Once upon a time, owning an automobile was considered quite the luxury. Owning an automobile that had a windshield was even more extravagant! Most drivers had to make do with a pair of goggles. Rain, wind and the flying gravel that hit you in the face was all part of the fun. Things have since changed.

Auto Glass in the Early Days

“Wrap-around” glass was the precursor to what we would call the windows and windshield of modern vehicles. By the early 1920s, most cars in production offered driver and passengers near complete protection from the elements. Glass, metal, wood and/or canvas was used to construct a fully enclosed compartment.

Advances in glass-making techniques improved the strength of the final product, and mass production made sheet glass more affordable. There was less distortion and the driver enjoyed better visibility. This also helped make driving more safe. More and more people were falling in love with the automobile, and the roads became busier every year.

Henry Ford and the First Laminated Safety Glass

Henry Ford was fascinated by advances in glass-making that involved combining cellulose with layers of glass. The resulting windshields were less likely to shatter into dangerously sharp shards. Injuries to the occupants involved in automobile accidents began to fall. The Ford Company used laminated glass in the manufacture of all its cars after 1929.

Poly Vinyl Butyral (PVB) was developed to replace cellulose in the production of laminated glass. The cellulose had a tendency to discolor over time, reducing the driver’s visibility. PVB was far more resistant to discoloration and punctures and produced a superior safety glass.

The late 1930’s saw the development of tempered glass. Produced by heating and subsequent rapid cooling, tempered glass was less expensive to produce than laminated glass at the time. It was also not as thick as laminated glass. It was soon widely used to make the side windows and mirrors of the automobiles of the day.

By the 1960’s advances in auto glass production enabled curved windshields and side windows to be designed and installed in new cars. Not only did this improve the designs and aerodynamics of the vehicles, but it made more space available for passengers.

While auto glass advances made the view from the inside better, there was still the issue of all the sunshine that was getting in. Heat reflecting laminates were created to keep some of the heat out of the cars. Tinted glass was developed that absorbed some of the sun’s rays as they entered the vehicle.

Now it’s the Law

Some automobile companies voluntarily made the use of safety glass mandatory in all their vehicles. Governments began to get involved in the 1960’s to guarantee that all cars on the road were equipped with safety glass. Strict regulations have since been put in place. Windshields cannot be cracked or chipped in such a way that driver visibility, and thus road safety, are compromised.

Even when it comes to windshield replacement, certain rules must be observed. Don’t even think about driving away until the adhesives have had time to set and dry properly. The safety of you and your passengers depends on it!