Silicone or Rubber Wiper Blades? Which Ones to Buy?

Everyone agrees that wiper blades are crucial when it comes to safety. Even so, many people disregard them as nothing more than tiny mops for your windshield. If I’m honest, I can even see where they are coming from. However, any self-respecting petrolhead will tell you that windshield wipers – be they silicone or rubber – are way more important than that.

Picture this: As you are about to go for a drive, you notice that your wipers are not looking too good. Luckily, it’s a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, so you take the opportunity to visit the local auto shop. You grab a cheap pair of standard rubber blades, and you are on your way.

Fast forward a couple of months later. As you’re driving on a busy highway with rain pouring down your windshield, the wipers all but smudge the droplets of water. Suddenly, you hear a sharp piercing sound, and your eyes fall upon a nasty scratch. I don’t think I need to tell you how dangerous that scenario is. That’s why whether you are buying silicone or rubber wiper blades, you need to consider their quality first.

Silicone Wiper Blades vs. Rubber – How to Choose

Let’s say you managed to get out of that nightmare of a drive unscathed. Luckily, the damage from your wiper isn’t deep enough to warrant a windshield replacement, but you still have to repair the scratch. On top of that, there is the issue of your crumbling blades. This time, however, you have learned your lesson – instead of the standard rubber blades, you will be on the lookout for quality.

Durability

When choosing between silicone wiper blades and rubber, you should remember that both options have great products. Silicone wipers are generally considered to be more durable – they have better resistance to the elements and can withstand harsh temperatures, both hot and cold. While standard rubber blades are weaker and will not last as long, some high-end products are coated with graphite and embedded with Teflon – their durability almost equaling that of silicone.

So, which one should you choose? Well, most of the time, the harsh conditions a blade can withstand are just one part of its durability. Another equally important factor is the frame. Windshield wiper blades come in three sizes: traditional, hybrid, and beam. While all of them have their advantages, without a shred of doubt, the best option has to be the beam wiper.

Beam blades offer streak-free performance, even at higher speeds. At the same time, they are widely available and resistant to rust as well as corrosion. So, whether you choose to go with organic rubber or silicone, remember that the beam wiper blade has the most durable frame.

Apart from that, there is another aspect that will influence the lifespan of your blade.

Lubricant

There are two types of lubricants you should be aware of graphite and silicone. I don’t think you need me to tell you which type of blade uses which lubricant.

Graphite reduces friction and is resistant to heat. It’s a great lubricant for anything that might be an electrical hazard, but as a part of your wiper blade, it falls short. Graphite doesn’t like to stick around. When coated on an open surface, it quickly falls off. As you can imagine, that is not ideal for a car windshield, especially at high speeds.

On the other hand, there is the silicone lubricant. It does everything that its graphite cousin does, only better. Silicone lubricant sticks to the glass and prevents dirt and dust from piling up. The downside? At times, it can fog up your day, especially if your windshield is cracked or even scratched.

I will leave it up to you to determine which is better. However, I should mention that not all rubber wiper blades leave a lubricant behind, while all silicone blades do.

Performance

It’s a well-known fact that silicone wiper blades last twice as long as rubber ones. What most people don’t realize is that their longevity doesn’t come from the blade’s durability but, instead, its performance.

The silicone lubricant – also known as the hydrophobic layer – left behind acts as a shield. It not only protects from dust and debris but also bends rainwater and bounces it off the glass. As a result, you don’t have to use silicone wipers as often as rubber ones, hence their increased lifespan.

Due to that hydrophobic layer and the durability of the blade, silicone performs tremendously on long drives, at high speeds, and in harsh weather. Although high-end rubber wipers come close to the same performance, at the end of the day, they are not as good.

In the case of a graphite-coated rubber wiper, the water bounces off the blade itself and not off the windshield. However, there is a reason why most car manufacturers still prefer to use rubber over silicone. 

Cost and Availability

Traditional rubber blades are not only easier to manufacture, but they are also cheaper than silicone and more widely available. The choice seems clear, either you buy and replace a bunch of rubber wipers every so often or you spend more money on silicone once in a while, right? As with most things, I wish it was that simple.

When considering the cost-effectiveness of a wiper, you must take into account the available refills. So, what is a refill? Essentially, you don’t have to buy a brand new blade every time your old one cracks. Refills are meant to replace only the damaged part. They are readily available and a good alternative if you don’t want to buy a brand new wiper. Keep in mind, though, that this is only a temporary solution – like putting a Band-Aid on a large wound. The quality of the blade will not be the same, and it will break down much faster.

Of course, you can refill both rubber and silicone wipers. However, rubber refills – like the blades themselves – are more widely available and cheaper than their counterparts.

Apart from the higher production cost, there is another reason why silicone wiper blades are considered a rarity in the car world. Currently, there are no OEM silicone blades on the market. What does that mean? 

Every single part of your car falls under two main categories, OEM and aftermarket. The former encompasses every product produced by your car’s manufacturer, while the latter engulfs all parts designed and sold by third parties. This includes your PIAA wipers and Bosch wiper blades. While there is an argument to be made whether aftermarket or OEM parts are better, both have quality products.

