Hollywood has ruined the way we think about glass. Shattering a bottle on another person’s head isn’t as easy as it looks in the movies. Believe it or not, glass is a lot tougher than you may imagine (most glass, that is. Cellphones are debatable). With that being said, how strong are modern windshields? The answer might surprise you.
Modern Windshields – As Strong as Steel?
Ultimately, car manufacturers put safety as their top priority when creating a vehicle. Sure, everything breaks under enough force, but modern technology has made windshields invulnerable to tensile stress and five times stronger than steel.
You heard that right. A sheet of glass pulled lengthwise is five times tougher than steel.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should treat your windshield like it’s Iron Man. Though it may be stronger than steel, it’s not as strong as a tank. While impressive, this fact can be a bit misleading.
Every driver knows that a well-thrown rock can pierce through a windshield. A well-thrown rock will not pierce steel, regardless of the pitcher’s strength. So how is glass five-time stronger than steel? It has to do with malleability. Glass is stiffer than steel but brittler (hence the rock shattering it); glass takes more strength to bend, but once it bends, it’s easy to crack.
Therefore, semantics aside, your windshield is harder than steel in some ways. It’s still impressive, though. Windshields have come a long way over the history of the automobile, and they continue to become safer.
How Are They Made?
Modern windshields are not only strong but are intricate in design. It is not just a pane of glass. Furthermore, the process involves two pieces of annealed glass and a strip of Polyvinyl Butyral in-between.
If that all sounds like Latin to you, we’ll simplify it. Basically, annealed glass is thermally treated and then cooled, allowing for relief of its internal stress. It’s a softer material. This process causes the annealed glass to break into longer pieces instead of shattering.
Polyvinyl Butyral is a type of laminate that holds the two annealed planes together. This laminate creates a sticky resin between the two. Therefore, if the outside of the windshield cracks, the broken pieces will stick to the middle resin and not fly off, avoiding further damage to surrounding objects. Pretty safe stuff.
This laminate also works to help stave off potential thieves. With the pane not shattering through easily, it’s harder to get into a car by smashing a window. All in all, a thief would have to break through two separate planes of glass to get into the car. Also, the planes are more than likely to stick together even after impact. It’s more of an obstacle, causing a longer breaking-and-entering process.
Modern Windshields – More Than Just Wind
While it is impressive that a windshield can withstand horrid weather like hail and dire heat on its own, its other uses are equally as impactful.
The structural design of windshields helps from scary events like passengers being ejected from the car. The impact of a thrown passenger can cause a weaker windshield to shatter and break through. Simply put, this is not good. A modern windshield’s strength and shatter-stopping resin can significantly help prevent passengers from being thrown through it; that is always a plus.
Windshields are also strong enough to help the structure of the vehicle itself. They actually help stop the roof from caving in on collision. A windshield offers 45% of the structural integrity in a head-on collision and 60% in a rollover accident. This structural integrity helps keep the roof from collapsing and hurting passengers.
Windscreens also help facilitate airbag deployment. Simply put, when an airbag deploys to give you a softer surface to impact, it pushes against the windshield to establish a barrier. If the glass is not strong enough to take the impact of an airbag, the airbag won’t help the passenger much, if at all.
On the contrary, a windscreen is not just for looks and weather. Due to modern technology, windshields have become a crucial part of car safety overall.
When manufacturing something as significant to car security as a windshield, the science behind the implementation must be intricate and thorough.
The strength and usage of windscreens are not just theoretical. Automobile manufacturers perform various tests to calculate the integrity of the auto glass they produce. Independent nonprofits like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also take the time to test the impact strength of your windshields.
Simply put, safety is a priority to manufacturers and automobile scientists alike. If your windshield is up to code standards, it is a lot stronger than you may believe.
As stated before, this does not mean you should take your windshield for granted. It is strong and useful, but it’s still glass. As always, be careful with how you drive. The glass is not invincible. But, if avoidance of a flying object seems unavoidable or avoiding it may cause a larger accident, you can have faith in your windshield.
Why Strong Modern Windshields Are Expensive
At the end of the day, having your windshield replaced always seems like an expensive and tedious endeavor. But, that pricey piece of glass is for more than just protecting you from the elements; it keeps your car in shape and your airbags working correctly. Also, imagine a car without one. Weird.
Even a slight chip can mean negatives for the integrity of your auto glass. Auto glass is an extremely strong protector between you and the world, providing maximum security in your vehicle. Therefore, your windshield replacement should be up to standard. A replacement is more than just a nuisance, it needs to be done correctly.
Make sure to get your windshield replaced by a business you trust with experts in the field. Also, windscreen replacement businesses like SLP Auto Glass offer mobile replacement services. You don’t even have to leave your house!
Safety is paramount, especially in vehicles. Make sure your auto glass is at its peak performance.