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Published: 12/28/2006

Costs for 2 chemicals boost wiper-fluid prices

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
At Do-It Best Sylvania Hardware, a gallon of winter-rated windshield wiper fluid costs from $1.19 to $2.79. At Do-It Best Sylvania Hardware, a gallon of winter-rated windshield wiper fluid costs from $1.19 to $2.79.
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Gasoline isn't the only automotive fluid that's more expensive these days.

Costs for two chemicals used in windshield washer fluid that is effective in winter - ethylene glycol and, more recently, methanol - have increased the solvent's price in recent years.

Winter-rated windshield washer fluid priced at 99 cents a gallon used to be common but now is rare.

At Meijer stores, for example, a gallon costs $1.27 to $1.39 on average depending on formula, up 20 to 30 cents from a year ago, a spokesman said. At The Andersons stores, a gallon of windshield washer fluid costs $1.69, up at least 40 cents from two years ago.

Still, at Sylvania Do It Best Hardware, windshield washer fluid costs $1.19 a gallon, the same as last winter and down from $1.49 to $1.69 a few years ago when ethylene glycol costs were up, said Kevin Oswald, one of the store's owners.

Costs for ethylene glycol have declined recently but they are up for methanol, which makes up about half of windshield washer fluid, said Josh Russell, director of marketing for Old World Industries Inc. Windshield washer fluids sold under brands including Peak are among the Northbrook, Ill., firm's main products.

"The big driver is the expense of methanol," Mr. Russell said of recent price increases.

Ethylene glycol is produced by the petrochemical industry, and methanol is most commonly produced from a natural-gas component. And prices for both petrochemicals and natural gas have increased in recent years, Mr. Russell noted.

Because the area hasn't experienced winter's fury yet, the price of windshield wiper fluid likely will decline soon because the supply is ample, said David Gruen, automotive retail buyer for The Andersons.

In the last few years, meanwhile, manufacturers and retailers have started pushing higher-priced windshield washer fluids that promise to quickly remove ice, repel road salt, and provide other benefits.

The AutoZone store in Oregon, for example, displays Rain-X and Prestone windshield washer fluids that cost $2.79 and $2.99 a gallon, respectively, more prominently than the $1.29 gallons of private-label Valucraft fluid made by Old World.

Customers at Sylvania Do It Best Hardware, where the Prestone with de-icer additive costs $2.79 a gallon, usually pass it up for the $1.19-a-gallon Xtreme Blue, said Mr. Oswald, also a part owner of Lambertville Do It Best Hardware.

"It's expensive, so a lot of people stick with the other windshield wiper fluid," he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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