"Beam blades vs. Conventional windshield wipers" is the first thing people ask when they're buying new wiper blades. Which type is actually better at keeping your windshield clean while you're driving? What are the differences in performance, maintenance, and, most importantly – cost?
This article aims to shed some light on the "beam blades vs. conventional windshield wipers" debate and answer which one is better. Do we have a definitive winner, or does the performance depend on the situation? Read through our article to find out more.
Differences Between Conventional vs. Beam Wiper Blades
Though both types' purpose is to keep your windshield clean and your visibility intact, they differ in construction, materials, and price. Let's go over some vital differences between the two before we declare which type of windshield blades is better: beam blades or conventional windshield wipers.
Note: Michelin provides one of the best Wipers in the market
Conventional blades are straighter than beam wiper blades
Conventional blades, also commonly known as frame blades, are the most common type of wipers in older vehicles. They're also the most affordable type of wipers on the market, though the price may vary depending on quality and size.
As their name implies, conventional wipers have a frame that holds the blade in place. Due to their straight, flat design, they utilize several pressure points to make better contact with the windshield's surface. Most frame wiper blades have up to six or eight contact pressure points, whose force is distributed throughout the blade.
For the most part, they do their job pretty well until your wiper blade becomes used up, and the force-distribution throughout the blade becomes imbalanced and more localized. When that happens, only certain parts of the wiper blade achieve full contact with the surface, performing better than those that don't.
Beam blades are structurally different and feature a rubber wiping edge with a long single-piece spring embedded across its entire length. The spring equalizes the pressure throughout the whole blade's length, allowing it to adhere to the windshield's surface better.
Beam blades are more wind-resistant than conventional blades
Driving at high speeds, especially against the wind, creates immense air resistance, often referred to as "drag," which can lift conventional blades.
This happens only when you're driving at high speeds, during extremely windy weather, or both. As your vehicle moves faster through the air, it generates more air resistance and drag. In turn, the drag lifts the conventional wiper blades away from the windshield, ever so slightly, but enough to impede their performance and your visibility.
High-quality blades, regardless of the type, provide more pressure to the blade, allowing for better contact with the windshield. Still, generally speaking, beam wiper blades do provide more pressure and better surface contact than conventional blades.
They're built from different materials
Conventional wipers consist of a replaceable rubber blade that's supported by the frame's contact points. Each contact point has a spring that puts pressure on the rubber blade, allowing it tightly adhere to the windshield's surface.
However, the finite number of springs on conventional blades provides a finite number of surface pressure points. This becomes more noticeable as the conventional blade deteriorates with time. The perfect example is when the wipers leave entire areas of your windshield wet or smudged.
Beam blades feature a high-strength steel spring that runs through the rubber blade and ensures a universal pressure through its entire length. Additionally, beam blades' construction has fewer moving parts and joints, thus making it smaller. This prevents the accumulation of snow and ice on the windshield assembly, significantly improving their longevity and performance during winter.
Beam blades have fewer moving parts than traditional blades
Though we covered some of the constructional differences in previous sections, it's time to dive a bit deeper. Let's start with traditional wiper construction.
As we previously stated, the conventional wiper consists of a rubber wiper blade frame attached to a wiper arm. The blade assembly frame is constructed to utilize spring force to ensure contact with the windshield.
The arm attaches to the frame's center via a retaining clip, a hook, or another connector type. Each side of the frame is connected to its primary lever rod via a flexible joint, doubling the number of contact points from two to four. Additionally, each contact point of the primary lever rod attaches to the blade claw via another flexible joint, doubling the number of contact points, going from four to eight.
Keep in mind that the number of contact points attached to the blade may vary from model to model and from one manufacturer to another. With that said, it's easy to see that traditional wipers feature a lot of moving joints, which make for a bulky assembly. The bulkiness of the frame allows for the easier accumulation of snow and ice on your wipers.
Beam blades are much more straightforward in terms of construction. Instead of having a large and bulky frame, the blade attaches to the wiper arm via a coupling mechanism. It uses a steel spring that spans throughout its length and curves it, allowing for consistent and equalized pressure through the blade's entire length.
Additionally, beam blades might feature an aerodynamic spoiler which significantly reduces any drag that might impact the blade's performance.
Beam blades are crafted to fit modern highly-curved windshields
Compared to older vehicles, primarily cars, modern windshields feature a unique curvature that requires a specific wiper blade. When held in hand, conventional, framed-wiper blades are nearly straight and hardly conform to modern vehicles' highly-curved windshields.
On the other hand, beam blades conform nicely to almost all windshields on both older and modern domestic vehicles. When you hold them in your hand, you can notice a significant curvature of the blade, provided by its internal spring. When put up against a windshield, the spring extends and conforms to the windshield's curvature. So, in terms of adherence to the windshield's surface, beam blades take the clear win.
When it comes to beam blades vs. conventional windshield wipers, beam blades take the win. Their simplistic, low-profile construction usually provides better performance in all aspects of use. They perform better in windy and rainy conditions, they adhere better to the windshield's surface, and they fare better during winters.
However, performance comes with a cost, and beam blades feature a heftier price tag compared to conventional windshield blades. Premium, high-quality beam blades can cost up to 3-4 times the cost of conventional wiper blades. Is the price difference justified? Well, that's for you to decide.
In the end, both types work perfectly well, on a day-to-day basis. But if you're driving a newer type of vehicle or looking for top-performance wipers to counter the weather conditions, beam blades are definitely a way to go.