Car technology is constantly improving, so it’s no surprise that manufacturers are now fitting their autos with a special acoustic windshield. Made with extra layers of soundproofing, acoustic windshields are designed to keep noise out of the vehicle, so you can concentrate on the road.
However, with these windshields being a relatively new invention, it’s not surprising you might have questions about them, including how they work and whether they are really worth it. Well, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Below we have compiled a guide of everything you need to know about acoustic car windshields, so you can go for a drive in peace.
What Is An Acoustic Windshield?
An acoustic windshield is a car windshield with added layers of soundproofing materials. It is comprised of two layers of automotive safety glass sandwiching two layers of clear (PolyVinyl Butyral) PVB vinyl, which are sandwiching a layer of clear acoustic PVB. An acoustic laminated windshield is designed to make the inside of the car quieter, as well as function the same as any other windshield does.
How Do Acoustic Windshields Work?
As we mentioned above, acoustic windshields are designed to reduce the amount of noise that is heard inside the car. When we’re travelling in a car, there are many different sounds that we hear. These include air hitting the body of the car, air pressure changes, others cars, environmental noise such as wind noise, traffic noise and even road noise and vibrations from the body of the car.
Sound is made when objects vibrate, which makes the air around the object vibrate and the air vibrations enter your ear. Think about banging your hand on the table and how loud that would sound — this is due to the table vibrating as your hand hits it, and then that sound travelling through the air.
The same goes for sound travelling through glass and into a car. As a car travels along a road and passes through different outside noises, the air vibrates the windshield and can create noise, which can then distract you while driving.
However, the PVB layer’s molecular structure is designed to convert these vibrations into heat, and the special laminated glass disrupts and blocks the vibration of sound as it tries to pass through so it is not heard.
An acoustic windshield is designed to filter out sound waves between 1500 and 5000 Hz, which is the main frequency hearing range for humans. Road noise can easily generate 75 decibels, and ideal noise for us is around 25 dB. These windshields can decrease sound by as much as 60%. The noise reduction ends up being around 6 dB in the high-frequency range and 2 dB to 3 dB in the low to mid-range.
What Is The Difference Between Laminated Glass And Acoustic Laminated Glass?
Laminated glass is used for windscreens, while tempered glass is used for rear and front windows. Laminated glass is actually two sheets of glass that are fused together with a thin, clear vinyl interlayer in the middle forming a very strong piece of glass.
This vinyl layer is added to ensure that the windshield stays intact even when it is broken, which is an added precaution to prevent shards and pieces of glass from injuring people if there is an accident. This is also why you see broken windshields retain their shape even when they are shattered.
All acoustic glass is laminated, but not all laminated glass is acoustic. While all cars have laminated windshields, not all are acoustic.
The difference between laminated and acoustic glass is that acoustic glass has glazing that has been laminated with PVB, an acoustic vinyl layer. This is a resin used to strongly bind the glazing together without compromising on optical clarity, and helps to absorb sound.
What Is The Difference Between A Laminated Windshield And A Double Glazed Windshield?
All modern vehicles use laminated windshields instead of double glazed windshields. There are a few differences between the two, as outlined below.
A double glazed windshield is formed using two pieces of glass that are separated by an air gap. This is the kind of glass that is used in windows in your home. This is a lot heavier and a laminated windshield is much lighter than a double glazed one.
A laminated one is much lighter because it is made with lighter glass, and it is also made by taking two pieces of the glass and bonding them together with a layer of PVC.
While a double glazed windshield works to reduce noise by adding mass, laminated windshields work to reduce noise by using soundproofing materials.
Are There Other Benefits To An Acoustic Windshield?
Aside from protecting our ears, acoustic windshields also have other benefits. Let’s take a look at them below.
Whether you realize it or not, when we’re driving, we’re exposed to harmful UV rays. Even if you’re not sunbathing on the beach or the temperature isn’t that high, UV rays get into the car through the windscreen and windows and can cause sun damage, and, unless you’re putting sunscreen on every day, you’re not immune to them.
