We are finally – FINALLY! – getting some snow today, and while it’s pretty crappy, more like big white icy pellets than snowflakes, I’ll take it.
Plus, it’s a good excuse to revisit one of my favorite stories, which I wrote two winters ago, concerning the burning question of whether you should leave your windhsield wipers up when parking the car during or before a snowstorm. I got a lot of email about it, including one from Chicago that said New Englanders were morons for putting up our wipers. Yes, people can get indignant about anything.
Here’s the story, from the Feb. 19, 2014, Nashua Telegraph:
If a storm is coming, should you raise your windshield wipers when you park your car?
“I’ve been here over 30 years, and I don’t really remember people doing it much before,” said Stephen Denison, owner of Lowell Street Automotive on Nashua’s Library Hill.
Well, some people sure do it now, as a stroll down any local street will reveal when a storm is coming.
The idea is that raised wipers won’t be buried under snow, making it easier to clear the windshield, and won’t freeze to the glass – a situation that if you’re not careful can damage the rubber blade, the operating motor, part of the wiper arm or the rotating post, called a spline.
“The way they design the wipers now, if they freeze down in or get packed with snow and you turn them on, it tends to break some very expensive pieces,” Denison said. “Every time we get a heavy snow, a storm, there are (customers) with the arm itself, or the wiper transmission, something broken, something snapped off.”
That might explain why the phenomenon of raised wipers has gotten more common. “I’m thinking that somebody who actually takes the time to make the wipers stick straight out, they learned the hard way,” he added.
This is not, however, a cut-and-dried issue. In fact, Denison never raises the wipers on his Ford F-150.
“I free them up. I spend my time clearing off the truck,” he said.
Just a little online searching finds much debate over whether raising wipers as a preventive measure is sensible or foolish.
The anti-raising crowd argues that it looks silly – which is hard to dispute – and doesn’t really protect the blades, because ice can still adhere to rubber and metal in the raised position, particularly during freezing rain.
Further, many claim, it weakens the springs, which press the wiper arm against the glass – although that argument doesn’t seem to have much empirical support.
Another argument against raising wipers is that the sight of two vulnerable appendages pointing skyward is irresistible to vandals, who will surely walk by and snap off your wipers for a chuckle. But not in Nashua, apparently.
“I can’t remember ever seeing a report coming across the desk that someone reported having their windshield wipers snapped off,” said Sgt. Shawn Hill, of the Nashua Police Department.
However, Hill added, he doesn’t raise his own wipers, either on police cruisers or his own vehicle.
“I guess I might if it was a freezing rain type of thing – but snow? I wouldn’t,” Hill said. He’s just careful when cleaning the windshield.
In Milford, Chris Works at Medlyn Motors is another automotive technician who has seen his share of damaged blades, but says it’s not necessary as long as you’re careful in post-storm mode.
“If you don’t do it, it’s a good idea to make sure they’re not stuck on the windshield before starting,” he said.
The trouble is, many people don’t.
“That’s why you should buy stock in wiper blades,” Works joked.
And in case you’re wondering, this is an issue that affects even the highest in the state – as Gov. Maggan Hassan revealed when questioned on this issue during a meeting with the Telegraph’s editorial board Tuesday.
“I’ve always left mine down,” Hassan said, but she admitted there’s a little difficulty of trying to angle a scraper between the wiper blades and the frozen windshield: “There is that moment where you’re trying to kind of, you know, wedge something in there.”