You may have seen it in the news recently—instances of someone getting stuck in their vehicle after an accident because the car was equipped with laminated side windows. Laminated windows are nearly impossible to break with traditional glass-break tools. These small devices are carried in many driver’s gloveboxes because they easily break car windows so that occupants can escape in emergency situations. Unfortunately, these traditional glass-break tools don’t work with laminated side windows. Even first responder professionals have difficulty breaking through laminated glass windows with specialized tools. It can take minutes to saw through and remove laminated glass. In comparison, tempered glass breaks away in mere seconds.
Why is laminated glass so much harder to break through than tempered glass? To start, let’s talk about tempered glass. Tempered glass has been heat-treated to create a hardened surface. It’s stronger than regular glass, but when it’s hit hard enough, it instantly shatters into thousands of small pieces. In comparison, laminated glass will break from a hit of similar force. The difference is that laminated glass is basically a glass sandwich—two pieces of glass held together by a middle layer of polyvinyl. This polyvinyl interlayer is what creates the problem. Even after the glass has broken, it stays in place because of the interlayer. The plastic interlayer can bend and stretch, making it difficult to punch through. Usually, it needs to be cut through with a saw instead.
Identifying whether your car or truck has laminated side windows is generally fairly simple. You’ll just need to locate the “bug” which is a small stamp, typically in the lower corner of the glass. The bug is silk-screened onto the glass permanently and lists pertinent information about the glass such as the manufacturer, codes that describe the glass, and either the word “laminated” or “tempered”. If you can’t find the bug on your car’s glass, there’s another easy way to identify if it’s laminated or tempered. Simply roll down your car’s window halfway and inspect the top edge of the glass. Laminated glass is a sandwich of two pieces of glass with an interlayer in the middle, and this layering can usually be observed along the edge. In contrast, layering will not be visible along the edge of a piece of tempered glass. It will appear as a completely smooth, single piece.
Still not sure whether your vehicle has laminated side windows or tempered side windows? No worries—it can be tricky to identify sometimes! Your local area glass shop should be able to look up this information for you. You can use Glass.com to find a reputable glass shop nearby.
This isn’t to say that laminated glass is a bad product. Laminated glass actually has a number of benefits that tempered glass does not offer. First, laminated glass provides for a quieter vehicle cabin. The polyvinyl interlayer acts as insulation from outside sound. There are even types of polyvinyl called acoustic interlayers which are specifically designed for noise dampening purposes. The addition of this interlayer can help cut down on road noise, engine noise, traffic noise, and wind noise to make for a more enjoyable ride.
In addition to a quieter cabin, laminated glass can be safer in the event of an accident. The (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) NHTSA determined that mortality rates from accidents increase when the occupant is ejected from the vehicle. Because laminated glass is so much harder to break, the chances that a passenger will be thrown through a closed laminated glass window is significantly less than with tempered glass. Therefore, the chance of mortality is lower.
This also isn’t to say that tempered glass is an inferior product. Tempered glass is actually lighter and less costly than laminated glass. The weigh-savings that results from choosing tempered glass rather than laminated can help play a role in achieving fuel efficiency. As a generalization, saving 100 pounds of weight equals an increase in fuel efficiency of approximately one percent. In 2018 the average American car weighed about 4,000 pounds, so it’s not hard to see how a small savings in weight here and there can add up to big increases in miles per gallon. Additionally, because tempered glass is more cost-effective, this savings is typically passed on to the end consumer. Therefore, purchasing a vehicle with tempered glass may help you save some money when it comes time to buying your next vehicle.
Glass options are usually pretty far down on shopper’s lists when it comes to “must-haves” if it even makes the list at all. Choosing laminated or tempered side windows is not an option typically offered by vehicle manufacturers. Car models will either come equipped with one or the other depending on what the manufacturer chooses for that particular vehicle line.
With this in mind, if you prefer one over the other, you will want to look for a model that is made with your preference of laminated or tempered glass side windows.
What should you do if you have a car equipped with laminated side windows? Have an alternate emergency escape plan in place. Do your homework ahead of time to determine the best exit options. Review and practice your plan ahead of time so that you know exactly what action to take if an actual emergency does arise. Every second can be crucial. Here are some steps you could follow if you need to escape from your vehicle:
If applicable, dial 911 to report the emergency or any injuries. Always follow the professional instructions of first responders.
Replacing laminated side window glass typically is no different than replacing tempered side window glass. In fact, if the glass broke, laminated glass could be easier to replace because there is typically less clean up needed. Instead of hundreds of small pieces of broken glass, laminated glass will usually hold together in place.
If your car is in need of laminated side window replacement, use glass.com to search for reputable shops in your local area. You’ll be able to compare instant price quotes from each and book online with the location that best suits your needs.
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