However, an acoustic windshield can protect you from UV rays. The vinyl layer of a vinyl windshield is vulnerable to sun radiation, and therefore, manufacturers coat it with UV filters to stop UVB and UVA rays getting through the glass. Not only does this then protect you, but it also means that your car doesn’t get as hot, so you’re more comfortable while driving! It also means your car interior will be protected from fading due to sun exposure.
You may know that the thicker an object is, the less likely sound is to travel all the way through. In the past, windshield glass would be made thicker to help with soundproofing. However, this made the car heavier, and, the heavier the car is, the more fuel you use when you are driving.
With laminated acoustic glass, manufacturers were able to make the windshield thinner, without having to compromise on the sound proofing qualities. Therefore, you’re still getting the most out of your gas but are protected from excess noise, too.
Even though acoustic glass is thinner than regular windshield glass, it is actually a lot stronger. This means that it is shatter-resistant to a certain extent and won’t break as easily. Not only great at preventing thieves from breaking into your car, but it is also much more likely to save you in the event of a crash.
If the glass does break, the vinyl will keep the glass together, preventing large shards of dangerous glass from hurting you or other passengers. It will shatter into lots of tiny pieces, which, although preferably avoided, won’t cause as much harm to you.
How Do You Tell If You Have An Acoustic Windshield?
If your car has been manufactured recently (we’re talking in the last ten years or so), then it is more likely that your car was fitted with an acoustic windshield, particularly with brands such as Toyota, Honda, Range Rover, Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Lexus, Mercedes, Jeep, Genesis, Tata, Saab, Subaru, and Maruti.
You should be able to see if your car has been fitted with an acoustic windshield, because manufacturers love to show it off. You should look for glass with ‘Acoustic’, ‘SoundScreen’, an ‘A’, or the ear and bent arrow symbol etched or fused into it. You may find this in one of the corners of the windshield. If you can see a sign or words etched onto the glass then you know that you have an acoustic windshield.
If you have a Ford, you may seen a SoundScreen label. Ford-Lincoln has used SoundScreen glazing since 2008 in many of its models.
If you unsure whether your windshield is soundproof or not, you can look up the type and make of the car online and see whether it was fitted with one. Also check your car owner’s manual and see if it mentions the word “acoustic” or whether your car has an acoustic windshield.
How Much Does An Acoustic Windshield Cost?
We won’t lie: acoustic windshields are not exactly cheap. If your car has been manufactured recently, the chances are that your car comes with an acoustic windshield built in. However, if you would like to have your car fitted with one of these windshields, you could end up paying $400 or more depending on the type of car you have.
If your car windshield breaks, you will have to pay this much to have it replaced. It may be that if you take your car to a local garage to get it fixed, they will not replace the windshield with an acoustic one, instead just a regular laminated one. You can request to have an acoustic one fitted, but it will be more expensive.
To make sure your car windshield is replaced with an acoustic one instead of a regular windshield, ask for the OEM replacement. An OEM (original equipment manufacturer) means the replacement windshield or part is made by the same manufacture who made the part that is being replaced. It meets all the design variables, standards, and quality of the original and will fit the same way.
The other two options instead of OEM replacements are OEE (original equipment equivalent) and aftermarket parts. OEE only cost slightly less than an OEM but might not fit as well. Aftermarket parts are more general parts and may be good or bad quality, depending on how they are made. Using OEE or aftermarket parts may void some or all of your car’s warranty.
It is worth noting that, currently, no regular windshield cover in insurance policies covers the cost of replacing an acoustic windshield. You will have to pay on top of this. However, as acoustic windshields become more popular and the demand is higher, it is expected that the price will go down.
What Are The Disadvantages Of An Acoustic Windshield?
