Spam (madbodger) wrote,

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Cheap windshield wipers suck.

I don't know the official terminology for windshield wipers, so I'm going to use these terms. The "blade" is the actual rubber wiper blade. The "carrier" is the stiff metal or plastic piece that holds the blade -- if you buy "wiper blade refills", you get the blades with the carriers. The "holder" is the articulated frame that holds the blade and carrier -- if you buy "wipers", you get the holder with the carrier and blade in it. The "arm" is the part of your car that holds the wipers. Clear as mud? Okay.

The previous time I had bought (whole) wipers, I bought Anco branded ones, and they worked fine. When the blades wore out, I couldn't find Anco blade refills and didn't want to buy new holders again. I figured blades were blades, so I got a set of Pylon branded refills.

It turns out that "22 inch" wiper blades aren't really 22 inches long. They're about 21½ inches long. The Anco assemblies have the 22½ blades mounted into 22½ inch carriers, which fit into 22½ inch holders. The Pylon refills also have the 22½ inch blades, but they're mounted into 22 inch grooved plastic carriers. Installing these into the shorter Anco holders results in the blade bending itself into an S shape and failing to conform to the windshield. So I hacked off the extra half inch of plastic and they basically worked.

As I was driving to work in the rain yesterday, I noticed one of the blades was crawling out of the carrier. The farther I drove, the more blade flapping around at the end of the carrier. I reduced the wipers as much as was safe and made it a point to park in the garage so I could work on it out of the rain. I stuffed it back in as best I could, but it was apparent that it just didn't feel like staying there.

My sweetie fizzygeek took me out to lunch later, and we dropped by the K Mart to pick up new wipers. K Mart doesn't carry Anco or Pylon, they carry Rally wipers and blades. After noticing that the price was identical for whole wipers or just refills, I bought the whole wipers, as I didn't want to deal with another wiper/blade incompatibility.

I had been up too late, gotten up too early, worked late, and was tired and hungry at the end of the day, and I was going to have to get up early again the next day. I went out to the parking garage to put in my new blades. The Rally packages have a neat little door in the top to get the wipers out. Apparently someone hadn't understood this on the first package, as it had been ripped open lengthwise. No big deal, all the parts were there. I popped out the old wiper and tried to install the new one. The Rally holder didn't have the opening for the J-hook on the wiper arm, and really wanted to be installed perpendicularly and then rotated into position. My wiper arms don't fold out when they're stowed in the "off" position (where I had left them). So I got into the car, turned it on, turned on the wipers, and then turned off the car when they got up to a vertical position. Then I swung the arm out and hooked the carrier onto it. But it wouldn't click into place. Normally there's a plastic spring latch on a pivot in the carrier with a tit that engages a hole in the J-hook on the wiper arm to lock it in place. The carrier had the plastic spring, but no locking protrusion, so they'd likely work loose and fly off in use. I figured that someone had broken off the little plastic bit and then returned the wiper. But I had the other wiper in an intact package, so I figured I could at least install that one.

The other new wiper didn't have the plastic locking bit either! The brand new wiper assemblies weren't going to work. So I decided to pull the new blades out, and install them in the old Anco holders. I worried the blade out of the new holder, pulled the old blade out of the old holder, and put the new blade into the old holder.

It didn't fit. I had forgotten that the Anco holders were shorter. It had warped into the same useless S shape I now remembered from last time. The new blade carrier is a long strip of sheet metal with a long slit down the middle with the rubber blade in it. I couldn't easily whack off the end like I had with the old plastic refills. So I took my Leatherman pliers and just rolled up a bit of the end to make it shorter. This worked surprisingly well and I installed it on the wiper arm.

I then repeated the process for the other side. Unfortunately, when this one warped, the blade popped free from its carrier. Getting the stubborn blade back into the slot in the carrier is, of course, nearly impossible. "Why didn't you bend the end before putting it into the holder?", I hear you ask. Well, I'll tell you -- the carrier slides into the holder along a set of pairs of teeth that hold it in place. A bent end won't fit in the slim groove under the teeth. Satisfied? Good. I'll go on, then.

