2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 05:39
In automotive engineering, people like to talk about innovations. But this is hardly the case with one component: the windshield wipers. A lot has happened here too.
By Heiko Haupt
“Innovation” is one of the favorite terms of car manufacturers. New technologies are constantly being developed to offer the driver new possibilities and more safety. At one point, however, the designers' enthusiasm for innovation seemed to be rather restrained: right in front of the windshield. There the windshield wipers, which have been looking the same for decades, are waiting to be used in the rain. But it is worth taking a closer look at the wipers. On the one hand, because something has happened here recently. On the other hand, because the wipers need attention every now and then in order to work optimally.
"The windshield wiper has actually not been heavily modified for a very long time," confirms Hubert Paulus from the ADAC technology center in Landsberg in Bavaria. There have been improvements, especially with regard to pedestrian protection: the arms of the wipers have been better hidden behind the upper edge of the bonnet so as not to pose an additional risk of injury in the event of an accident. In the Seat Altea, the wipers even disappear behind the A-pillar.
The technology, on the other hand, has remained almost unchanged: most automobiles still have an electric motor hidden away, which uses joints and struts to set the wiper arms in uniform motion. This ensures that the narrow rubber lips of the wiper blades wipe the water off the windshield.
"One of the few real innovations are wiper blades that do not use metal and are only made of plastic," says Paulus. These so-called Aerotwin wipers were first presented at the IAA in 1999 by the manufacturer Bosch from Stuttgart. While the known wipers consist of a bracket system with joint parts and a rubber wiper attached, the new models are made of a one-piece rubber profile. The wiping effect should be improved, among other things, by the fact that the wipers rest evenly over their entire length on the window. “In the future, the joint-free wiper blade could completely replace the previous wiper,” estimates Bosch spokesman Ulf-Malte Wünsch.
But the topic of windshield wipers is also making progress in other areas. In the meantime, electronics are also used here to keep the wiper blade functioning properly for as long as possible. The particular enemies of the soft wiper lip are icy windows and staying too long in one position. Audi in Ingolstadt has therefore given the new Q7 SUV a whole range of wiper extras along the way.
In sub-zero temperatures, for example, the electronics notice the risk of the wipers freezing to the windshield. To avoid the problem, the wiper blades are moved up a little so that they are in the heated area of the windshield. The electronics are also vigilant in summer: if the wiper rubbers are not used for a long time in good weather, they could, under certain circumstances, deform in their rest position. According to Audi, the wiper blades are therefore regularly moved back and forth a little to prevent this.
Even the old principle of the lonely drive motor has had competition. According to Bosch, the Phaeton from Volkswagen was the first car with two motors to move the wiper arms. Sensors coordinate the movement of the two wipers with one another. The technology also ensures that wiping is carried out as far as possible in the direction of the side A-pillars.
"Today every 20th new model from European production is equipped with the two-motor drive," says Wünsch. "We estimate that the proportion will double in the next five years." The common age-old drive principle will still be used for some time - especially in vehicles where the price is very important.
Freezing up is the greatest risk
But apart from the technical innovations, the wiper rubber is still a sensitive part. The biggest problem is freezing to the windshield - combined with damage from brutal ice scraping. But there are other things that are easily underestimated. Hubert Paulus recommends cleaning the windscreen of residue regularly so that the wiper can work properly. Because it is not there to rub off residues such as the chitin armor of killed insects with its sensitive material.
Speaking of rubbing: when the wiper makes such unpleasant noises, it has usually reached the end of its life. According to a wish, the material is then hardened. The rubber no longer leans in the desired direction. In any case, it is recommended to change the wiper at the latest before an upcoming winter.
By the way, thrift is also not a suitable way to maintain the wiper. Sven Janssen, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Germany (AvD) in Frankfurt / Main warns against adding alcohol to the water in the car wash. "This attacks the rubber." And not just that of the wiper rubbers, but also that of the hoses in the windscreen washer system. (dpa)
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