Sunday, January 31, 2010

What's Up With That?

We had 6 inches of snow in DC yesterday and I took this picture today in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Yesterday I saw at least five cars like this in Adams Morgan during the snowstorm, and I think it's a trend in other parts of the country as well. Growing up in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which gets probably the coldest weather and most snow of any major city in the U.S. in most years, I don't ever remember seeing this, and Minnesota is the one place where dealing with cold weather is elevated to a sophisticated science. Because of the harsh winters, most Minnesotans develop a high level of expertise when it comes to dealing with cold-weather car starting (tank heaters, starting spray), driving in snow, getting cars un-stuck from deep snow, etc. If lifting wiper blades off the windshield was such a great idea, why weren't Minnesotans doing it decades ago?

Here is
some discussion on this topic, which mostly suggests that drivers are trying to prevent their wipers from getting stuck to the windshield, especially when getting out of a warm car. I don't think I ever experienced that being a big problem, and it somehow seems so unnatural and wrong to me, so I am currently unconvinced that this is a good idea. For those who do have troubles, maybe a better solution would be to simply install heavy-duty winter/snow wiper blades for $7. Comments?

31 Comments:

At 1/31/2010 3:35 PM, Blogger Kraut said...

There are a few people that do it here in St Joseph, Michigan, too. I've tried it a few times and am not sure it makes much of a difference ...

 
At 1/31/2010 3:40 PM, Blogger Chris said...

It's a recent trend in Chicago as well. I believe it is to keep ice from sticking to the wipers, not necessarily the wipers getting stuck to the windshield.

I have taken to doing it, but we haven't had enough snow for me to give a verdict.

 
At 1/31/2010 4:00 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I do it when there is a strong likely hood of ice build up. If it's 40 and raining and going to drop to the 20s and possibly snow, pulling the wipers up makes them easier to find and break the ice off them the next day.

 
At 1/31/2010 4:06 PM, Anonymous jodyc said...

Chris is correct. Think about a warm engine compartment releasing heat,and melting snow during inclement weather. Also, most vehicles climate control venting underneath this area. It's much easer to clean out the snow without the wipers in the way. Many of the drivers at the Ford campus in Dearborn would do if snow was expected.

 
At 1/31/2010 4:14 PM, Anonymous jodyc said...

BTW the 'heavy duty' winter blades work great if used at low speed, but tend to lift off of the windshield normal speeds. The rubber boot turns them into a 'wing.' This is why most wiper heads (the part that holds the rubber blade) have holes.

 
At 1/31/2010 4:32 PM, Blogger Orlin said...

Take it from a rocket scientist living in the upper peninsula of Michigan: "Lifting your wipers" is a great idea and saves unnecessary wiper damage to the blade because when you park and it's snowing, the heat from the inside of the car causes the snow to melt on the window. Being below freezing, the water freezes the wiper to the window. When you go to try to free your wipers, you'll most likely pull of some wiper rubber off thereby ruining your blades. Bet you'll start "Lifting your wipers" if you live in uber cold / snowing areas. Cheers...

 
At 1/31/2010 4:39 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I grew up in Alaska and saw this all the time. Ice will form on and under the blade and when you go to use them, it's not that they stick to the windshield, but that most of the wiper fails to make contact with the glass. You end up with a couple thin streaks - not much help.

 
At 1/31/2010 5:22 PM, Blogger Colin said...

Adams Morgan, no kidding. My neighborhood too.

 
At 1/31/2010 6:02 PM, Anonymous Craig said...

As someone who's ripped more than one wiper blade embedded on an ice-laden windshield, I think it's an excellent idea.

 
At 1/31/2010 6:32 PM, Blogger saosebastiao said...

I live in eastern Idaho, and I have problems with ice sticking to the wipers.

Unfortunately, ice sticking to the wipers is not something that can be solved with stronger wiper blades, but rather stronger wiper motors. They wont budge, and you literally have to chip at them with a pick to get the wipers to break loose.

 
At 1/31/2010 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liken this to not letting kids do anything ever without padding over every part of their body. How did the rest of us survive without any of today's safety precautions?
How did we make it through so many winters in Syracuse, New York without once ever putting our wiper blades up?

 
At 1/31/2010 8:39 PM, Anonymous Jack said...

Three comments:
1. Whoa, AEI scholar living in Adams Morgan! Crazy...
2. This is actually a really good idea, and I did it back when I had a car.
3. Snow here rarely stays snow, and a thick snow usually turns to ice, making it much harder to free your wipers.

 
At 1/31/2010 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Michelle:

it's not that they stick to the windshield, but that most of the wiper fails to make contact with the glass. You end up with a couple thin streaks


And so I do the same with my windshield wipers. Maybe it's because my wipers (those expensive Rain-X ones) are not well suited to snow.

But I can tell you that it's a major pain on the ass to have the rubber on the windshield get all bent out of shape. You go driving after a storm and the roads are wet and salty, and so you instinctively go to give it a wash with the fluid when you're driving behind some idiot, only to have the rubber on the blades fail to clean the glass.

And then you can't see anything.

But also, it's nice to have the wipers off the glass when I'm scrapping the ice from the windshield before I leave the house so that I need not be concerned about destroying the rubber.

Perhaps people in Minneapolis do not bother to lift the wipers off the windshield because they might just buy new ones, maybe because they have a higher per capita income.

Hmmm...interesting statistical stuff here...find the income elasticity of windshield wipers in Minneapolis and less affluent cities and adjust for precipitation levels.

Daigle

 
At 1/31/2010 9:46 PM, Blogger misterjosh said...

