Many of us overlook the amount of noise we encounter whilst we drive. These noises can be a mixture of mechanical sounds and different environmental factors. Together, these can produce loud and distracting bodies of sound.
Such noise levels can lead to stress and a lack of focus on the road which can become very dangerous. You may not even be able to hear passengers in your vehicle with you. However, technology has improved over recent years to help combat such distracting noises.
Every year, vehicles are becoming more advanced to make your driving experience safer. One such technology is acoustic windshields.
In the following article, we are going to discuss acoustic windshields and what they are. We will look at the pros and cons and find out whether they actually work.Firstly, let’s take a look at what an acoustic windshield is so we can fully understand how they operate.
What is an acoustic windshield?
An acoustic windshield is essentially a windshield with multiple layers of soundproofing insulation. Between the two layers of glass in your windshield, you will find two layers of Standard PVB (polyvinyl butyral) and just one layer of acoustic PVB.
PVB is a resin commonly used for items that require strong binding such as the laminated safety glass for automobile windshields. The acoustic PVB is in place to make the interior of a vehicle quieter. When you first look at an acoustic windshield, it looks just like any other glass windshield. It protects the driver and passengers inside the vehicle by keeping out debris from the road or environment.
However, these windshields have the added responsibility of limiting the noise from outside entering the cabin of a car. This is achieved through sound-dampening properties when in manufacturing. These windshields are also known as acoustic glass. As well as helping soundproof your vehicle, acoustic windshields also offer some extra functionality.
The installation of this acoustic vinyl layer between two pieces of safety glass ensures that the windshield is more durable. It also works to successfully block out harmful UV rays while you drive. This little-known aspect of your vehicle is simply one of the main safety features in its entire build.
How does an acoustic windshield work?
The acoustic vinyl layer that is added to the windshield acts as an insulator. This results in an interruption of the usual flow of acoustic vibration. When some of these acoustic vibrations meet the PVB layers, they become absorbed by the materials and then get dispersed as heat energy.
Therefore, the sound that passes through the glass and into the car is significantly reduced. There are some frequencies that PVB is intended for and works best with. These are between 1500 Hz and 5000 Hz.The overall decibel reduction with newly designed acoustic windshields is approximately 2 to 3 decibels.
Although this isn’t a huge difference, its results are very noticeable. The vehicle’s interior becomes much quieter enabling the driver and passengers to speak without having to shout.
Acoustic vinyl is also useful as it allows manufacturers to reduce the thickness of the windshield without negatively affecting the noise levels. This is hugely beneficial as automobile designers continue to try and limit the weight of vehicles so they can become more fuel-efficient.
Furthermore, all vinyl windshields meet the same federal safety regulations and specifications as regular vinyl models.Tests are carried out to show the noise being transmitted through a vehicle’s windshield and the sources from which these sounds come. These include:
- Air hitting certain edges of the vehicle’s body panels
- Air pressure changes when up against the vehicle’s windshield at high speeds
- Other vehicles on the road and environmental noise
- General road noise and vibrations within the body of the vehicle
Through these tests, designers can figure out how acoustic windshields can help prevent such noises from seeping into the interior of the vehicle.
How do I know if I have an acoustic windshield?
Many modern vehicles come with pre-installed laminated acoustic windshields. This means you may already be enjoying the benefits of this feature without even knowing it. There is usually an indication left on your vehicle by the manufacturer to show that it has an acoustic windshield.
This is done by printing some sort of graphics on the corners or sides of the glass. Depending on your vehicle’s specific model, these can be shown with a range of labels such as:
- The letter A
- “Acoustic” printed somewhere on the glass
- “Soundscreen” printed on the windshield
- An ear-shaped logo (this sometimes has an arrow pointing through it)
You can also consult your vehicle owner’s manual if you can’t find any of these labels. You may find the words “Auto-dimming rear-view mirror including acoustic windscreen”. If this isn’t found, ask the dealer who sold you the vehicle for more information.
The Benefits of an Acoustic Windshield
As we have touched upon, the main benefit of an acoustic windshield is its noise reduction within the vehicle. However, there are other benefits that may be even more important than noise reduction. One additional advantage is the improved durability of the glass which heightens the security of the windshield. Therefore, it can often work as a theft deterrent.
Acoustic windshields are much stronger and thicker than regular glass and the laminated glass takes a lot longer to break through. Therefore, the chances of your vehicle becoming the victim of a quick theft are significantly diminished.
