Windshields 101: Windshields vs. Auto Glass
When you think about a car’s safety features, you might imagine antilock brakes, air bags and seat belts, but odds are the windshield and side windows don’t come to mind. However, these various types of auto glass are manufactured with your safety in mind.
With its position at the front of the vehicle, the windshield is manufactured differently than the side and rear windows (called the sidelites and backlite). After all, the windshield has the highest chance of being hit by a rock or other debris and needs to withstand the impact so you can continue driving safely. Learn more about how windshields differ from other forms of auto glass to help you appreciate the engineering that goes into making them.
Safety Glass is Built for Strength
Other than sliding patio and main entry doors, the windows in your home are made of ordinary sheets of glass. They may have double or triple panes, but they will still shatter break into large shards if something heavy hits them with enough force. Since cars are subject to a more strenuous environment than home windows, two types of safety glass are used in vehicles: laminated glass and tempered glass.
Laminated Glass Windshields for Safety
Windshields are made of laminated glass, which is a multi-layer pane bonded together by a thin sheet of film. The film is fused with the glass under high heat and pressure. This prevents the glass from shattering when broken. Instead, a “spider web” cracking pattern appears on the glass. This important windshield safety feature means you have a greatly reduced chance of having debris penetrate through the windshield and hitting you while you drive.
Laminated Glass Windshields for Structural Integrity
The windshield is also an important part of the car’s overall structure. In a front-end collision, it accounts for at least 45% of the vehicle’s structural integrity. The windshield is also responsible for maintaining the rigidity of your car’s roof in a rollover accident.
If your windshield has a few chips or a large crack, the compromised structural integrity could increase your risk of injury if you get into an accident. That’s why it’s important to have chips repaired promptly and cracked windshields replaced without delay.
Laminated Glass Windshields for Safe Airbag Deployment
The strength of laminated glass is what allows passenger-side airbag to deploy correctly. In an accident, this particular airbag bounces off the windshield and toward the passenger as it deploys with incredible speed and force. The windshield serves the important purpose of absorbing the force without breaking to protect the passenger.
Tempered Auto Glass for Safety
The sidelites and backlite are made of tempered glass. This type of glass is rapidly heated and cooled to give it superior strength compared to ordinary glass. When it breaks, it shatters into small, dull pieces. If you’re in a car accident, it’s much safer to be showered with relatively small pieces of glass as opposed to larger shards of glass. Tempered glass also makes it possible to shatter the side or rear window with a small sharp object so you can escape your car if you get trapped inside.
Tempered Auto Glass for Everyday Strength
In addition to providing increased safety if the windows shatter, the other main purpose of using stronger tempered auto glass is to prevent your car windows from breaking in the first place. If vehicle manufacturers used ordinary glass, your car windows would shatter every time you drove over a pothole or closed a door too hard.