You are unlikely to buy new wiper blades very often. They can last for many years, but do slowly degrade as they become damaged by dirt and grit.
A gradual decline in performance often goes unnoticed until their inability to clear your windscreen leads to an MoT failure. In fact, the UK government says ineffective wipers are among the top three most common reasons for an MoT failure, along with incorrect headlamp aim and insufficient tyre tread depth.
Wiper blades come in a wide range of sizes, with lengths spanning from nine inches through to 32 inches (250mm to 813mm). It is important to fit the correct size of wiper blade; too small and they will not clear enough of the screen, impairing vision and potentially leading to an MoT failure. Too large, and they will extend beyond the screen, potentially catching on bodywork and causing damage.
Most cars use two wipers on their front screen, but some have just one and in very rare cases there is a third. A rear wiper is also common.
Then there are the different types of wiper blade – generally split into the three categories of aero, traditional and hybrid – which are all offered by multiple manufacturers at various price points. Lastly, there are a couple of different fixing mechanisms, so even if you buy a wiper that is the right size for your car, it might not attach in the same way as those fitted when the vehicle was new.
How to find the correct wiper blade
This might all sound rather complicated, but thankfully, while there are a great many replacement wiper blades to pick from, it’s very easy to buy the right ones for your vehicle. This is because the type of wiper your car needs is associated with its registration plate.
In most cases, all you need to do is enter your plate number into a retailer’s website, and options suitable for your car will be presented. Then it’s just a case of making the purchase based on the style of wiper you want and how much you’d like to spend. Auto spares retailers like Halfords stock a wide range of wiper blades, and have a vehicle registration tool (opens in new tab) to help you buy the right ones.
These databases aren’t quite foolproof, however. Our car was registered very early in the model’s lifespan, in 2015, and is sometimes incorrectly listed as the generation previous to the one we actually own. This can impact the search results for tyres and other components, as well as wiper blades. It is worth double-checking that the search tool has returned the correct result for your registration plate.
Retailers also tend to have catalogues in-store, making it easy to look up your model of car and find the correct wiper blade. Alternatively, wiper blade information can be found in the owner’s manual of your vehicle, and if you don’t have a copy of this digital copies can usually be found online.
There should also be markings on the blades themselves to help you identify their make, model and size. But this isn’t always the case, and such markings may have faded away on particularly old wiper blades. Lastly, you can always measure the wipers to check their length, then buy a set that has the same type of attachment.