We've been testing the blades for three months now (November 2004 - January 2005), and from everything I've seen, this wiper blade stands up to its name wholeheartedly, truly raising the bar for wiper blade performance and ease of use.
The second set of blades were sent to our fellow board member Art, a longtime contributor to the site, whose Alberta location is perfect for testing the blades out in more intense winter conditions than what we experience here on the West Coast. His detailed results can be read in the Snow Test section of this feature.
Road Test Evaluation
Valeo Ultimate Wiper Blade represents a true step forward in automotive wiper blade technology. I've been using them for just over three months in all sorts of conditions, and my experience couldn't be more positive.
I started the test back in November, by first swapping just the driver's side blade over to the Valeo blade for the first couple of weeks, leaving the traditional blade on the passenger side. The OEM Volvo blades I had in place were only a couple of months old, so I think this comparison is reasonably fair.
The quality of this product is immediately apparent upon opening the package. All edges are finished smoothly and the quality of materials and design are all top notch. As you can see from the photo above, the blades come with a dramatic inward curve which is what gives the continuous pressure throughout the length of the blade. Contrast this to the 8 contact points per OEM blades and you quickly understand why, at least in theory, the Valeo blade is such a big step forward in windshield wiper technology.
Switching the blade couldn't have been easier, it took all of 30 seconds to remove the OEM blade and pop on the new part. Though Art expressed some concern with installation in very cold conditions, I had no problems installing them here on the coast and I suspect the majority of owners would have no problems.
First thing I noticed upon stepping into the car is the blade's lower profile from that of the OEM blades, providing a much less cluttered outward view. I wouldn't classify this as a major benefit but certainly was a nice surprise. The new blades also give the car's exterior a slightly cleaner appearance.
At first the Valeo blade emitted quite a noticeable rubber sounding squeak with each stroke, but this went away after a few days of use. I still get a bit of squeak when the wipers are set at too high a level for the amount of water on the glass, but this happened with the old ones as well.
After a week, I was really looking forward to getting the second Ultimate Wiper Blade onto the car as the OEM blade was really starting to get on my nerves due to its comparatively poor wiping characteristics! Once I had both blades on the car, everything went great. We've only had a few icy mornings, and though I wouldn't suggest doing this on a regular basis, the Valeos did a great job of clearing the windshield of the thin frost.
We had a very wet December which gave us perfect testing conditions for the blades, and the results were extremely positive. On a particularly snowy trip up to Whistler, I was even able to set the wipers to a lower setting than I would have normally due to the Valeos' exceptional performance.
I'm thoroughly impressed with the Ultimate Wiper Blade's performance under all conditions I threw at them and I expect they'll perform very well in most other conditions as well.
The only caveat I can see with these blades is their price. With a regular price of $39.95 per blade, they're definitely more of an investment than a simple replacement item, especially since when it comes time for replacement, you can't purchase just the rubber as with traditional wiper systems, you need to replace the entire assembly.
That all said though, I truly think they're still reasonably priced for the performance advantages they provide. Plus, read onto the next paragraph and we'll take care of at least part of that concern!