Bullet-Resistant Auto Glass


Bullet hole in glass

 

In some cases, you may want bullet-resistant glass on your vehicle—perhaps if you live in a high-crime area or require extra occupant security. Many people refer to this extra-strong glass as “bulletproof glass.” There is no such thing as “bulletproof” glass, but bullet-resistant glass is available for windshields, back glasses, and side windows. The misnomer stems from the fact that no matter what, there will always be a bullet powerful enough to break the glass, no matter how strong it is. The glass may resist the bullet it could come in contact with, but there is no glass that can guarantee it can resist all.

Bullet-Resistant Windshields

Modern windshields are made from laminated glass—two pieces of glass sealed together with a thin plastic interlayer. This interlayer helps keep the glass intact in the event of an accident or if debris hits the glass while on the highway. In order to make windshields bullet-resistant, manufacturers usually use thicker pieces of glass with a thick interlayer holding them together. While this may not be “bulletproof,” it is designed to stop a bullet or at least slow it down. Bullet-resistant glasses for vehicles all have ratings that tell you how strong of a weapon they can stop.

Bullet-Resistant Side Windows

In general, vehicle side windows are made from tempered glass, which, if broken, breaks into relatively safe, small pieces, rather than shards. Tempered glass is not bullet-resistant. Due to this, in a vehicle where bullet resistance is preferred (or in some high-end vehicles), polycarbonate (also known as plastic) windows are installed. These are thicker and break much less easily than a typical side window with normal auto glass thickness might. These windows are much more likely to slow down a bullet in the event one is fired toward them than standard side windows.

How Much Does Bullet-Resistant Glass Cost?

Unfortunately, bullet resistance, for both windshields and side windows, does come with a much higher price tag than standard windshields and side windows. It is more expensive to manufacture and, if broken, more expensive to replace. For this reason, it is typically only found on vehicles that have a need for extra security. These vehicles usually are retrofitted with bullet-resistant glass as factory installation by automobile manufacturers. Therefore, it is extremely limited and generally reserved for luxury brands like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.

Retrofitting a vehicle with armor is not an easy task. The labor hours alone that go into modifying any vehicle for armoring will likely be in the hundreds. The cost of the glass itself can start as low as about $5,000, but this is for minimal protection on a small vehicle. The price goes up from there and can top out at well over $100,000, depending on options and the type of vehicle being armored. These figures are just for the price of the armoring and do not include the cost of the vehicle.

Bullet-Resistant Armoring Glass Armoring Levels

There are different levels of bullet-resistant auto glass. In some cases, the level of bullet resistance is minimal; enough to stop a .22 caliber bullet, for example. In other cases, the glass needs to stop large rounds, such as 5.56. As the level of resistance increases, typically so does the weight, thickness, and cost. A rating system was developed by Underwriters Laboratory (UL) to rate the bullet resistance levels of glass. This can help you decide what rating level you need based on the caliber of bullet a certain level is rated for. For a full chart, and more background on the history of bullet-resistant glass, check out The Use of Bulletproof Glass.

The Vehicle Armoring Process

Typically, vehicles that need extra protection are equipped with much more than just bullet resistant glass. Door panels and undercarriages are nearly as vulnerable as windshields, windows, and back glass. They do little to slow down bullets. For this reason, armor panels are generally added to the door to give better overall bullet-resistant coverage. Blast panels can be added to the undercarriage to protect the gas tank and drivetrain from explosions. Many armored vehicles also feature run-flat tires that allow the vehicle to continue driving even if a tire has been penetrated.

If you are looking to add bullet-resistant glass as a way to lessen the chance of vehicle break-ins, then swapping out the glass may be enough. However, if you’re looking for resistance from ballistics, it may be foolish to armor the windows without armoring other parts of the vehicle.

How is Bullet Resistant Glass Installed?

