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A good set of windshield wiper blades is imperative to safe driving. Unfortunately, most car owners don’t think about replacing them until they drive through a downpour and realize that they can barely see the road in front of them.

Wiper blades can deteriorate quickly, so replacing them every few months is good practice. You’ll keep your windshield free of streaks, won’t get frustrated by spots of water in your line of vision and won’t be annoyed by the torturous squeaking sounds that can’t be muffled, no matter how loud you crank the AC/DC.

The simplest way to check on the effectiveness of your wipers is to give them a quick inspection. Grab a wiper blade and lift it off the glass toward you and run your fingers along the rubber edge. If you feel tears and bumps, it’s time to replace your blades.

If the rubber edge is relatively smooth but not perfect, you might be able to return your blade to its previous rain-clearing glory by wiping dishwashing liquid along the edge with a soft cloth to remove small pieces of dirt and debris.

You can also wipe the blades down with vinegar, but be sure to rinse them with water afterward.

You may remember your father breaking out the sandpaper to keep his car’s wiper blades in top shape. If you go that route, use a fine-grit sandpaper, wipe off any dust and then apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly along the edge, which will help keep the rubber soft.

Eventually, no matter how effective — or creative — your wiper-restoration methods, you you’re going to need new blades.

At the auto supply store, you’ll be inundated with numerous brands, types and prices of wiper blades, which can retail for as little as $10 or as much as $50. Before you begin shopping, be sure to check your owner’s manual for the model number of your blades.

It’s also important to measure your blades before you start shopping. In many instances, the two blades are different lengths, so you should measure both.

Today’s blades fall into two categories: conventional and beam. Conventional blades “have a replaceable rubber blade that fits into a spring-tensioned frame assembly, or bridge. Most blades have a metal spline that supports the rubber element and runs through the ribs of the contact points,” according to Consumer Reports.

Beam wiper blades, also known as bracketless blades, are shaped like a bow and have steel incorporated directly into the rubber. Because of their built-in support, beam blades maintain a firmer hold on the windshield and apply more pressure when moving, clearing more water as a result.

Beam blades with performance spoilers take the wiper to the next level. The spoiler, a thick piece of rubber that narrows on each end and sits in the back of the blade, helps keep the wiper even closer to the windshield.

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