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Should You Leave Your Wipers Up or Down When It Snows?

If you live in an area that’s accustomed to winter weather, it’s a familiar sight: Cars parked with their windshield wipers pointed up, saluting the sky.

Some people say lifting your wipers can help prevent damage to the rubber wiper blades while others are skeptical, and it’s long been a topic of debate. Like choosing which direction to hang the toilet paper roll (over or under), each side has its staunch supporters. But which wiper method is best for clearing ice and snow from your vehicle?

To help answer that question, we asked Harold Singh, material damage claims quality control manager at Erie Insurance, to help determine who’s on the right side of the great winter windshield wiper debate: the Lifters or the Leavers?

Lift Your Wipers Up

The Lifters, drivers who lift their windshield wipers up before a snowstorm, may do so for several reasons. Having your wipers up and out of the way makes it easier to scrape ice and snow from the windshield.

Plus, it also prevents the soft rubber wiper blades from getting frozen to the glass. If this has happened to you, you know it can be a pain to chip away ice from your frozen wipers. And attempting to pull them loose can make matters worse.

ERIE’s expert says: “If your wipers are frozen to the windshield, you can damage the blades by trying to lift them free,” Singh said. “And if you turn on the wipers while they’re frozen, you can also put a lot of stress on the wiper linkage and motor – which can lead to expensive repairs.”

Leave Your Wipers Down

The Leavers, those in the “wipers down” camp, claim the cons of lifting your wipers outweigh any advantages. Not only does it require an extra step each time you get in and out of your vehicle, but if your wipers do get frozen to the windshield, your window defroster can make quick work of melting the ice.

Some Leavers say that continually lifting your wipers can wear out their springs. But Singh doesn’t think that argument holds up.

ERIE’s expert says: “There are 20-year-old cars that don’t have worn out springs,” he said. “They’re built to withstand that kind of tension, so you’ll get many years of life out of the actual wiper arm.”

Which Method is Best?

Lift or leave? Up or down? Which method wipes the other out? Like a frosted windshield, it’s not entirely clear.

“There are risks either way,” said Singh. “But the risk is higher that you’ll tear the rubber trying to free a frozen wiper blade. So leaving them up is probably your best bet, if you can do it.”

According to his experience, Singh says there’s not a lot of vehicle damage reported from leaving wiper blades up or down during a snowstorm. However, he has seen auto claims related to the improper clearing of snow and ice.

“We’ve seen claims where someone tried to use a shovel to get snow off their car or scratched their windshield by using a metal scraper,” he said. “Even a snow brush can put light scratches in your paint if you’re not careful.

Quick Tips to Clear Snow and Ice From Your Windshield

Here are some tips to help clear ice and snow from your vehicle – to minimize any damage:

  • Use the right tools. If you wouldn’t use it on your windshield or paint in the summer, don’t use it in the winter. This means avoiding metal scrapers, shovels, and coarse brushes or brooms.
  • Bigger is better. Even if you don’t have a big truck or SUV, Singh recommends getting the largest plastic scraper you can find. It will give you more leverage, and you won’t feel like you need a shovel for heavy snow.
  • Use both sides of the scraper. Have you ever noticed the ridges on the backside of a plastic snow scraper? Those are designed to help break up thick sheets of ice into smaller pieces. So when scraping ice, use the backside first, then flip it over to the flat blade. This method will make quick work of clearing an icy windshield.
  • Use your defroster. Before you begin scraping, start your vehicle and turn the defroster on high. The job will get easier as your car warms up.

Does My Auto Insurance Cover Windshield Chips or Cracks?

If you do happen to damage your vehicle’s windshield, ERIE stands ready to help. Generally speaking, here’s how your auto policy can kick in:

  • Windshield repair: In most states where ERIE does business*, comprehensive coverage from ERIE can cover the cost to repair a cracked or chipped windshield without a deductible.
  • Windshield replacement: In most states where ERIE does business*, our Glass Repair Coverage can cover a replacement windshield (less your deductible). And as a little bonus, if you need a replacement windshield, we’ll throw in a pair of new wiper blades at no additional cost.
  • Zero Dollar Glass Deductible option: You can add our Zero Dollar Glass Deductible option to your ERIE auto policy. With it, you pay no deductible for a windshield replacement. Because coverage varies by state, it’s best to review your coverage details with a licensed insurance agent.

Related Reading: Car Insurance, Glass and Windshields

Want to learn more? Check out these related links from ERIE.

*In New York, you must purchase Full Window Glass coverage in order to have the repair feature without a deductible. Full Window Glass coverage is not available in North Carolina. In Kentucky, glass is considered safety equipment; under comprehensive coverage, no deductible applies for repair or replacement if only safety equipment is damaged (even if the loss is caused by a collision).