Winter products for your vehicle can help you see better, drive safer.
As you drive along a road covered with snow, slush and ice-melting chemicals, the wipers swiping intermittently across the windshield to clear the mess and your field of vision, say a quick “thank you” to Mary Anderson and Robert Kearns. Because of these two inventors, today’s drivers can see clearly during rain and snow, but only if they’re showing their wipers, windshield, and lights some love periodically.
If it weren’t for Anderson, an Alabama woman who invented and patented the first windshield wipers, drivers might still be sliding open a portion of the windshield just to have a clear view, much the same way electric street car drivers did in the late 1800s. That scenario inspired Anderson, as she rode in a street car one winter day, to design the first wiper arms. Crafted from rubber and wood, she patented the invention and tried unsuccessfully to sell the design. Her patent expired before she could profit from it however, even though wipers became standard on most vehicles by 1913.
Kearns invented and patented the intermittent wiper system in 1964 and later successfully sued Ford and Chrysler for using his technology after they declined his offer of a licensing agreement. Kearns, his protracted legal battles with the auto manufacturing industry, and the toll it took on his personal life, were chronicled in the movie Flash of Genius. His intermittent wipers first appeared in vehicles in 1969.
This winter, wipers, windshield chemicals, and lights are the key to clear vision and safe driving. Here are some tips that help deliver maximum visibility.
Wiper blades – if the wipers are more than six months old, consider replacing them. Rubber wears out with time and exposure to the environment and can become hard and cracked. Colder temperatures and ice or snow buildup on windows can also hasten the demise of old wiper blades. The trend in wiper blades now is toward the newer “beam” style blades. They’re a better choice for winter because the spring mechanism is concealed and protected from ice and snow, eliminating the chances of a buildup that stops the wiper from working properly. Beam blades also make more contact with the windshield, reducing wiper chatter and delivering a much clearer wipe in any temperature. While you’re at it, don’t forget the rear window wiper and headlight wipers, if your vehicle is equipped with them.
Windshield chemicals and tools – a quick and efficient way to remove frost and light ice and get your morning commute off to a faster start is to fill your windshield washer reservoir with a de-icing washer fluid. Not only do these types of windshield chemicals melt frozen precipitation, they also help repel dirt and salt from road spray. Treating the windshield’s exterior with a Rain-X glass treatment product also helps repel water, snow, ice and dirt.
For heavier ice and snow, make sure you keep an ice scraper and snow brush in the vehicle to make clearing the windows easier. For SUV’s and trucks, consider purchasing a long-handled snow brush or broom. It enables you to clear the entire windshield without having to switch sides or stand too close to the vehicle and get covered in snow while clearing it. And, before the first frost, check the front and rear window defrosters to ensure they’re working properly.
Lights – shorter days and inclement weather mean more time driving in the dark. Walk around your vehicle to confirm that all its lights, including turn signals and brake lights, are working. Even if your headlights aren’t burned out, you might want to replace them. Headlights dim over time, sometimes by as much as 20 percent. Additionally, old headlights don’t include the recent advances in lighting technology, such as halogen lights, that shine more light on the road and roadsides and enable drivers to see further and with a wider field of vision.
Editor’s note: Lights, chemicals, wipers – Advance Auto Parts has exactly what your vehicle needs. Buy online, pick up in store, get back to the garage, and get through winter.