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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 [email protected] and we’ll help direct you to a company that can assist with armoring your vehicle and equipping it with bullet-resistant glass.