People with melanoma will benefit from the reduced amount of ultraviolet light being emitted through the glass too. The special laminated glass is excellent protection against such harmful rays and this is critical when driving in hot countries over long periods.
The reduction of UV rays doesn’t just help the passengers. It can also help preserve the vehicle’s interior from color fading on areas such as the seats and the dash.
The vinyl interlayer’s lightweight nature also enables manufacturers to maintain an equal window thickness overall. This can be done while decreasing the weight of the window and overall vehicle weight. Therefore, fuel efficiency is improved and motorists are left a little happier.
The Disadvantages of an Acoustic Windshield
One of the main downfalls of acoustic windshields is their cost. Because they are a relatively new technology, the production of acoustic windshields for different car models can be expensive.
Depending on the make and model of a vehicle, having acoustic windshields installed can cost $400 or more. And if it becomes damaged, the repair could cost more or less the same as the installment.However, this cost is likely to decrease as demand grows and the volume of manufactured acoustic glass rises and they have become more affordable in recent years.
These days, vehicles of all sizes and in different price ranges have acoustic windshields while the past only saw luxury vehicles with such a feature. Overall, the benefits significantly outweigh the drawbacks.
The Differences Between Laminated Windshields and Double Glazing
Just about every modern vehicle is designed with laminated glass rather than double glazed windshields. When you look at the numerous differences, you’ll understand why.
Laminated Acoustic Windshields
These are much lighter sheets of glass and thinner by approximately 4 mm or 5 mm. This type of glass is made by taking two pieces of thin glass.
These are then bonded together by a piece of plastic. Each acoustic windshield also has an acoustic film between the two parts of plastic for soundproofing and extra security.
Double Glazed Windshields
These are similar to the double glazing you may have in your home. This is formed by using two pieces of glass which are separated by an air gap. This type of glass is a lot heavier because both pieces need to be effective for automotive safety and must pass safety tests.
Double glazed windshields are effective at reducing noise but only through their thick mass. The more mass, the better the soundproofing. However, laminated acoustic windshields achieve their noise reduction properties by using an acoustic film in between the two pieces of glass. This is lighter and dampens the sound while being just as effective.
Are acoustic windshields enough to prevent noise?
So, you may still be wondering whether acoustic windshields work or not. Well, if you’re looking to reduce the overall noise level inside your vehicle, there is no denying that an acoustic windshield can be extremely helpful. However, installing these windshields is not the only thing you can do to soundproof your vehicle.
An average drive in traffic can leave you exposed to a noise level of around 75 to 80 decibels. This is actually higher than the recommended sound level of anything under 70 decibels. If you have had prolonged exposure to noise that is 85 decibels or higher, you’re at a far greater risk of hearing loss.
The 3-decibel noise reduction that acoustic windshields provide will certainly help but this can still be improved upon.
Other Methods to Further Soundproof Your Vehicle
To ensure your vehicle is fully soundproofed and your hearing is protected, there are more methods to consider alongside the installation of an acoustic windshield.
A lot of the noise that enters your vehicle comes from its undercarriage. This is due to a whole host of moving parts and these are just below your vehicle’s floor which, believe it or not, is very thin.
Therefore, noise can easily leak in this way. You can utilize damping mats as these are specialized floor mats to reduce noise. They can simply replace your standard non-soundproofing mats and instead absorb a great deal of that external noise.
Change Your Tires
Your tires can contribute to a lot of noise in your vehicle. This is no surprise as they are constantly in contact with the ground. The continuous vibrations from hitting the ground are shot up through the tires and into your vehicle. Consider the size of your tires. Smaller and wider models tend to produce the most noise.
If you want quieter tires, you should opt for larger and thinner ones as these help to minimize the audible noise as you drive. Before you invest in new tires, always inspect their manufacturer-reported noise rating. This will inform you of the number of decibels generated by the tires when they were tested. You should also adjust your tire’s air pressure if you’re experiencing any squealing noises.
Install Insulation to the Doors and Roof
Your vehicle’s doors and roof are made from the same thin materials that make up its floor. This material generally has very little, if any, insulation.
You can combat this issue by adding some sound dampening materials inside the doors and roof compartment.
Acoustic windshields offer a range of excellent benefits. They can provide good levels of noise reduction, add durability to your glass, and protect you from harmful UV rays as you drive. When paired with more soundproofing methods, an acoustic windshield can become even more effective and worthwhile. It simply offers what regular windshields do and more.