The Importance of Windshields & Windshield Wipers

History of Windshields & Windshield Wipers

In the early days of transportation, when horse-drawn carriages were used, windshields were not necessary. However, as technology evolved and roadways became increasingly crowded, horseless carriages began to use glass to protect drivers from environmental factors, such as wind, rain, and road debris.

Mary Anderson Windshield Wiper

Mary Anderson, Inventor of the Windshield Wiper

Windshields first came about alongside the invention of the first automobiles, sometime around the early 1900s. Back then, drivers had the option of removing the glass pane or propping the glass panes open if they needed better vision.

Around the same time, in the winter of 1902, a woman named Mary Anderson was visiting New York city when she observed that motorists were driving with both panes of their double front windows open due to difficulty keeping the windshield clear of falling sleet.

The following year, Anderson applied for (and was granted) a 17-year patent for a windshield wiper. Anderson’s design consisted of a lever inside of the vehicle that controlled a rubber blade on the outside of the windshield. According to records:

The lever caused a spring-loaded arm with a rubber blade to swing across the windshield and then back again to their original position, thus removing droplets of rain or flakes of snow from the windshield’s surface. Similar devices had been made earlier than Anderson’s was, but hers was the first that actually worked. [source]

Because not many people owned vehicles, Anderson’s invention was not popular at all; and she was even the source of ridicule by many who claimed that her windshield wipers would distract drivers.

By 1913, however, more vehicles had taken to the roadways, and windshield wipers quickly became standard equipment.

8 Fun Facts About Windshield Wipers

  • The first windshield wipers had to be operated by hand.
  • Automatic windshield wipers were invented in 1919 by Fred and Willaim Folberth.
  • They were called “Folberths,” after their inventors, and they were powered by a device connected by a tube to the inlet pipe of the car’s motor.
  • An electric version of windshield wipers was created by Bosch in 1926, but it was reserved only for luxury cars.
  • In 1967, Robert Kearns patented intermittent windshield wipers, which he successfully demonstrated in front of Ford Motor Company. Ford later introduced intermittent windshield wipers to its vehicles in 1978. Other car manufacturers soon followed.
  • Drivers often wait several years to switch out a pair of wipers that went bad after only six to 12 months.
  • The windshield wiper itself has up to six parts called pressure points or claws that are small arms under the wiper. The claws distribute pressure from the wiper along the back of the blade. [source]
  • Windshield wipers are among most reliable automotive devices—the design life of a wiper system is 1.5 million wipes.

Windshield Wiper

Windshield Maintenance: When to Seek Windshield Repair

Signs you may need new windshield wipers:

  • Your windshield wipers struggle to clear rain, snow, or other debris from the windshield.
  • You notice the windshield wiper blades pulling away from the windshield (versus sitting closely against the windshield).
  • The rubber edges of the windshield wiper blade are worn away or torn.
  • You hear a chattering noise and notice that the windshield wipers are slapping down erratically, which may be a sign that something is wrong with the windshield wiper motor.
  • You notice ‘skipping’, which can occur when the windshield wiper blade develops a curve from lack of use.
  • You notice streaking, which can be caused by tree sap, road tar, or other foreign substances getting onto the blade. It may also be caused by a dry, hardened, or cracked rubber edge on the actual wiper blade.

Think you may have a windshield wiper problem or another issue with your windshield, in general? Talk to us. We’ll gladly help you with your windshield repair needs. Call today: (919) 821-1077.

Additional Resources:

  • Slater, Dashka. Who made that windshield wiper? (September 2014) NY Times.
  • Mary Anderson: Windshield wipers. (September 2001) Inventor of the Week Archive, Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering website, accessed October 2015.
  • Mary Anderson (inventor). Wikipedia, accessed October 2015. Retrieved from


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