers. Look for cracks, tears, rounded edges, and anything that looks like any kind of damage at all to the windshield wiper. Wipers can also go round when they are starting to get old.

At the same time, look for performance. They may still work, but they may not work as well as they did when you got them. There are many ways to determine if your windshield wipers will work.