Windshield wiper blades: Is it a good idea to leave them up before a snowfall?

With a storm around the corner, the debate about leaving windshield wipers up or down before snowfall or ice resurfaces.

Should we leave our windshield wiper blades up or down before a snowfall or ice event? It is a common question that is frequently asked in Canada during the winter.

It is also not a bad discussion to have prior to the start of winter, as significant snowfalls and/or ice buildups are not uncommon in the late fall. Doing some research on the matter and trying to find a conclusive answer has uncovered arguments for and against lifting them up.


While some The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) recommends keeping the wiper blades down because raising them is likely to reduce their pressure against the windshield over time, resulting in possible visibility issues, especially in snowy conditions.

As well, one or both wipers could snap back suddenly and create a crack in the windshield, especially if it happens on a particularly cold winter day. To ensure your wipers remain efficient, the CAA says the best thing to do is treat them right.

In a 2015 article posted on the Weather Network website, Jeremy Elliot, who worked for at the time of the post, also suggested that keeping the blades upright does not reduce the wear and tear significantly. In fact, keeping them elevated tires out the wiper arm springs -- and it looks "silly."

While he acknowledges that lifting your wipers prior to freezing may reduce some wear on the rubber, the vast majority of wear happens while actually using the wipers, so longevity may not increase or decrease.

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Several wiper blade manufacturers such as Rain-X recommend pulling the wiper blades away from the windshield during the winter months to prevent ice buildup on the rubber squeegee and to eliminate the possibility of them sticking to the windshield.


Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Elliot also provided some insights that favour lifting up the blades before a snowfall or ice event.

"Lifting the wiper blades makes it easier to scrape your windshield when you get out to your car. It also reduces wear and tear on the rubber wiper blades because they are not freezing to the glass and being scraped off by your scraper," said Elliot.

In the article, he also stated that leaving your wipers up does not fatigue the springs, as the metallurgy is designed to handle this stress. The lifted wiper arm is not exceeding the yield strength or dynamic range of the spring.

After sifting through the facts, Elliot came to the conclusion that it comes down to convenience and preference.

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"If you find that lifting them up before it gets icy works for you, feel free to keep doing it. If you don’t think it makes any difference, or you are concerned that it looks foolish, then you don’t need to," said Elliot.


If you're not convinced for one way or another, Daniel Martins, a product specialist with The Weather Network, provided some advice on methods to weather-proof your wiper blades.

An alternative to lifting the blades up is to coat the wipers with rubbing alcohol using a cloth, as the liquid has a freezing point of around -88°C and will keep the blades from sticking to the window.

If that fails, you can always cover the blades with your old wool socks.

"You may not be using them anymore on your feet, but they can (be) very handy for protecting your wipers from any ice or snow build up. The night before a storm, layer up your wipers with the socks and either stand them up or keep them laid down," said Martins. "The ice will stay off and your windshield will be clean and clear."

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