As you may have noticed, there’s been a trend in modern automotive design where beltlines have been getting higher and greenhouses have been getting lower, making windows wider and longer but shorter. This can give cars and SUVs a more solid, even somewhat menacing look, perhaps inspired by old custom car “lead sled” designs, and while I know this is a generally popular look, there is one largely overlooked victim of this design trend: the rear window wiper. The proportions of rear windows on many modern SUVs is such that the only wipers that will actually fit in the limited vertical space are tiny — even absurdly tiny — ones. Compared to the bulk of the rest of the vehicle, they look even more absurd, and, even worse, they don’t function well, being only able to wipe bagel-sized arcs on the rear glass. It’s silly, so let’s do a bit of healthy pointing and mocking. And I’ll also make a suggestion on how automakers can end this scourge.
The new Chevy Blazer is one of the most obvious examples of this goofball trend. Just look at that crazy baby wiper sitting there in the middle of the tailgate. Is it even big enough to be left alone on the back of the car like that? It looks to be about the size of the wipers on my Beetle, only here it’s on a car about quadruple the size and bulk. It’s like a knight in full armor brandishing one of those cocktail toothpicks shaped like a sword. It just feels silly.
Then there’s the actual utility, which is about as pathetic as the looks are. Here, check it out:
That’s not a hell of a lot of window to clear with that dinky little wiper, this time on a recent Jeep Grand Cherokee L. If someone is sitting in the middle of the back seat, they’d obscure all your cleared area. Near-vertical rear windows on SUVs get dirty! A wiper is supposed to be useful! And the Jeeps could be if it could clear an area bigger than the circumference of a personal pan pizza.
[Editor’s Note: At first I called this a Cherokee, and then David, of all people, told me it was a Wagoneer! We were both wrong! Crap. – JT]
Just to compare, look at some other SUVs from a few years back, that didn’t have this issue:
Those wipers both don’t look like they’ve just stepped out of a cold shower, and they actually clean a lot of window area. The Mercedes-Benz up top pre-dates the low greenhouse trend, so it has more vertical room to exist, while the BMW below it takes a clever approach, where the glass continues up at an angle behind the rear spoiler, giving the look of the lower greenhouse while simultaneously providing enough vertical area for a longer, more useful wiper.
(Also, I like how the reflection of that airplane in the window is right there by the wiper)!
I’m not just here to complain; I have a solution! That’s what I do, remember, turning on the headlights of reason instead of cursing the darkness. This can be solved in a way that keeps all the styling intact while making the wipers make more visual sense for their small size, as well as providing more usable window-clearing ability. By simply doing this:
Multiple wipers! When paired up, the tiny wipers don’t look so ridiculous, and they now clear a much more usable window area! Just look:
Everyone wins! And before you start kvetching to me about extra cost or whatever, let me remind you that somehow Toyota pulled this off decades ago:
The Camry Wagon wasn’t some hyper-expensive luxury car, and it had two rear wipers, because Toyota knew that was the best solution for the task. [Editor’s Note: It’s not clear to me exactly why this Toyota even needed two rear wipers in the first place! -DT]. Chevy can add another wiper to the Blazer and keep it out of Bentley price territory, I’m pretty sure.
Stupidly tiny rear SUV wipers are a blight on our once-proud nation, but it won’t take much to fix this. Just add another wiper and make us proud to look at the back of our SUVs once again. Little wipers, like all of us, just need a buddy to be at their best.
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One wiper does enough – and is way better than the new KIA/Hyundai solution of no rear wiper. Where I live the rear state plate number is “dirt”.
depending on the model, the wiper is at the top of the backglass under the spoiler lip. its actually a pretty clean look and effective in size.
the only answer is MERCEDES MONOBLADE
An “editor’s note” in a Jason Torchinsky article and signed with “– JT” isn’t an editor’s note at all! (Just sayin’.)
How about fixing the issue by making belt lines horizontal again, resulting in a taller glasshouse, better visibility, taller windows (and more space for a single useful rear wiper) and a less menacing and much nicer exterior appearance? Everyone wins!
