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Wipers: Easy to stock, fit and sell

By autotech-nath on October 3, 2022

autotechnician talks to TRICO’s Sam Robinson to gain an insight into its R&D work behind the scenes, how they get new blade references to the aftermarket and what’s next for wipers.

“We’ve got five engineers across both Europe and the US and it will be come as no surprise to say that it all basically starts with the rubber. There is sometimes a discussion around whether natural or synthetic rubber is best but there is no answer to that. We’re continuingly developing new compounds, new ways of not just the chemicals that we use, but new ways of manufacturing the rubber, coating it and curing it. We’ve just launched a trial in the US of a ceramic coated blade.

What are the benefits of using ceramic?

“There’s silicone in the rubber which gives a quieter and much cleaner wipe and it also puts a silicone layer on the windscreen that repels water. The ceramic gives it a harder edge so you get longer life. The main issue when wipers wear out is that you get streaking and damage to the rubber. The wiper should have a very hard edge. A wiper blade is cut very square at the bottom and this rounds off over time, which just smears the water. The ceramic coating is a much harder rubber edge which doesn’t wear out as quickly.

Beam blade kits in its premium Exact Fit range has 95 references – 73 direct fit kits for OE beam blade applications and 22 ‘retrofit’ kits for hybrid and upgrade applications.

What are the vehicle manufacturers demands?

“So it all starts with the rubber at the end of the day, but then at OE level we tend to design specifically for one vehicle and that usually begins with a 3D model of the windscreen from the vehicle manufacturer and we’re working on models now that are being produced in 2026. We’ll develop a blade curvature that exactly fits that windscreen and an arm load that works on that vehicle.

“The other big thing now is in the connection systems – everything is about aerodynamics and weight, even down to the wiper blades. Blades have been engineered in more recent years to include an air foil so that they’re more aerodynamic. That’s now being engineered into even the little connection system. So, you’ve got a clip that’s 50 mm long and even they’re being redesigned to be more aerodynamic and lighter. You’re shaving that clip weight down from 13 grams to 11 grams, that’s the level we’re at but that’s what the manufacturers are pushing for – less weight, more aerodynamic, more efficient.

“We then put them through half a million tests for durability. We put blades in and out of cold chambers, so we can put them up to 80 degrees C and down to -40 deg C. We test them under every condition you can think of; for snapping, breakage, bending, full durability testing, which again, can take months or even years, depending on the particular product.

“The OE development is where it all begins, but then it’s how do we take that very specific OE work and make it something that the aftermarket will accept? The OE’s want one blade, for one vehicle, one specification. Whereas the aftermarket wants maximum coverage for minimum number of part numbers and the easiest to fit, stock, and sell”

Simplifying the range for the aftermarket

“Twenty years ago, wiper blades were simple; you needed 15 wipers and that covered every car on the road. Now, if you want a unique wiper blade for every car on the road, you’re looking at maybe 200 SKUs. So, the challenges and the development in the aftermarket are, how do we keep the products accessible? How do we keep it as an interesting product that people want to sell?

“At one time you had the Kevin Webster Garage, he had a rack in the corner with 15 wipers on it. And every car that came in, he changed the wipers and he made himself 10 quid. As it became more complicated, mechanics kind of went ‘I’m not stocking 200 parts, one’s got this clip on one’s got that clip
on, one looks like this, one looks like that…’ And the product became more complicated, and people can’t be bothered with it. Our mission is to service every segment of the market. You do still have a segment like your Halfords, for example, or your bigger stores where they want 200 wipers and they want it exactly like the original part, so we manufacture an OE replica. In our aftermarket program, we have a range of vehicle specific kits. That’s just like if you go into VW and buy a set of blades for a Volkswagen Golf, you get a kit of two blades.

“The blade we supply VW is the same one that you get in an aftermarket box from us, but you need 200 part numbers to do that. The flip side of that is we move into multi clip products where one wiper will replace ten or twelve OE fit wipers, trying to design and develop systems where it’s still simple to use, but minimising the number of components. What you get with a lot of Chinese product is you open the box and 15 different pieces of plastic fall out and someone stood there thinking, what the hell do I do with them? So, we try to minimize that and can we have one component that will actually replace four.

You could cover 100% of vehicles with 100 or 150 different parts or you could stock 15 references and cover 95% of vehicles.

An easy, quick & profitable service to customers

“Some workshops don’t see wipers as a worthwhile thing to stock anymore because it got very complicated but it’s not complicated anymore. Take that wall rack over there, it takes up no room, has 15 blades on it, and you offer the service to everyone that comes in. You can do a wiper blade check in 15 seconds and realistically a workshop can make an extra £10/£15 on every job, on every service they do and it’s a 30 second job.

“It’s such an easy upsell because wipers are something that consumers don’t think about, don’t realize how bad they’ve got until someone points it out. If your mechanic points it out and says ‘I’ll check your wipers’ and they need a change, people tend to.”

Talk to your distributor if you are considering an autumn push for wiper checks, who can supply Trico branded reception posters, images and digital media to support marketing campaigns.



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