Windscreens are a vital but under-recognised part of our car’s structure. Read how they protect us and how we can maintain them.
According to safety experts, windscreens are an important safety feature alongside seatbelts and airbags. They are designed to offer maximum protection to the occupants of a vehicle in the unfortunate event of an accident and support airbag inflation, prevent occupant ejection, and keep the roof from caving in.
Windscreens are made of laminated glass, which comprises two sheets of glass with a polyvinyl butyral (PVB) layer in between. This PVB layer prevents the windscreen glass from shattering like regular glass.
Here are five ways your windscreen works to protect you and your vehicle’s occupants:
1. Provides clear vision
An unobstructed view of the road is important, as it enables you to drive your vehicle safely and minimise the risks of getting into a life-threatening situation.
2. Protects from the elements
One of the main purposes of a windscreen is to act as a shield, or protective layer, that safeguards passengers and the interior of the vehicle from outside elements like rain, dust, stones, and other road debris.
3. Maintains structural integrity
Not many people know this, but windscreen glass provides about 40% of the structural strength needed for your car roof. If your vehicle is involved in a rollover, the windscreen acts as a supportive beam and stops the roof from collapsing, preventing the occupants from becoming crushed.
4. Airbag deployment
Your windscreen is also essential for the proper deployment of the front airbags in your car. It serves as a backstop for the airbags to bounce off and inflate towards the car’s occupants. If the windscreen is damaged, it won’t be able to absorb the airbag’s impact as effectively and work efficiently, which could result in failed airbag deployment. This can of course lead to severe injuries.
5. UV protection
The interlayer in the laminated glass is effective for blocking harmful UV rays from the sun. This protects your car’s interior from deteriorating and its occupants from potential UV-related skin issues.
Any damage is shown to reduce the integrity of your car’s windscreen. When considering how much your windscreen protects you and the occupants of your car, driving with a chipped or cracked windscreen should be considered less as a nuisance and more as a safety hazard.
5 steps to maintain your vehicle windscreen
Understanding better how windscreens work to protect a vehicle’s occupants, here are some tips to help keep your car’s windscreen in the best possible condition. Like most things, repair is often cheaper than replacement.
1. Keep your windscreen clean
If there’s glare, reflection, and haziness on your windscreen, this is a clear sign it’s dusty or dirty. Dirt builds up over time, so it’s important to clean the inside and outside of your windscreen thoroughly and regularly.
2. Attend to windscreen cracks quickly
A chip on your windscreen can affect its structural integrity and, if left untreated, it can spread into a crack in a stress situation like sudden braking, driving over a pothole or speed bump, or being exposed to a rapid and extreme temperature change. Not only is it dangerous to leave a windscreen chip unchecked but, if it’s larger than 25mm (the size of a $2 coin) or it’s in the driver’s line of vision, your vehicle will fail a Warrant of Fitness.
3. Keep your windscreen wipers clean
Dirty windscreen wipers clearly won’t clean your windscreen. On top of this, it can also scratch the windscreen glass and cause damage.
4. Change your windscreen wipers
If your windscreen wipers aren’t cleaning your windscreen effectively, you should replace them.
5. Top up your wiper fluid
Make sure your windscreen wiper fluid is topped up with a good quality windscreen wash. This will help keep your windscreen clean for the clearest visibility possible, rather than simply using water.