I’d rather your two-wipers solution had them facing away from eachother and then ‘clapping’ (or similar) to create one big arc instead of two little ones. Maybe like the front of an Alpine A310.
Like the Mini Clubman!
And too, why dont more SUV’s have the rear wipers fixed a the TOP of the window? Like the Lexus RX. That makes it disappear when not in use and doesn’t need masking tape as it goes thru a car wash.
Once upon a time rear wipers were restricted to top end luxury cars that actually had a rear window to wipe.
The rest made do with nothing or when lucky with the defogging function.
While not the best option, the rear window defogging works well at getting rid of the water on the rear window… provided you manage to get it to stay on all the time.
( in the past it was an on/off switch that stayed on as long as you left it on ‘on’, nowadays it’s a computer controlled timer that just turns off at the worst time… and you won’t notice it’s off for quite a time. )
On my 2003 Volvo V70 the rear wiper blade is a bit too long and hangs over the edge of the glass when it is straight up – intentionally. Thus the wiper can be a bit bigger.
Also I have the optional rear spoiler and there is a slot across, and the wiper goes thru the slot when it’s straight up.
Also: Make larger rear glass areas cool because too little kinda looks like shit. Look at that Blazer. The really short rear window means you get a huge expanse of sheetmetal that the designers didn’t know what to do with so it’s a whole lotta vertical surface and bulk. Finding a way to extend the glass downward – which would require a clean sheet on that car, make no mistake – would significantly reduce visual bulk and generally lead to additional handsomeness.
Also everyone saying “we don’t need wipers” doesn’t live somewhere with weather. I use mine constantly and have to regularly clean the rear camera.
It looks better when they tuck the wiper up under the spoiler, then you could have 20 of them under there and nobody’d be the wiser.
Why not 3 wipers the front windshield of a Toyota FJ Cruiser?
I tought you would’ve come up with stranger thing like lateral wiper on cables that slides from left to right or something like that, this isn’t weird enough.
Why do they have rear wipers on SUVs where the back is almost vertical but not on sedans where the windows is sloped?
Something about having a butt creeps the wind enough that it will stay away from the glass. Aerodynamics is weird!
In short, turbulence. Square backs create weird air pockets which means that road water and grim will whip up onto the window but there’s not enough airflow to blow it off. On sloped windows, water from the roof will flow onto it but the air will just blow it off the back of the car
Sorry, Torch – two wipers on the back do look ridiculous.
But not as ridiculous as the one FOUR FOOT LONG wiper on the Cybertruck!
The better solution is to just move the pivot point off of the glass, either up under the spoiler to hide it or down onto the painted tailgate surface. Then the arm gets longer and you use more of the horizontal portion of the sweep with a single arm.
Also, I agree with David… Why did Toyota not just have a single wiper with a longer arc?
Because it would not have wiped as much area, and that generation of Camry was about perfection.
I love the nonsensical recommendations. The right answer is to have the wiper at the top of the rear glass hidden under most SUVs roof spoiler.
All access to rear view cameras also eliminate the need for the rear wiper.
Just ditch it already. It’s either some vestigial after-thought on an already raked piece of glass that hardly needs or benefits from a wiper or, for actual off roading style SUV’s with vertical glass, the view is typically mostly blocked by a tire anyway. How many more cupholders could Chevy put in that so-called “Blazer” if they didn’t have to waste $$ on the wiper?
Who are these crazy people you speak of who actually use their rear window to look out of, let alone use the wiper to clear the rear window?
Jason, your prose illuminates the taillight of my soul.
Also, I dragged my son across a car show this past weekend to show him the double wipers of a rare camry wagon. With the rear jumpseat option it’s probably the most reliable, useful vehicle most people need.
Or put an elegant single wiper which swings to clean much bigger area like Mercedes W124 did ages ago.
didn’t some car maker once have a vertically sliding, full width wiper, rather than a pivoting one?
This is the way, not adding a second tiny wiper like Jason suggests.
Until the plastic gears strip out on the motor and you’re left without a working wiper at all. Preferred my e38 BMW’s answer of a double hinge on the arm to get more coverage.