By: Joe Micciche - March 2003
|SilBlade wiper blades from Specialty Silicone Products.|
We rarely think about wiper blades - until that rainy or snowy day or on a muddy trail we realize they don't work so well any longer, then head off to the parts store for a quick replacement. So the new blades work well for a few more weeks or months or until the season changes, and the time comes to change them again. I recently discovered there is a significant differentiation in blade composition and subsequently performance and longevity: the replacement SilBlades are engineered to excel in all conditions and over a long period due to superior materials and manufacture.
|Not all wiper blades are created equal!|
Most generally-available windshield wiper blades are manufactured of natural rubber, and in order to keep manufacturing costs down, rubber wipers have various ratios of carbon black and other inert fillers. Every day our windshield wipers are exposed to elements and conditions which contribute to the breakdown of these fillers, and also of the rubber in the blade (as is the case with sun-exposed tires), which leads to brittleness and tearing. Along with use, sunlight, pollutants and ozone, and temperature extremes are the most common causes of breakdown.
|The SilBlade, top, looks ordinary - but it's not!|
Specialty Silicone Products has produced a patented formula for their SilBlades. They are made of highly-pure silicone rubber: this material was selected for its temperature stability, resistance to chemical degradation, water repellence, and long service life. Silicone rubber is used in numerous aerospace, pharmaceutical, and automtive applications due to its superiority over natural rubber. Not coincidentally, the base of SilBlades - silicone - is also the base of our windshield glass, and this ensures maximum compatibility and conformity between blade and windshield.
So, starting with a better base theoretically produces a better wiper blade. According to Randy Putnam, VP and GM of Specialty Silicone Products, there are still considerations such as remembering "the actual wiping is done with just a hairline edge that runs along the right angle of the entire length of the blade." Randy continues, "This edge needs to conform completely to the curved plane of the windshield" for maximum effectiveness, which the silicone base ensures. Also, because these wiper blades are made from nearly pure silicone and are teflon coated, "the SilBlades will leave a microscopic coating of silicone oils on the windshield" like commercial windshield treatments which aid water "beading". Coupled with the wiper blade composition this reduces the chattering blade and minimizes friction which can lead to a worn out wiper motor or thermal or mechanical cutouts.
Standing behind their assertion that these replacement blades are superior to others in the market, Specialty Silicone offers a 5 year warranty on the blades - which was heretofore unheard of for this product segment!
|So how do they work?|
I received and installed the SilBlades in the middle of what appeared to be a mild Great Lakes winter, with temperatures in the 40s and rain off and on. Immediately I noticed a difference - in the rain, the SilBlades effortlessly wiped away the water, with each stroke producing a streak- and smudge-free wipe.
|Front wiper blade installed.||Rear blade installed.||Sometimes, there's not much that can be done!|
As the weeks went by, water began beading on contact with the windshield, and I rarely had to use anything but intermittent settings on the wipers.
Then the snow and cold started, with a fury. Just as in the rain, the Silblades performed exceptionally well. And they don't chatter or stick to the windshield, even in sub-zero temperatures. With a faulty rear window defroster, they managed to wipe the unheated rear window of my Discovery clean every time. And after sitting all night under snow and 10* temperatures, they are pliable and effective on the first wipe, every time.
After several months of use in a severe Ohio winter, the SilBlades work exceptionally well and, considering their longevity, are well worth the price versus regular rubber blades.
|...and how did they last? (Updated May 22, 2005)|
Since publishing this article, I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of requests for updates. While this is a bit later than planned, here is a long-term update..........
I sold the Discovery in May 2004. When I sold the vehicle, the Silblades reviewed in this article were still performing as well as when they were new! I subsequently moved them to another vehicle which I sold in December 2004 and still - the performance was like new. They never smeared, chattered, and generally did exactly what they were supposed to. So, for nearly two full years including two bad winters, the Silblades lived up to their marketing
|Hopefully, a single defective blade.|
I was so pleased with the SilBlades that I put a set on my wife's vehicle in June 2003. While this set worked fine for well over a year, the driver's side blade developed two problems: the powdercoat began peeling after one winter, and after a second winter the powdercoat was coming off quickly and the assembly was rusting. The blade also lost all effectiveness as well, and it was simply smearing rather than wiping. Upon inspection, the blade had become very brittle.
I put the stock wiperblade back on this vehicle and called SSP (from whom I'd purchased this set) for a warranty replacement. After not hearing back within two weeks, I called again - and still no response. However, a week later UPS dropped off two brand new blades. Note: the passenger blade was still nearly perfect after 22 months.