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How to Find the Right Wiper System for Your Boat

A reliable marine windshield wiper system makes all the difference. Imtra’s marine wiper expert Jamie Simmons looks at the key factors to consider when evaluating which new system is best for you.

June 1, 2021
Windshield wiper on a large boat
A reliable marine windshield wiper system can help avoid a reduction in visibility. Imtra

The editors at Marlin have teamed up with the experts at Imtra to bring you advice on how to keep your boat in Bristol condition and get the most from your hours spent out on the water. For more great tips, see Billfish Bits and Bites with Imtra »

When operating your boat in conditions where spray and rain reduce visibility, the last thing you need is a windshield you can’t see through. That’s when a reliable marine windshield wiper system makes all the difference.

How big is your boat’s window?

Whether it is called a windshield, windscreen, or window, the key factor in choosing a wiper system for your boat is the size and shape of the glass to be cleaned. On many new boats, areas of glass are growing steadily larger. If you haven’t done so already, break out your tape measure and map out the shape of the glass as well as its dimensions.

Overview of a marine wiper system
Wiper systems can accommodate windshields of varying sizes. Imtra

The larger the windshield, the longer the wiper arms and blades need to be. Since longer arms and blades create more friction, you will also need a more powerful motor. The best solution for taller and broader windshields is a larger wiper system capable of driving those longer wiper arms and blades. As a result, each wiper system is sized based on the maximum arm and blade length.

Wiper arms and blades can run anywhere from 10 inches long each to up to four or five times longer than that. Keep in mind that just because the glass is large, you may choose a smaller system if you don’t need to keep it all clean. This is particularly the case on larger yachts with dramatic windshields where not all the glass needs to be cleared for your line of sight.

Where do I mount the windshield wiper motor?

Wiper motors are usually installed either directly above or below the window, and equipment is available to mount the motor on the interior or the exterior, depending on the application. The location chosen often depends on which is the best position to mount the wiper motor to clean the section of the glass the operator needs to look through. Other location factors include ease of installation and accessibility for service. In some cases, the vessel’s exterior styling may also be a factor.

What are the options for a marine wiper control system?

Operating your wiper system usually involves more than “On” or “Off” switch. Like today’s automobile wiper systems, marine wiper control systems now offer a long list of features to make your experience more enjoyable and trouble-free. Many wiper systems feature two-speed motors with low and high speeds, and the controls take advantage of these two continuous speeds, as well as intermittent wiper operation.

Most allow for easy push-button control of a wiper washing system if one is installed. You’ll also be able to choose between having individual switches or full-feature control panels with detailed LED displays to identify which motors are running and at what speeds. Many panels and switches will synchronize the wiping action of multiple wipers–even if they were turned on separately!

Schematics of a marine windshield system
More and more wiper installations are being fitted with washing systems to help clear the glass from salt spray, pollen, and obstructions. Systems can be adapted to run with pressurized water or be plumbed to a stand-alone reservoir with a simple DC pump. Imtra

What should I look for in a wiper washing system?

There are a number of bits and pieces needed to plumb these systems, including solenoids, manifolds, washing jets and more. Washing jets can be mounted to the bulkhead or directly to the end of the arm. Arm-mounted jets are popular as they direct the washing fluid right where it’s needed with less wind interference.

How much does a marine windshield wiper system cost?

The cost of your next marine wiper system will depend on the size and sophistication of the system you would like to install. If you were happy with your current system until it failed, you may have a simpler installation than if you are looking for something new, although you should consider that the failure of an existing system may indicate that a more robust system is needed.

The bottom line is that most wiper systems are purchased and installed for somewhere between $250 to $2000. If your installation is simple, perhaps you can save money by doing it yourself. Likewise, if your use is occasional, you may come in toward the lower end of that range. Wiper systems that require higher-powered motors and will be used more frequently will creep into the upper half of that range. Either way, we recommend that you speak with a dealer or installer who is already experienced with marine wipers.

Questionnaire to help select a wiper system
Narrowing down your specific requirements is the first step in choosing a system. Imtra

Next Steps

To give you a better idea of what you need, Imtra can provide a simple, one-page questionnaire that will explain your specific requirements. An Imtra specialist will review your questionnaire and recommend a wiper system.

For more information, visit imtra.com »