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Ever switched on your windshield wipers in a moment of need, only to find out you need new ones? Like, for instance, on a truly dark and stormy night, when you’re hunting a sea buoy that’s not showing up all that well on radar. Of course, most wiper issues are related to wiper blades and the rubber elements that do the actual wiping. Said elements can dry out and crack after long exposure to salt water and/or the sun’s ultraviolet light. And if parked in the same position for lengthy periods, they can “take a set,” meaning their orientation to the windshield itself becomes so canted they start to fail.

Thankfully, there are ways to extend the useful life of a rubber blade element. Every time you clean your boat’s windshield, for example, you can take a little time to pull the element through a sponge saturated with glass cleaner. And, if you’re going to leave your boat unattended for an extended period, you can lift the wipers away from the windshield, thereby preventing them from taking a set or sticking to the glass.

But eventually, replacement time will come and, if you’re a neophyte at the replacement game, the first thing you’ll likely do is hit one of the big auto stores for right-sized replacement blades with connectors that fit your boat’s wiper arms.

You’re probably gonna be disappointed, though. Automotive blades seldom work on boats, primarily because they have incompatible connectors. Moreover, a little internet research will show you that, heck, there’s a head-spinning array of connector styles on the marine scene, including the J-hook, Bayonet, Bolt-Through, Pinch-Tab and Slim-Lock, to name just a few.

So how do you replace your wiper blades, once you tune into just how cussedly complicated the task can get? Visit the nearest well-stocked, marine-parts store or chandlery and ask the parts manager to wade through some of the giant catalogs he’ll have at his disposal, either physically or online. And don’t forget to bring your old, defunct wiper blades with you. This will help the parts guy figure out which one of the many connector styles you’ve got.

And one last bit of advice: If all else fails, try contacting one of the distributors of windshield-wiper blades directly, folks like Vetus, Imtra, AFI, Marinco or Sea-Dog. You may have to dispatch a few photos of an old wiper blade and make some measurements, but with any luck some stalwart, deeply committed customer support person will be able to help you identify your old wiper blades and tell you where you can buy some new ones.

For more tips like this, visit the Vetus-Maxwell DIY Workbench at

Capt. Bill Pike is deputy editor of our sister publication Power & Motoryacht magazine.