You may think of your car’s windshield as just a big sheet of glass that keeps bugs and pebbles out of your eyes, and helps hold in the heat and air conditioning. In reality, the windshield is a high-tech part of your car that protects you in multiple ways.
Modern Windshield Construction
Windshield glass is made of a special combination of silica with other elements that add flexibility and durability. When high heat is applied, the combined raw materials melt into a liquid that is formed into large sheets of glass. The glass is cut to correct sizes and placed into a form or mold, then heated again to soften the glass enough to take the shape of the mold.
Once the windshield is the correct size and shape, it is tempered by heating it quickly to a high temperature, and then cooling it with jets of cold air. This process toughens the glass so that if it shatters, it breaks into small pieces rather than jagged shards.
Windshields are further strengthened by laminating. Two thin sheets of glass have an even thinner sheet of plastic placed between them, and heated to bond the layers together. The plastic can act as a filter to protect the car’s interior from ultraviolet light, but more importantly, if there is a collision or other damage, the broken glass stays bonded to the tear-resistant plastic in the middle instead of flying into the vehicle.
How Your Windshield Protects You
Modern windshields perform the same functions that the original ones did back in the early 20th century: keeping out rain and snow, preventing bugs and debris from flying into the driver and passengers, and shutting out rushing air and loud road noises.
But today’s windshields do so much more. Airbags inside the vehicle are designed to work with the windshield to make sure they deploy in the correct position and direction. Windshields also help support the roof and prevent it from collapsing too easily in the event of a rollover.
Proper Installation is Critical
These crucial functions of the windshield are why it is so important to make sure that any replacement windshield is correctly installed. It’s not a DIY repair even though it seems relatively straightforward. If the windshield is not perfectly positioned and attached with the right adhesive, and the adhesive is not properly cured, the windshield can pop loose in a collision and greatly increase the risk of serious injury or death for people inside the car.
Signs that a replacement windshield has not been installed correctly include any leaking when driving in the rain or going through a car wash, or whistling or other noises when driving at higher speeds. Both of these indicate that the adhesive holding the windshield in place has a gap or gaps in it. Also beware of any windshield installer who works alone, because it takes two people to correctly position the glass.
If your vehicle’s windshield is damaged or cracked, it is also important to replace it promptly. Besides interfering with the driver’s view, a crack damages the overall integrity of the windshield and makes it less effective as a protection in case of a serious accident.
Your windshield is an integral and critical part of your vehicle, protecting you in ways far beyond merely blocking debris and noise. Special care is needed when repairing or replacing your windshield. Take good care of your windshield so it keeps taking good care of you.