At the end of the day, whether you should buy a silicone or rubber wiper blade will depend on your lifestyle. Both are cost-effective in their own right, and both have their quirks. However, if you live somewhere with relatively calm weather and don’t find yourself cruising down the highway every day, a silicone wiper blade may be overkill.

Silicone Wiper Blades vs. Rubber – When Is It Time to Replace?

It doesn’t matter if you own a silicone or rubber blade – nothing lasts forever. However, the question of “When to replace your wiper blade?” is not so easily answered. Everything from a change in temperature to the weather and the frame itself can affect the blade’s lifespan. Of course, the most potent factor is how often you use your wipers.

While some people suggest replacing your windshield blades every 6–12 months, I don’t particularly agree with that rule. A better one to follow is inspecting your wipers every time you get an oil change.

Visual Indicators

Apart from turning your windshield into a blurry mess, there are a couple of other ways to tell if it’s time for a replacement. Remember to inspect not only the blade but the frame as well.

Damaged Wiper Blade

When going for that oil change, make sure to inspect the surface of your blade. Are there any cracks? What about tears? Even rounded edges are a dead giveaway. All of this means you should replace your windshield wiper, but sometimes, the damage is not that obvious.

To be certain, everything is working properly. I like to lift my wiper blades away from the windshield as I gently bend the rubber or silicone edges back and forth. This way, if I notice they are splitting away from the frame, I can be certain it’s time for a change.

If the same thing happens to you, get the blades replaced as soon as possible. Splitting edges cannot be fixed with wiper refills. They will always worsen over time, and soon enough, you will notice a scratch on your windshield.

Corroded Metal

You should be on the lookout for rust or corrosion of your wiper frame. Although that doesn’t mean immediate visibility decrease, the structural integrity is still compromised. The longer you leave a corroded wiper blade on your windshield, the higher the chance of it breaking off mid-drive.

You can’t predict when your wiper will fall off. It can be during a leisurely ride or in the middle of a raging storm. Either way, it’s not the best idea to be on the road bladeless. Not only is it a danger to you but a surefire way to involve the people around you – be they passengers, pedestrians, or fellow drivers.

So, a small amount of rust won’t kill your wiper, but you should still consider buying a new one. If for whatever reason you don’t, make sure to check on the corrosion every week or so.

Streaks

Your wipers shouldn’t leave streaks on your windshield. If that is happening, then there is something wrong. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to replace them. It could be that your windshield is just particularly dirty this time around, or it could be that your wipers need some care. Don’t fret as there are a couple of steps to take before you go replacing the blades.

Start by giving your windshield a good old manual cleaning. Grab your microfiber cloth and your glass cleaner, then go over the whole windshield. Any dirt, debris, and even car wax that has piled up can prevent wiper blades from making even contact with the glass, hence the ugly streaks.

After you have thoroughly cleaned the windshield, it’s time to check your washer fluid. If the reservoir is less than half full, the blades can leave streaks behind. So, pop open that hood, and top of the windshield wiper fluid.

Now, it’s finally time to test the blades. If after everything, they still leave streaks behind, it could only mean one thing – it’s time for a replacement. At this point, the windshield wiper blades are either too old or too damaged to function properly, thus the streaks.

Noise

Apart from the visual indicators, you have to keep your ears open for any strange noises coming from the wiper blade. Are they chattering? Does it sound like someone is scratching their nails on a chalkboard? Noise can be an indicator that it’s time for a brand new pair of silicone wiper blades, but it doesn’t have to be.

If the blades themselves are in good condition but are still making some sort of noise, try cleaning them with a paper towel and alcohol. The grime and dirt that have accumulated on their surface should fall off, and everything should go back to normal.

If your car is on the older side, the spring in the wiper arm may not be applying enough pressure on the windshield. In that case, you will need a whole new wiper, not just a blade replacement.

Sometimes, all your windshield needs are some of that manual scrubbing. The dirt, debris, and car wax on the glass can cause your wipers to chatter on top of leaving streaks behind.

Other times, it could be because of your motor. If you hear a noise when the blade moves, the arm is likely attached too tightly to it, causing the gears in the wiper motor to grind. If left unchecked, it can cause the wiper motor to burn out.

None of this is fixing the problem? Don’t rush for a replacement yet. It could be that your wipers are just at a weird angle. The blades need to be perpendicular to the windshield; otherwise, they will chatter. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the most accurate.

Finally, the reason why your wipers are being so noisy could be because of their quality. Standard rubber blades don’t do all too well during winter; they tend to freeze up and, as a result, screech against your windshield. To avoid this, you could consider getting a silicone blade or, at the very least, a high-quality winter wiper.

Of course, the reason could simply be that your rubber blades are old and tattered, in which case it’s time to look for the best possible replacement.

Conclusion

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to silicone wiper blades vs. rubber. I know I have my preference, and so does everyone else. Both windshield wiper blades have their advantages and disadvantages. What you prefer would depend on your daily life. Are you traveling a lot, or are you just driving to work and back again? Do you live in an area with extreme temperatures and weather, or are you in a more moderate climate? Whatever the case, I hope this article has helped you to decide on a windshield wiper blade.

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Last update on 2021-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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