Line of Defense: The Safety Features of Automotive Glass
Every time you get into your car, you sit inside a modern marvel designed to get you from place to place-and to ensure you travel in safety. Car manufacturers and groups like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration take seriously their responsibility to make sure drivers and passengers have dependable, secure vehicles.
Despite these efforts, car accidents happen every day, and some accidents result in critical or fatal injuries. Thankfully, many serious car accidents don’t have a lasting effect on the vehicle occupants, thanks to advanced safety features.
This blog focuses on one safety feature drivers often overlook: the car’s windshield and windows. We’ll discuss how these glass panes contribute to a car’s entire safety system, what built-in safety traits they have, and how you can ensure they always offer you protection.
Your Car’s Complete Safety Restraint System
If you were asked to name your car’s safety features, you would probably begin with the air bags and seat belts. You might name additional elements like an anti-lock brake system, a backup camera, or blind-spot warnings. As you make this list, don’t forget your car’s windshields and windows.
Your front windshield is an essential element of your car’s safety restraint system. The other components are the air bags and the seat belts. These features work together to keep all of a car’s occupants in the vehicle during an accident. Seat belts prevent people from being ejected if the car comes to a sudden stop, and air bags deploy to cushion the crash impact for riders.
What roles does a windshield play in accident protection? First, it helps the seat belts and air bags keep occupants inside the vehicle. In this way, it acts as a second line of defense. Second, your windshield also protects you from anything that might try to enter your car through the front windshield. (Your car’s other windows also serve this purpose.)
Third and perhaps most importantly, the windshield preserves the car’s structural integrity. If the car rolls, it will hold its shape better if the windshield remains intact. Under those conditions, vehicle occupants are less likely to sustain crush injuries.
Types of Automotive Safety Glass
Although your eyes can’t perceive much of a difference, automotive glass isn’t the same type used in your house’s windows. In fact, your car probably has two glass types: laminated and tempered.
The front windshield contains laminated glass. This glass type usually consists of three layers. The inner layer is made of polyvinyl butyral (PVB), a material that can absorb energy and keep flying objects from penetrating through the glass. The glass layers around the PVB layer bind to it after intense pressure and heat are applied during the manufacturing process.
The qualities of laminated glass make it ideal for front windshields. If an object strikes the glass at high speed, the glass can break, but the PVB layer ensures that the glass holds its shape. Laminated glass also absorbs some of the force of a deployed air bag, making that safety feature even safer for anyone riding in the passenger seat.
You find tempered glass in all your car’s side and rear windows. Unlike laminated glass, this glass contains only one layer. Even without multiple layers, though, tempered glass has qualities that make it safe and strong.
During the manufacturing process, tempered glass heats up very rapidly and then passes through a system of blowers. The blowers help the outside of the glass to cool quickly, but the inner portion of the glass cools more slowly. This variation means the inside and outside portions respond to stress differently. This manufacturing process makes tempered glass up to 10 times stronger than non-tempered glass made from the same materials.
Your car windows use that extra strength any time you drive over a pothole or close the door. Normal glass might shatter or break whenever it encounters stressful forces like those, but your car windows don’t because of the tempering process.
In addition, tempered glass breaks in a special way because of how it’s made. Instead of breaking into large shards that could cause deep and dangerous cuts, it shatters into many small pieces that are dull and less harmful.
Ways to Keep Your Car Windows Safe
Even though car windows are designed to resist breaking, they can still sustain some damage. Your own car’s windshield has probably developed at least one rock chip after a long road trip.
As you might suspect, these rock chips are not as dangerous as cracked or broken windshields. However, you should still have them repaired as soon as possible. If left unrepaired, windshield rock chips can spread and reduce the windshield’s overall strength. You should also consult car window repair professionals if any other windows show signs of damage.
Keep your car windshield and windows in good repair so you can take advantage of their safety features.