The process for installing bullet-resistant glass is extensive and will need to be handled by a professional shop that is experienced in installing bullet resistant glass. The glass will be much thicker and heavier than the glass that your vehicle was originally equipped with. The front and back windshields are similar to a normal replacement job, but modifications may need to be made to the frames in order to accommodate the glass.

The side windows require a lot of work:

-The door panels must be disassembled first.

-Next, the original glass will be removed.

-Then the shop will use metalworking tools to widen the door cavity and the window’s frame.

-Next, the glass will be installed.

-If the window is operable, a high-power window motor will be installed. The extra power is needed in order to roll the heavier glass up and down.

-If the door panel is being armored, the armoring will likely be added before the door is reassembled.

 

Vehicle Armoring Considerations

Armoring a vehicle modifies it significantly. Here are some factors you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Weight
    Adding bullet-resistant glass and other armoring increases weight significantly. Some vehicles may not be able to withstand the additional weight, and may not be candidates for armoring. Even if a vehicle is a candidate, it’s likely that the suspension will need to be upgraded. Handling and gas mileage will be compromised.
  • Comfort

The added weight and modification to the suspension could cause the ride quality to suffer. Additionally, your side windows may only roll up and down a few inches, or they may not roll down at all.

  • Resale
    The majority of the general public does not deem an armored vehicle as a necessity. When you decide to sell the vehicle, you may find that your pool of buyers is much smaller than it would be if the vehicle were not armored. You may have difficulty selling it.
  • Maintenance
    There are a handful of armoring companies throughout the United States. Depending on your location, the nearest could be a day’s drive or more. You’ll want to consider the fact that you may have to pay to have the vehicle shipped somewhere if the armoring system needs maintenance. Also, as we mentioned before, parts aren’t cheap.

 

If you’re looking to add bullet-resistant glass do your car, be careful to consider that it’s a costly endeavor and that there are downsides. However, if you need this level of protection, reach out to us at hello@glass.com and we’ll help direct you to a company that can assist with armoring your vehicle and equipping it with bullet-resistant glass.

 

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Penny Stacey

By Penny Stacey

Penny Stacey serves as the communications manager for Key’s association clients. Her job is to augment communications efforts as needed or requested by the association. She currently edits four association newsletters, writes press releases and story pitches for these clients. She also helps with research as requested.

Penny has been part of the Key team for 17 years, and has served as an editor for a number of Key publications, e-newsletters and websites. She graduated from Mary Washington College with a bachelor’s degree in both English and American Studies. She works part-time now while raising her two young boys.


13 responses to “Bullet-Resistant Auto Glass”

    • Hi Adrienne,

      Thanks for the question! Fitting bullet resistant glass to a vehicle isn’t as easy as swapping out a stock windshield. Because bullet resistant glass is much thicker and heavier than normal glass, these are considered custom jobs that usually require some modification to the vehicle. The best option would be to search for and contact a company in your area that specializes in armored vehicles.

  1. Do you make bullet resistant glass for a tall roof 2015 Ford Transit for the side 2 windows. Will the windows still go up with them.

    • Hi Leigh,

      We do not manufacture any glass ourselves, but we can point you in the direction of someone who would be able to obtain and install the glass. Many of these applications do not allow the glass to be operable because of the considerable increase in mass.

    • Armoring a vehicle is a very specialized service which we unfortunately do not offer. There are numerous vehicle armoring companies throughout the US- we suggest you contact one nearest to you in order to get a better idea of the requirements.

  2. I live in Fremont CA. My zip is 94538. I own a 2000 MB E400 that is retrofitted with bullet proof windows and steel body. The window is becoming blurry due to years of extreme sun. I would like to have the windows replaced since the car only has 60k miles. any reccomendations would be appreciated.

    • Hi Kevin,
      We do not offer armoring services but there are several companies across the US that do. You can find them with a quick Google search. Armoring requires significant modification to the door frame to allow for the increased thickness of bullet-resistant glass. Pricing typically starts around $15,000 and can range up to $200,000+.

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