Metro/Handout Choose your blades wisely for the cutting winter ahead.

Your wiper blades are among the most critical safety features on your vehicle. If you can’t see, you’re not safe, and dirt builds up quickly in winter weather.

“Visibility is extremely important,” says Graham Jeffrey, winter driving expert for Canadian Tire. “You want the wiper that will give you the best possible performance.”

The claw structure, one of the oldest designs, uses a thin blade. A more modern design is the beam blade, which uses a wider wiper.

“Instead of pressure points like the claw structure, the beam maintains even pressure across the blade, which gives it a more consistent wipe,” Jeffrey says.

“And with the claw structure, there are open spaces where you can get a lot of snow build-up, which limits the wiper’s ability to form to the windshield and give you a solid wipe.”

At higher speeds, claw blades are more susceptible to wind, which can lift them off the glass and cause chatter. Beam blades are more aerodynamic and aren’t as affected by this.

Just as you can put winter tires on your car, you can also switch to winter wiper blades. Originally these were claw blades with a rubber boot that prevented them clogging with snow.

Today’s winter blades use a special rubber compound that stays supple at very low temperatures. Most will wear quickly in hot weather, so it’s best to switch to regular blades in spring, and store these pricier blades until next winter.

“A beam blade on its own is not defined as a winter wiper blade,” Jeffrey says.

“Beam blades have a significant advantage over a claw blade, and if you’re only going to use one year-round, the beam blade is better. But when you get into a winter blade, you get that winter compound too.”

When cleaning ice off your windshield, be careful not to hit your wiper blades with the scraper. If the blades are stuck to the windshield, turn on the defrosters to help free them. If you just pull on them, they may tear.

And never shut off your engine with the wipers on: if they freeze to the glass, it could damage the wiper motor when you restart the car.

Tips

•    No dirty blades. Always replace your wiper blades if they start to streak or leave dirty patches.

•    Choose correct fluid. Use windshield washer fluid that’s formulated for winter temperatures. If fluid freezes on the glass, you won’t be able to see.

•    Double check wiper choice. Some vehicles have two different sized wiper blades, due to the shape of the windshield, so be sure you’re buying the right ones.

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