Currently living in Minneapolis, I have only seen a couple of people doing this. I think it's more useful in places where you go frequently back and forth between freezing and not freezing temperatures. Here in Minneapolis, once it freezes, you're probably not going to see a melt and re-freeze as often as in - say VA or MI.

 
At 1/31/2010 10:00 PM, Blogger QT said...

Winter sucks.

Where is global warming when you need it?

 
At 1/31/2010 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I graduated from school in the Buffalo area a couple of years ago. The first time I ever saw this was my freshman year, but all the people from Western NY kept their wipers from sticking to their windshield this way.

 
At 1/31/2010 10:30 PM, Blogger Jack Croww said...

This happens all the time in the Boston area. It's to prevent you from tearing your wipers to hell when chiselling off the ice from the bottom of the windshield. The dope in DC however, was definitely not doing it because he had anything to worry about. You're just not going to get the conditions necessary for it in DC.

 
At 2/01/2010 1:07 AM, Blogger Rich Tatum said...

Just because Minnesotans are Real Men doesn't mean we from warmer climes can't have good ideas now and then!

I also lower my windows just a smidge so that when the ice freezes my windows shut, I only have to roll them back up into the frame to break the ice seal. I don't leave them down far enough to let ice, water, or snow in, but just far enough that I can break the seal in the morning. (Why would I want to roll my window down in the Winter? Think ATM or drive-through window.)

When I remember to leave my wiper blades up, it's a time-saver for me in the morning, because I don't have to unstick the blades from my window, and I don't have to beat the ice off the blade manifolds. Handy.

Rich
BlogRodent

 
At 2/01/2010 2:55 AM, Blogger Orlin said...

But on second thought, it's a bad idea because if you forget to put them back down and are driving down the road you can get hypnotized by them (causing an accident) when you turn on the wipers they squiggle back and forth pathetically. Not that I've ever done that before mind you...

 
At 2/01/2010 7:56 AM, Anonymous geoih said...

I see that Subaru has begun selling cars with defrosters under the windshield wipers (like most cars have on the rear windows). Sounds like another "cleaned by the market" article for you.

 
At 2/01/2010 8:53 AM, OpenID dcalex said...

I noticed this this year for the first time, too. The explanations people are giving sound rational, but it begs the question: why didn't anyone see a need for this until this year?

 
At 2/01/2010 8:55 AM, Blogger Frozen in the North said...

This reminds me of a French consumer report TV program, asking "the man on the street" what was the best way to remove frost from a car window, a spray can or a windex type bottle, arrives a "French Canadian" when asked, he replies use a scraper! people from warmer climes have no idea.

 
At 2/01/2010 9:36 AM, Anonymous Erik said...

I learned this tip from an old room mate who grew up in New Hampshire. As I came from Georgia, I knew I knew nothing about dealing with snow so I followed his lead. It seems to work out just fine for me.

 
At 2/01/2010 10:13 AM, Anonymous Rand said...

If lifting wiper blades off the windshield was such a great idea, why weren't Minnesotans doing it decades ago?

That technique was recommended to me last year by a former Minnesota resident.

 
At 2/01/2010 10:21 AM, Anonymous Rand said...

Replacing the blades for $25 each doesn't work. Last year my wife's 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan stripped the blade arms mounting point trying to break free of the ice build up. The arms cost $75 each to replace. If the ice build up does a really thorough job, it could coat over $200 to replace both sets of arms and blades. That does not include the rear wiper and blade.

 
At 2/01/2010 11:51 AM, Blogger Cyndy said...

If you accidentally leave the wipers on the night before and you decide to warm up the car while you are scraping the windshield but you've forgotten that you've left the wipers on, you could burn out the wiper motor if the wipers are imbedded in ice or the snow is too heavy. This is according to my husband. Fortunately it's never happened to me.

 
At 2/01/2010 3:55 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Winter sucks.
> Where is global warming when you need it?

Winter is better than summer. You can always put on MORE clothes, but there's a legal limit to how much you can take off outside, and a physical limit inside.

Yes, spring/fall is preferable to both, but you get what you get, not what you want.

If you like summer better, you should move to Texas or Florida. (I'd include Cali, but not until AFTER the loonie-driven meltdown).

;-)

 
At 2/01/2010 5:01 PM, Blogger Vittoria said...

the sheer idiocy of dc drivers - nay! residents! - in dealing with snow has me discouraged, disheartened, and pissed. i'm not from MN, so i bow to your wisdom, but even this jersey girl knows how to deal with 6 freaking inches of snow. sigh.

 
At 2/01/2010 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family and I moved to Virgina 3 weeks ago from Michian and we noticed this too. Just today I asked my kids, "Why the heck do we see wipers sticking out like that?" We then concluded that it was for the reason stated in the blog. We had a good laugh and just shook our heads. It funny that my former professor noticed the same thing and posted on the same day!

 
At 2/02/2010 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck in windy environments when those blades go slamming back onto your windshield. Worse if the blade flips over when that happens!

You might be better servedsimply rotating the blades upside down and leaving them on the windshield...but then the snow and ice will accumulate inside of the wiper joints!

Any cold weather vet will tell you that by the time you have cleaned off the snow from the windows, top, hood, and lights from the car, the windshield is somewhat thawed at the resting wiper contact point.

 
At 2/03/2010 6:03 PM, Blogger dcpeg said...

Northern Illinois native/40 year D.C. resident here. Lifting the wipers makes it easier to scrape snow and ice off the windshield. Icing is also eliminated.

I still have to giggle at all the northerner's cars and trucks with electrical plugs hanging out over the front bumper. I know it's for a heater, but it looks goofy.

 

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