The biggest disadvantage of an acoustic windshield is the cost. One of these windshields is much more expensive than a regular windshield, which can put a lot of people off purchasing one. You’ll also have to pay extra and sometimes out of your insurance policy to replace an acoustic windshield, too. However, the benefits usually outweigh the downside of the cost.
As we mentioned above, the difference in price between an acoustic windshield and a regular windshield will most likely go down as the demand for acoustic windshields goes up.
What Is The Availability Of Acoustic Windshields Like?
We discussed this earlier, but if your car has been manufactured recently then it is more likely that your car was fitted with an acoustic windshield. And, if it didn’t come with an acoustic windshield, then cars built within the last ten years are more likely to have acoustic windshields ready to fit at repair and replacement companies.
To do this, you will have to ask for the OEM replacement part instead of an aftermarket variety. You can check it is an acoustic windshield by looking out for ‘SoundScreen’, ‘Acoustic’, an ‘A’, or the ear and bent arrow symbol etched into the glass.
If you own a late model Ford vehicle, your OEM replacement will be a SoundScreen windshield. This means it will likely be more expensive.
Is An Acoustic Windshield Worth It?
What you really want to know is whether paying a lot of money to buy a car with an acoustic windshield or replacing your current windshield with a soundproofing one is actually worth it.
Well, in truth, this decision is down to you. Acoustic windshields are great at reducing the amount of noise heard inside the car, and can also keep you safer as you drive. They also have UV protection properties, which is always a bonus. However, they can be expensive and so, for some people, they might not be worth it. At the end of the day, the choice is yours.
What Are Other Soundproofing Methods For A Vehicle?
If you like the idea of an acoustic windshield but the cost is putting you off, or you just want to know what other methods you can combine with your windshield to help soundproof your car, take a look below. These methods can also improve noise levels inside the vehicle.
Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV)
Adding materials to the floor of your car is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of sound heard. This is because the floor is the largest area in the car and is also close to the wheels and the axle. MLV will provide as much sound deadening as a wall in your house, if it is thick enough.
MLV is expensive, but it is also worth it. It helps to reduce car noises, vibrations, road noise and rattling, and actually enhances the stereo system of your car at the same time.
MLV is flexible and permanently adhesive, and should be placed directly onto the metal body of the car and its trim will cover it, so it stays out of sight. You will need to make sure you apply it smoothly and without any wrinkles for it to work properly.
Sound Deadening Spray
Sound deadening spray is a rubberized material that can be applied inside the car doors, the trunk, engine compartment, wheel wells, and the underside of the car to help reduce noise that is heard. This is particularly useful for sound coming from parts of the car that you can’t quite get to.
It can take a little time to dry, but it is very effective. It is recommended that you do multiple light coats as this will cure faster than a thick coat. Once it is dried, it can be painted to match the rest of your car, so you don’t need to worry about the color.
Sound Deadening Mat
A car sound deadening mat can be made of MLV or rubber, cork or felt, and can be placed in the footwells and floor of your car to help with noise reduction. These can come rolled or pre-cut, but we recommend you buying rolled mats so you can ensure they will fit. They are more expensive, but cost-effective as you know you will be able to use them.
You can cut them yourself easily and either place them on the floor of your car, or stick them down with caulk. Make sure the mats are flush against the floor to prevent sound leakage, and you may wish to overlap them for further sound deadening.
The car is the last place you want to be distracted by loud noises, so ensuring your auto is quiet so you can concentrate on the road is important. One way to do this is to fit your car with an acoustic windshield, that helps reduce the vibrations of sound passing through it and therefore reduces the amount of noise heard. Not only does it help with soundproofing, but acoustic windshields can also protect you in a crash and offer UV protection, too.
That being said, these windshields are not cheap, and are sometimes not even covered by your insurance. Although they certainly are worth the money, forking out over $400 to replace a windshield is not something that everyone can do. While we can hope these windshields become more accessible for everyone in the future, do you think you’ll be swapping out your windscreen for a quieter one any time soon?