Somewhere in n the process of trying bend around the end of the carrier to make it fit in the holder and reunite the blade and carrier, it snapped off one of the little plastic teeth that hold the carrier. This worried me, as now the end could then work free and the blade could come out -- the original problem I was trying to solve! So I took the working finished assembly from the passenger side (where it had been) and installed it on the driver's side, so I'd have a new blade there. Then I took the old Pylon refill I'd removed from the Anco holder and put it in the Rally holder. The new Rally blade wasn't really an option any more, with the blade coming out of the carrier, and the carrier bent up. I wasn't very happy about it, as it seemed like the Rally holder might walk out of the wiper arm, but they were apparently made that way, my wiper arm was a bit rusty, and it did seem to sit there at least sort of firmly.

Then I (finally) headed home, tired, hungry, and rather annoyed. It was still raining (of course), so I turned on my (partially) brand new wipers. They seemed to work pretty well. But shortly, I noticed a little ticking noise from the passenger side. I couldn't really see what was wrong, and the noise got steadily worse, and was now accompanied by the unmistakable sound of metal scraping on glass. I tried to see what was happening, but it was a rainy night and I had the road to watch. I realized what I really needed was a new set of wipers that worked, but it was late enough that no auto parts stores would be open. Therefore, I headed to the shiny new Wegmans, which would be open 'til 1AM and wasn't too very far (I didn't want to let the metal-on-glass situation -- whatever it was -- persist any longer than I had to).

There are three doors into the main part of Wegmans. One was blocked by a couple of people having some sort of deep conversation, oblivious to the world. Another door was blocked by a kid (apparently theirs) pushing around a huge kiddie cart. So I headed toward the third door. Naturally, by the time I got there, the kid was blocking that one with his cart. So I headed back to the door he had vacated, only to find him there again. I considered just kicking the cart out of the way or maybe taking a dramatic flying leap over it, but just stood there and fumed until the kid (slowly this time) finally moved his cart.

Wegmans doesn't have an automotive department.

So I went back out to the parking lot and tried to figure out what had happened. You, dear reader, have already figured out what happened. The mutilated 22½ inch Pylon blade carrier didn't fill the 22 inch Rally holder, so the end without a blade under it was dragging on the windshield. I tugged on the blade a bit to try to encourage it to sit in a more advantageous position, but I really didn't want to break anything else, because I really needed get home and get some sleep!

So I went to the Wal*Mart up the road, using the wipers as little as possible, turning them off at stop lights, and passing slowpokes apparently equipped with tyres optimized to spray water everywhere. As Wal*Mart was pretty much the only place open, everybody was there, along with their screaming kids, tottering great grandmothers, and carts laden with teetering, off-center piles of junk. Additionally, as it was late, there were people steering wheeled pallet jacks, complete with huge pallets that filled the aisles completely. The Wal*Mart stock was pretty picked-over, and it looked like they didn't have any of the giant 22 inch wipers my car takes. I considered just mounting some 18 inchers just to get home, but persevered. I eventually found two complete 22 inch Anco wipers, in undamaged packaging, and I can reliably state that those were the only ones within 3 aisles of the (unmarked) wiper section. So I go to check out. The 2 express registers each had about 30 people in line (many with full carts, naturally). The 3 open non-express registers had long lines completely blocking the extra-wide store entrance aisle and snaking off into Misses Casuals. But there were three blinking "Self Checkout" signs! I naïvely figured that this was to attact attention to them. So I got into the shortest line. After several minutes, it became apparent that the foreign gentleman at the head of the line was perplexed and unlikely to finish any time soon. So I chose another line and camped out there for a while. By then I had realized that the blinking light meant "there is a problem here", and every one of the (working) Self Checkout stations was stalled. A store manager scampered by, trying mightily to ignore us, but a strident woman caught her attention anyway and succinctly explained "we need some help here". It turns out that this manager was not the right kind of manager to assist with the Self Checkout stations, but said she'd get the right person.

I have never been more tempted to shoplift in my life.

Sure enough, the right person comes out, in no hurry whatsoever, and ambles right past us, studiously looking the other way. Presently she does return, and eventually get all three Self Checkout lines moving again (mine last, of course). The lines moved slowly, as the people had apparently never seen a Self Checkout station in their entire lives (I got the impression that they had never seen a clothespin, telephone, or banana in their entire lives either). So, juggling massive purses, awkwardly shaped merchandise, bags, change, children, overcoats, and the odd moose, they eventually figured it out, collected their assorted impedimentia, and stumbled off.

So I checked out, installed my new wipers, and (finally) headed home.

Still not king.


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