by Jim Anderson, John Logan and Fred Baum in the July 2006 RootesReview:
At one time or another we’ve all been caught in the rain and have had to rely on the wipers. With the Lucas electrical systems it is hit-or-miss if they will work or not. I have had problems with the wipers shutting off, and having to lean my head out the window to be able to drive.
Every Sunbeam owner has his memorable wiper story. Mine occurred in 1970 when I was a working reporter. I got word that presidential candidate George Wallace had been shot at a suburban Maryland shopping mall, and the police were going to hold a news conference in 30 minutes. I hopped in the Tiger and, in a torrential rain storm, headed out onto the crowded, fast-paced Beltway.
Just as I reached the Beltway, the wipers quit. I couldn’t stop -the traffic behind me couldn’t see much either, and they were climbing up my bumper. I couldn’t pull over because this is a big story. The only solution – press on with my head out the window. Net result: the news conference was cancelled and I spent the rest of the day trying to dry out, and the weekend trying figure out the wiper wiring system.
My most recent experience was a lot less dramatic, but just as frustrating: how do you replace a wiper blade on a Sunbeam? Sounds simple, but it ain’t.
With 40+ year old cars the wipers and windshields are usually not up to today’s standards. We’re sure you’ve had to replace blades and maybe even arms, wiper motors, gearboxes and a windshield or two.
There seems to be several different iterations of wiper blades and methods of replacing them. Though not all this information will be pertinent to your vehicle, there is some good advice on care and maintenance of the wiper system.
This article started with a question from Jim Anderson about how to remove the blades for replacement. “My Sunbeam wiper arms”, he wrote, “have a small nipple about 3/4” from the end which engages a spring clip built into the blade assembly. This spring does the commendable job of keeping the blade on the arm; otherwise centrifugal force might make the blade fly off at the worst possible moment.
To put on a new wiper blade you have to defeat that nipple, which means you basically have to destroy the existing wiper blade. This is O.K., since you’re not going to use it again. I won’t go into my exact technique, but it involves a couple of screw driver blades, a lot of bad words and some upper body strength.
“The new blade assembly (I got mine from British Victoria for about $19/copy plus shipping, but others are available elsewhere) slips on and clicks on to the nipple on the arm. Let the next owner or generation figure out how to get them off. Wiper blades are the same for all Sunbeams, from Alpine Series I through all Tigers.”
John Logan’s blades have a lever at the base of the arm (see photo). This lever releases the arm from the main housing, allowing replacement of the blade, the arm, or both. John says, however, that he is not sure if his arms are completely stock.
Fred Baum’s assemblies have Anco replacement wiper blades in what seem to be stock arms. Fred defines the arms as the section that attaches to the wiper housing on the car, and going out to where the blades would attach at the end.
The Anco blade assemblies can be removed from the arms by pressing on the underside of the blade assembly at the end of the arm. This releases the assembly from the arm so you can easily change the entire assembly if necessary.
The Anco blade assemblies also have little red buttons on them, two on each assembly, that when pressed allow you to remove the refill and replace it with a new one. The actual arm stays on the car.
The wiper blade rubber piece can also be removed independently from the blade assembly. Pushing back on one end of the rubber accesses a slot in the assembly that allows for removal and replacement of just the rubber piece. Anco probably doesn’t even make these wiper assemblies any more, but this feature allows replacement of the rubber piece with a custom cut piece of modern material.
The pressure exerted by the blades to the glass is critical. Too much pressure is not always the right way to go, as it can lead to scratching the glass. Sometimes less pressure will yield a more efficient system, but then again, too little could reduce the efficiency. Each set of blades and each car will require a custom adjustment to obtain the optimum pressure.
John found yet another set of Sunbeam wiper arms, and there doesn’t appear to be any way to get the end off without destroying it. However, the blade assembly has a pin axis and the end has a slot so they easily detach from each other.
This design is very similar to the attachment on newer cars, such as the 2002 Chrysler Sebring. By rotating the blade assembly counterclockwise it can be removed from the arm. The arm is pressed through the blade assembly and jockeyed around to free the two parts.
Replacement blades of this type are installed using adapters specifically designed for your vehicle.
As to the underlying problems of getting the wipers to do the work, Jim has used Rain-X, something which is basically designed for airplane windshields. It seems to work by streaming the water off the glass. But that doesn’t work when you’re puttering around at city speeds, and Jim has not tested it lately on the highway because he no longer takes his car out in the rain.
It has also been reported that using Rain-X on the inside of the windshield will help reduce fogging and condensation build-up.
Fred says that he learned a trick to keeping blades lasting longer by using Bon Ami cleanser on the windshield. This was a tip on the Speed Channel show, “Shadetree Mechanic”, which aired several years ago. Bon Ami has no abrasives in it and will not harm the glass. It does give a super smooth surface and allows the blades to efficiently remove water.
Ed Esslinger has built a device that is designed to be more efficient at parking the blades. It’s called “Sunbeam Wiper Control.” It permits the wipers to operate in an intermittent mode, one to two cycles every five seconds. It is adjustable to up to once every 60 seconds, It mounts on the steering column using nylon stay clamps but it takes some getting under the dashboard to connect. Reading Ed’s literature shows another advantage to his design: it prevents scratching the windshield by delaying the start of the wipers in case you hit the switch by mistake. (Ed Note: no longer available)