Whether to pull your wiper blades up before a storm is a matter of debate in the snowy North. If you walk through a parking lot before a big snowstorm, it seems that half the cars have their wipers up and half have them down.
If you’re not from a place known for its snow and ice, you might wonder what good it does. If you’re smart, you even ask yourself whether it might also cause unintended damage to car parts.
We’re not here to settle the debate, but we will provide some information about the upsides and downsides.
Why Do People Pull Their Windshield Wipers Up?
The main reason people pull up their windshield wipers is to prevent damage to the wiper system in the face of ice or heavy snow. The main risk is that ice will freeze wipers to the windshield.
If you turn on wipers frozen in place, you can damage the motor, the mechanical arm, or the blades. Additionally, heavy snow can weigh down your wipers and burn out the motors.
If you pull up your blades before a snowstorm, the wiper will still move, but the blade won’t be pushing any of the snow. So, you’ve potentially saved your wiper motor.
Raised Windshield Wipers When Parked in Summer
Some people do pull up their windshield wipers when the weather is warm. The issue isn’t ice and snow, and it’s not a bunch of transplanted Northerners practicing for the cold months.
Most people pull their wipers up in summer because the wind will deposit soil, sand, and dust on windshields. As all that accumulates, it can leave unsightly lines across your windshield. If there’s enough, it can even tear your wiper blade.
Should You Ever Raise Your Windshield Wipers?
Automakers designed windshield wipers so that you can pull them up to replace the blades or windshield. Pulling them all the way out also makes it easier to thoroughly clean your windshield.
The same storm that threatens to dump heavy snow on your car probably includes high winds. Wiper blade arms aren’t designed to withstand a lot of stress, and high winds might bend them. In addition, high winds might kick up debris that hits your extended wiper blades.
You might also spare your wiper blades some immediate damage but cause components to wear out more quickly.
The rubber blades that shunt water from your windshield are delicate edges of rubber. Leaving them extended exposes them to extra UV radiation. That radiation can cause your wiper’s rubber edges to break down more quickly.
There’s also a spring in the wiper arm that is designed to keep your wiper tight against your windshield. Extending and leaving them out for a while will stretch that spring out of shape. It might also expose it to weather damage.
One reason you might extend your wipers has little to do with your car and more neighborly motivations.
Not everyone pays constant attention to the weather forecast. If you pay closer attention and know there’s a storm coming, extending those wiper blades is a friendly warning to others that a storm is brewing. You might even help someone get better prepared for nasty weather.
Why Should You Keep Your Windshield Wipers Down?
There’s a flip side to everything. If extending your windshield wipers might spare them storm damage, what’s the downside? Why not do it?
A primary reason is because of the same storm that will dump a ton of snow on you. It’s probably got high winds with it. Those winds can bend and damage extended wiper arms. They can also kick up debris that can hit them.
Leaving them up for too long can also bend the spring designed to hold your wiper firmly against the windshield. That can cause erratic performance during spring and summer rains.
Finally, if you’ve ever lived through an ice storm you know that the ice will coat absolutely everything. You’ll walk outside to plans, personal items, the sidewalk, and even your mailbox encased in ice.
Extended wiper blades will also become encased in ice. They won’t be frozen against your windshield, but they’ll be more difficult to clean off. You can also damage the wiper blade’s rubber edge while removing the ice.
Pulling up wiper blades is common in snowy states. It’s believed that it’ll help prevent them from sticking to windshields and prevent motor burnout if they move heavy snow.
This practice is not without its drawbacks, however. Leaving your wiper blades up exposes the rubber edges to the sun and high winds, which can both cause damage over time.