Types of Auto Window Glass and Safety

One of the best emergency tools that you can keep in your vehicle is a glass breaker. If you get trapped in your car during an emergency, it gives you the option to go through the window.

Most of the tools come as a combination item. You’ll get a safety hammer, window punch, and seatbelt slicer with the all-in-one-design.


There’s just one problem: about one-third of late-model vehicles come with laminated glass on the side windows. They cannot be broken with the standard punch tools marketed to consumers as an emergency option.

Laminated Glass vs. Tempered Glass for Vehicles

The idea of an emergency tool is that in the worst-case scenario, you’ll still have an option to escape from your vehicle. Spring-loaded punches can cause tempered glass to break, even when submerged in water.

Most drivers don’t carry this tool, so automakers use laminated glass for the side and rear windows. This approach reduces the risk of an ejection during an accident, with passengers 64% less likely to die if they can stay in the vehicle.

Laminated glass doesn’t shatter like the tempered option because there is a layer of plastic between two pieces of glass. That’s why windshields peel off after a robust impact.

This option also makes it more of a challenge to commit smash-and-grab crimes, even in hot climates like here in Arizona.

How to Break Laminated Glass in an Emergency

In 2017, there were 21,000 accidents in the United States where a vehicle under caught on fire or was submerged in water. If you try to escape using a tool made for tempered glass, then it might be impossible to get out of the car on time.

You can tell what type of glass is used for your side and rear windows by reading the label in the bottom corner. Your owner’s manual should have this information as well.

Any tool rated to break laminated glass will help you to escape.If you find yourself in a real emergency, these are the steps you’ll want to take to save your life.

  1. Stay calm. Get out of the vehicle the moment that you understand what is happening around you. An instant of panic could cost you the time needed to escape.
  2. Unbuckle your seat belts. If there are passengers in the vehicle, then quickly check with them to make sure they know when and where to exit the car. Having a cutter to slice through the belt is helpful.
  3. Roll down your window if possible. If you are submerged, then the water will rush in, so be prepared for that situation.
  4. If you cannot break or open your window, move everyone to the pocket of air in the vehicle. Once it is gone, the pressure inside the cabin will equalize to the outside, allowing you to open the door to escape.

Once you are away from the damaged car, you can then move to safety and call for emergency services.

Manufacturers have used laminated windows in vehicles for over 20 years. When you know what type of glass you have, then you can create an escape plan that works.