I Thought My Car Only Had One Windshield?


Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Your Car’s Rear Windshield

The rear-facing glass on the back of your vehicle, what is it called? Like so many parts in the automotive industry, it actually has a few different names. Some of the more common ones are backlite, rear windshield, and back glass. All of these terms refer to the same piece of glass, without notable differences. However, in the USA, this piece of glass is most commonly referred to as simply “back glass”.

sedan-rear-windshield
Typical back glass on a four-door sedan

 

The “rear windshield” does, in fact, shield the passenger compartment from wind, despite facing backward. And no, we are not talking about when you back out of a parking spot at full throttle. When driving down the road (in a forward gear), air flows around a car, creating a vortex which would draw air back into the vehicle, were the back glass not in place.

How Windshields and Back Glass Differ

One key difference between the windshield and the back glass   is that the front glass is made from laminated glass and the back glass is generally made from tempered glass. Tempered glass shatters more easily than laminated glass because it lacks an internal layer of film used in laminated glass. Referred to as a polycarbonate interlayer, this keeps laminated glass intact in the event of an impact (depending on severity). This is critical in the event of a head-on collision since retaining the passenger inside the vehicle is a very important factor for reducing fatality rates. This is not as necessary for the rear of the vehicle. Therefore the tempered back glass serves its purpose and also reduces overall weight.

Variations of the Rear Windshield

Back glass comes in a much wider variety of shapes and sizes than front windshields. On coupes and sedans, back glass and front windshields are somewhat similar in size in shape. This isn’t true on many other vehicles. Small sports cars such as the Toyota MR2 or Honda Del Sol have tiny vertical back glass which is necessary for keeping the wheelbase short.

Vertical back glass found on a C3 Corvette

Liftbacks, Hatchbacks, Split Windows, and More

Sports cars of the liftback type are the exact opposite. The rear hatch uses a long, gently sloping back glass. These can be found on sports cars like the Toyota Supra and Mazda RX-7. Liftbacks are in the hatchback family, with hatchbacks having a more vertically angled hatch. Wagons, SUVs, crossovers, and minivans, although not in the hatchback family, all have large rear hatches as well. The glass typically only extends about half way down the hatch as opposed to 75% or more on a liftback.

hatchback-rear-windshield
Typical hatchback back glass

 

Another version of the rear window on early model cars, particularly popular in the 1930s, was the split rear window. Split rear windows featured two smaller pieces of glass, separated by a metal strip of the body instead of one large piece of glass. Split rear windows allowed manufacturers to use small pieces of glass giving passengers more privacy. One of the most recognized split window coupes was actually produced in the 1960s; the Corvette Stingray to this day is still an iconic sports car with unique styling due largely to the back glass.

The iconic split rear window Corvette Stingray

How Windshields and Rear Windshields are Similar

Options and Features

Let’s talk about the different options available for back glass. These pieces of glass come with many of the same amenities as windshields- even a back glass wiper (or two- early models experimented with this odd looking concept). Sometimes this includes a spray nozzle as well for cleaning the glass. Sedans, coupes and pickup trucks seldom feature back glass wipers, but it is not unheard of. This option is usually found on hatchbacks, liftbacks and other vehicles that feature a rear hatch.

Other options include an electrically heated interlayer, which you probably know as your defroster. Many newer models also have built-in radio antennas. Others are factory tinted for reduced glare and heat.

Luxury vehicles sometimes even feature an electronically-operated sunshade that can be used to keep passengers cool and out of the sun. These shades are usually perforated fabric; still allowing limited driver visibility to the rear. Modern SUVs, trucks, and minivans typically come with factory-installed rear privacy glass that is tinted darker than the glass in the front half of the vehicle.

Pickup Truck Rear Sliders

Pickup trucks also have back glass, but it is normally referred to as a slider. This is because rather than a single, solid piece of back glass, trucks often have a cutout in the middle that slides open. The slider offers a multitude of benefits from extra ventilation, to the ability to haul longer materials, and easy access to the front of the pickup truck bed from inside the truck’s cab.

truck-rear-slider
Pickup truck rear slider window

 

Sliders come in a variety of setups. Trucks such as the Toyota Tundra Crewmax even feature a rear window that rolls all the way down into the body of the truck. This is not unheard of for SUVs either. The Toyota 4Runner, as well as older Ford Broncos and a few other models, feature back glass that rolls down. Many SUVs at least allow the glass window to lift open, without opening the entire hatch. This is a helpful feature for loading and unloading smaller objects like grocery bags.

Common Back Glass Issues

Just like any other piece of glass on your vehicle, the back glass can suffer from issues as well. If your vehicle is equipped with a rear wiper, be sure to keep the wiper arm and wiper blade in top shape. Some recommend replacing the blade at least once a year.

For those with roll-down back glass, these can face the same issues as side windows. Sometimes the motor responsible for the up and down motion will stop working. Other times a control switch might be faulty. It is even possible for the wiring between the two to break connection.

Breakage of the rear window is surprisingly common, especially on those vehicles with more vertical pieces of back glass. These can be subject to damage from outside objects when backing up since they are positioned at the rear of the vehicle in the cases of vehicles with a rear hatch. Unsecured objects in the vehicle may also bump the glass hard enough to cause damage.

 

broken-rear-windshield

Where to Find Help

As most back glass is made from tempered glass, repair is not usually possible and replacement will be necessary. If you find your car’s back glass or components are in need of repair or replacement, start your search for a nearby reputable replacement shop on Glass.com. We’ll show you local shops in your zip code and let you compare instant price quotes from each. When you’re ready, simply book with them straight from the site!

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