Why are wiper blades more common than refills?

I’ve been looking for refills for the wiper blades on my 2006 Civic. I’ve noticed that the brick ‘n’ mortar stores have a wide variety of replacement blades, but refills are not stocked as thoroughly. It seems to me that it didn’t used to be that way, but regardless of that, why is it this way? Isn’t there any demand for cheap refills, as opposed to expensive blade assemblies?

As a fairly tool-competent non-mechanic, my experience of replacing just the rubber on a wiper blade has been that it’s messy, frustrating and often ends with some minor breakage of the blade assembly, or loss of some small but vital spring clip - provoking a need to buy the whole blade assembly anyway.

If my experience is anything like typical, that’s going to result in a market demand for whole blades. Another factor might be that stores seem to offer a ‘we’ll fit it for you!’ deal, but on the assumption they’re fitting whole blades.

Part of it is the convenience factor, it is sometimes frustrating to change the refills, and many wipers don’t use the clips anymore but a tab at the end that prevents the insert from sliding out, making it difficult to slide the old one out and put the new one in.

I assume this is also paired with cheaper manufacturing methods that makes replacement wipers more economic then they used to be.

I asked in one of the big chain auto parts store about this (since I can no longer find refills at all), and they said they were getting too many cases of people installing the refills incorrectly, winding up with huge scratches on their windshields, and complaining to (and occasionally suing) the store. So they stopped carrying them altogether to avoid the hassle.

Not an answer to the question but now my local auto store only carries “one size fits all” refills that you have to cut to size and they aren’t worth shit. My Toyota dealer carries refills that give them a profit margin of approximately 32 million percent. Thirty years ago it was easy to find refills.

It is beyond me why basic refill design hasn’t changed, though. The ones with the two long metal ribs that slide into slots on the side of the rubber blade are a terrible design, hard to keep together when installing and prone to coming out of alignment during use. I don’t see why they can’t have a single integrated unit, like how they make squeegees, where you just take it out of the package and slide it in.

As a quite competent (if I do say so myself :D) professional mechanic, my experience has been the same. Replacing the rubber insert is usually a tedious, exacting procedure that is prone to go wrong at several points. Charging even a very nominal labor fee to do it brings the price to the customer to the same level as replacing the blades, for which I do not charge labor. So shops find it’s much more efficient to replace blades, and do-it-yourselfers find it’s much more hassle to replace inserts, leading to a significant decline in the demand for refills.

Excellent points all above.

Another factor is that the blades take quite a beating from corrosion and fatigue, resulting in less even pressure on the window surface and more streaking. The rubber squeegee is certainly more vulnerable and going to wear out faster but the blade itself has often lost a good part of its performance by that time anyway.

Speaking as a mechanically competent consumer, I don’t miss those days of having to line up a dozen tiny “ears” on the wiper frame to the skinny blade refill. Heaven help you if one of those ears got bent, and if you manage to dislodge the temporary plastic tubes that hold the metal strips onto the rubber before you get it into the frame, you’re really hosed. Multiply the difficulty times oh perhaps 17 if you’re doing this in the winter with gloves on.

Now it’s just click, snap with that more or less standardized u-bend at the end of the wiper arm, and so much faster and nearly idiot-proof.

And yet another aspect…

There are the factory blades, Anco blades, and Trico blades (plus a number of less common specialty brands) and the inserts usually don’t interchange. That makes stocking a full range of inserts a bit of a headache, and can make it difficult to get the right ones.

As long as retailers believe that they make more by selling the wiper arm, they will continue doing so.
Those of us who insist on not being wasteful can go to ebay and buy a pair of refills for 5 bucks.

I will buy 10 pcs to keep them in the garage. The price for 10 about $25-$30, the same as 2 wiper arms.
I never seen “performance degradation” on the arm itself, however if you like to keep your car tidy, rusted wiper arms do not help, thus I concur that you need to change them sometimes, just not every 6mo-1yr,

  1. This thread has been dead for over a year. No reason to bring it back.

  2. The reasons given are correct. I replaced my own wipers for a while. Changing out the entire blade is worth it to me over the tedious, error prone procedure of replacing the inserts. Apparently, most other auto owners agree with me - supply and demand. Demand dropped and so did supply. If it were all about money, you couldn’t find other stuff, like oil, in stores, either.

Spend $30K on a car and want to get cheap on wiper blades? Bosch replacement blades are flat out better than OEM.

My experience has been different. Maybe it’s just the cars I have experience with, but I can never seem to find a way to take the original equipment blades off the arm. Usually, after about five minutes of cursing, I end up removing the rubber part from both the original and replacement blades and installing the new rubber into the original blade.

I change blades on many cars at the part store i work at part time.
Sometimes, yes they can be a bugger to remove but i always get them.
We have customers that demand refills and they are available for many but like that guy that’s not yet dead posted about Bosh blades,
well I will call them Beam style blades and i like them way better than the traditional blade, and they do not have a refill.
Another thing I do because i too am a cheap-skate is i touch up my whippers with a small piece of sand paper when they start leaving streaks. It gets the glaze off the rubber. also the softening wipes that used to come with all our store brand blades I would use one for both blades and save one for future use. I don’t know what is on those little wipes but a little armoral works too.

zombie or no

be the blade.

some arms are such that the refill is best inserted from one side or the other. better refills will have packaging on the refill to aid during insertion.

I know I am beating a dead thread, but my experience has been a bit different than everyone else here. Yes, changing refills on my wipers was annoying, but I have found that having to change the whole blade is even more frustrating. Not to mention being forced to discard a perfectly good blade. Very wasteful in my opinion (which, I know, doesn’t count for much).

I suspect the real reason is that it doesn’t cost much to make a complete blade in China. You can then bring it to this country, and charge more for the complete assembly, giving the company and the retail store a greater profit margin on a big-selling item. The consumer PERCEIVES a greater value by replacing the complete blade. A big win for everyone, except soreheads like myself who would rather replace the rubber only.

I know people swear by them but my experience is that beam-style blades are worse than traditional. I seem to be the only one that feels this way.

I got them perhaps 8 months ago, still in evaluation mode. So far as good as traditional wipers.

You only get six months to a year from the blades?

I put Bosch Evolution bracketless blades on six months ago. They are fucking fantastic. Maybe the most “obviously better than generic” consumer product I’ve ever used. When you live in Florida, efficient wipers are a must unless you only drive at night.