Improve your driving visibility

Quality windshield wipers will be able to clean the windscreen and not leave any marks on it. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

When rain starts pouring as you drive, you do not have to worry about how you will be able to see the road, especially if your wipers are in good condition. Eseri Watsemwa spoke to experts and they explain how you can maintain them.

Now that the mornings are normally foggy and the rains are not predictable, a number of car owners find equipment such as wipers important.


Wipers which are normally found on the windscreen are made out of thin, flexible rubber that cannot withstand harsh working conditions for long.
However, they are one of the most overlooked yet vital parts of your vehicle. But now that you will be using them more often, it is important to know how to maintain them and how often they need to be replaced.

Types of wipers

“There are a number of wipers on the market,” says David Mubiru, manager for Hoshiko Engineering Services. They include; Saveli, unipoint, hybrid wiper blades retrofit flat, original, convectional, specific fit rear wiper blades, conventional wiper blades, direct fit flat wiper blades, side latch wiper blades. These are made by different companies as well.

Saveli wiper blades
Mubiru says Saveli wipers are the latest brand of wipers on the market, with a greenish casing. They are available in sizes 14 and 18 inches for small cars such as Raums.

Unipoint wipers
Unipoint wipers are the commonly used wiper brands. Bob Rubanza, workshop manager at Trinity Motors Limited explains that these usually have blue covers. He however says since they are on demand, they are often duplicated. “Fake unipoint wipers have rubber that peel off very fast and end up scratching the windscreen during wiping.”

Direct flat wiper blades
They have a pre-fitted adaptor which matches the type of wiper arm fitted to them and just as their name suggests, they are time-saving as they can be taken out of the box, straight to your car and fitted directly in a minimum of 10 minutes. Mubiru says the common type of wiper arm fittings for flat wiper blades are known as side pin, bayonet, pinch tab, push button and slider.

Convectional wiper blades
Initially, conventional wiper blades were the commonest type of windscreen wiper fitted to new vehicles. They are usually attached to the vehicle using a hook shape wiper arm.


“A spoiler can be used for the drivers’ side which helps to keep the blade closer to the screen at motorway speeds, spray bar pods for vehicles that have their windscreen washer jets attached to the wiper blade and also specially curved passengers’ side blades for vehicles with very rounded windscreens,” he explains.
He describes hybrid wiper blades as the cutting-edge style of blades.


“These wipers have qualities of the flat style wiper blade and perform like the convectional style wiper. Most cars such as; Mazda 6 and Honda jazz have these blades fitted as the original equipment. They can also be fixed on cars with hook shaped wiper arms”.


The sleek new hybrid design includes an integrated spoiler connected to it that runs the whole length of the blade. It reduces wind lift to ensure a constant down force to keep the rubber blade against the windscreen, producing a chatter free, smooth wiping action which prolongs the life of the blade.

Original equipment wiper blades
“Authorised car dealers usually have specific wipers for specific cars. For instance, Benzes have standard wipers,” notes Rubanza.


Geoffrey Wanjala, an engineer with Good Life Motors adds, “Original equipment wiper blades are fixed on the vehicle when it is manufactured. They come with a pre-fitted adaptor which matches the type of wiper arm fitted to your selected vehicle reducing fitting time.”

Retrofit Flat Wiper Blades
Flat wiper blades are the standard fit on new vehicles. This type of wiper blades have a tensioned metal strip running within the rubber structure of the wiper blade. They allow for a flatter sleek shape which lessens wind noise.
The internal metal strip applies constant pressure along the length of the blade and has a built in spoiler. It provides less obstruction to the driver’s field of vision.


The blades have a special adaptor mechanism incorporated within the wiper structure which are fitted to cars with conventional hooked style wiper arms.

Multi-fit flat wiper blades
Flat wiper blades come with a variety of adaptors; usually the most common is pre-fitted to the blade.
They are also easy to fit. From the box, one chooses the right adapter and then fits them onto the windscreen.

Side Latch wiper blades
They are one of the rarest type of windscreen wiper, fitted to only a handful of vehicles.
They have very strong frames and there is increased pressure on the windscreen.
Specific fit rear wiper blades are manufactured to the same original specification and style. They exist in both the plastic moulded forms and the newer flat styles.

Maintenance

Maintaining your car’s wipers and replacing them regularly increases your visibility and safety when driving in the rain and other extreme seasons. Mubiru says wiper blades should be checked every six months. “Gauge the rubber wiper and metal frames to avoid common problems such as streaking, skipping, chattering, wearing and splitting. These reduce visibility and slow reaction time while driving.”

Inspect them
He adds that you need to inspect them frequently for wear and tear. “When inspecting, look out for a broken frame, corrosion, cracks, tears, and missing pieces in the rubber wiper’s edge.”

Clean them
To keep your wipers working well, clean them regularly. Use an alcohol cleanser to clean its edges. “Clean your windshield and gently wipe the rubber sponge with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt or oil”.


Keep windshiel clean
“Keep your windshield free of dirt and bugs and any friction that can spoil the rubber. This should be done each time you fill your gas tank. “


“In case there are cracks in your windshield, get them fixed. These will cut away at the wipers. Back wipers are usually ignored, these too need maintenance,” says Ibrahim Mutebi, a mechanic.
If you suspect your wipers need replacing, you can either replace them yourself or take your car to a professional auto service station to have them checked and replaced.
It’s also important to remember to keep your washer fluid tank filled.

Why they should be replaced

Wiper blades deteriorate due to environmental conditions such as sunshine and rain, oil, sand, mud, dust carried in the wind and moisture.


Most experts say that wiper blades need to be changed every six to 12 months; however, this depends on weather conditions and on what the blades are made out of ordinary rubber blades have the shortest lifespan.
Micheal Mataki, a driver ,says,


“My mechanic told me that wiper blades should be replaced every six months or after a year or as soon as I see a difference in driving visibility. When the blades no longer wipe the windscreen properly, it implies they cannot make proper contact with the surface. They can begin to make weird sounds, chatter, skip, and smear or make lines on the wind screen, thereby reducing driving visibility,” shares.

Prices

All wiper types come in different sizes. These include; 14, 17, 18 and 22, 32. “Wiper size depends on the size of your windscreen. Raums due to their small size will be fitted with 24 inch wipers while a Nissan Patrol will require 32 inches,” explains Rubanza. Wipers all cost between Shs20,000 to Shs30, 000.
“Whatever size and type the wipers are, they cost between Shs20,000 and Shs30, 000 on the market,” highlights Sharon Nakazzi, sales executive, Hoshiko Engineering Services, adding that Saveli costs Shs24,000.

Signs of worn out blades

Mubiru states that no matter the kind of rubber, wipers will wear out over time. The first sign that they may be fading is if you have decreased visibility out of your windshield or streaks are being left behind. Wiper blades should be able to easily clear water. If you pull a wiper arm away from the windshield and find tears or cracks in the wiper blade, it is a sign they need replacement.


Mubiru cautions; over time, wipers will crack, get twisted or become less flexible. In most cases, the heat and lack of moisture can damage the blades even if you never turn them on. Also, extremely cold weather can make the blades stiff and easily fractured.


“If not changed for too long, the material of the blade will shred and break loose. This can actually cause damage to your windshield, as the metal or hard plastic of the arm scratches the glass,” he cautions. Above all, when fitting blades, you will notice that they have adjustments. “They have to fit perfectly while ensuring they do not hit the bonnet grill when wiping,” advises Rubanza.

The numbers

Shs30,000
Average price of most wipers in different auto shops

Shs24,000
Price of the Saveli wiper blades.

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