Answers to Your Questions About Windshield Protection Film
Industry | 7 min read
Published: February 28, 2023
If you're like most people, you spend a lot of time in your car. Windshields are especially vulnerable, and replacing yours can be expensive and time-consuming. A windshield protection film will help keep your windshield looking good for longer than it would without one.
Windshield protection film is becoming increasingly popular for car enthusiasts and daily drivers alike, and understandably there are a lot of questions about this product. But don’t worry - we’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions (and answers), so you can learn way more than you ever wanted to know about windshield protection film.
Windshields in 2023 are no longer just a piece of glass. They protect a variety of sensors and cameras that power features like lane-keep assist and lane-departure warnings that make up your advanced driver assistance system (also called ADAS). These sensors need to be recalibrated in the event that your windshield is damaged or needs to be replaced, which has significantly increased the cost of windshield replacement in recent years. While it really depends on your specific make and model, windshield replacement can cost anywhere from $500 for older vehicles that don’t have any ADAS systems, to $1800+ for vehicles manufactured in 2018+. If you want to find a quote for your specific vehicle, you can use this safelite quote tool to get an estimate.
Most insurers will not include windshield coverage on your policy unless you specifically add it to your plan (or if you happen to live in a state where it is legally mandated). Unfortunately, even if you do have supplementary coverage, the replacement cost could be significantly more than your entire deductible for the year.Many insurance policies also limit how many glass claims you can make in a year (usually just one) which may not be enough if you own something with a flat, vertical windshield like a Jeep or Bronco. Plus, the more glass claims you make, the higher your insurance premiums will be, so claiming regular windshield replacements is likely to come back to haunt you in the long run.
Driving with a cracked windshield is dangerous, not just because of the risk of falling glass shards, which is actually highly unlikely. A damaged windshield will significantly affect your vision (and the ‘vision’ of any sensors behind the windshield) which makes driving pretty unsafe. Even large cracks that are outside the driver’s line of sight can easily spread while you’re driving, which could potentially cause an accident that could have been avoided.In most states and provinces it’s actually illegal to drive with a windshield that has any damage that affects the driver’s view (and any crack over 30 square cm is considered a safety risk and is illegal in all provinces), so our suggestion? Avoid it altogether.
Windshield protection film is a thin, transparent film installed on the outside of your windshield to protect it from rocks or other debris that can damage your windshield while driving.
Most windshield protection films are made up of 3 layers that are fused together in the manufacturing process: an adhesive layer, a soft plastic shock-absorbing layer, and a protective coating layer. The specific materials used for each of these layers depends on the manufacturer, but generally we categorize windshield protection film into 2 distinct categories:
PET-Based Films:The “original” material for windshield protection film, PET-based films are still very much the leader today given they outshine the competition in terms of impact resistance, optical clarity, and longevity. ExoShield is an example of a PET-based film. Most PET-based windshield protection films use what’s called a “hardcoat” on the surface to prevent the PET from being scratched by the wiper blades during normal use.
Polyurethane-based Films:While there has been some interest in urethane-based films in recent years, likely because of the popularity of this material for other automotive products like paint protection film, these films tend to suffer from poor optical quality and short lifetimes. Even a higher-end PU film lasts only a few months before the surface is marred with scratches from the wiper blades if you drive even semi-regularly. The primary advantage of these films is that they are much easier to apply to the windshield for the installer; although most installers avoid these films as they aren’t best for their end customers at the end of the day.
The primary purpose of windshield protection film is to reduce or eliminate damage from anything that hits your windshield while driving. This includes things like rocks being kicked up by transport trucks on the highway that can cause that loud “crack” sound and leave a hefty mark. While the film is not bulletproof (and is not meant to be), it will protect against most day-to-day damage that most of us are at risk of.
One of the tests we perform at ExoShield is to launch a steel ball bearing at the film at different speeds. Our test is designed to ensure that the film meets our 6X stronger requirement - meaning that a windshield protected with our standard ExoShield GT3 is 6X less likely to break when a rock at highway speeds hits it vs an unprotected windshield (and higher for ExoShield ULTRA).
While impact resistance is the primary benefit, windshield protection films offer secondary benefits as well. Due to the nature of our hardcoat on the film, you will see some increased hydrophobicity of the film, which means you’ll notice water droplets beading and you won’t need to use your wiper blades as often.
It will also prevent your windshield glass from getting scratched or pitted over time, which means that when you remove the film, it will look like your windshield is brand new.
The answer is: it depends. We know that’s probably not very satisfying so we’ll elaborate. The lifetime of your windshield protection film really depends on many factors, like where you live, your driving habits, and what kind of windshield protection film you choose. Generally speaking, we typically like to say it should last 18-24 months in most climates, but we’ve seen people get more or less out of their film.
Climate: If you live in a particularly hot and humid, or high UV environment there may be some lifetime limitations for your film. People in the automotive film industry will even joke that New Mexico is where films go to die, just because of how harsh the climate can be. UV in particular is a killer because it actually causes the bonds between layers to break down and start to separate.That being said, ExoShield GT3 is specifically formulated to resist degradation due to UV, so the chances of you having an issue within that 18-24 month period just because of high-UV climates is low. We actually test the film in a special UV chamber to make sure that it can last the full lifetime without delaminating.
Environment: one of the worst culprits for film damage is small rocks, sand and dirt on the roads. These small, abrasive particles can get easily stuck in your wiper blades, which will cause the hardcoat on the film to wear out more quickly. The solution? Be vigilant about cleaning and changing your wiper blades and consider applying a ceramic coating to the surface of the film regularly to get more lifetime out of it.
Driving Habits: This one probably goes without saying, but the more you drive your car in…less than ideal conditions (e.g. dirty, construction-covered roads, highways, etc.) the more wear and tear you’ll see in your film over time. The good news is that most windshield protection films will not lose any significant impact resistance over the lifetime of your film, so you’ll remain protected until you decide to remove it. We always recommend removing the film if you feel that it is impacting your visibility such that it is unsafe to drive and getting the film reapplied so that you stay protected.
Windshield protection film is made of thin layers of material laminated together to form the film. Broadly speaking, the bulk of any windshield protection film is usually some combination of a soft polymer plastic (like PET or polyurethane) covered by a coating. The bulk of your impact resistant will come from the polymer layer, since the soft, flexible nature of this layer will absorb the force of impact from incoming rocks or debris as they hit your windshield.
While we touched on the difference in types of windshield protection film technology above, there are some key differences between brands.
In particular, one major issue in this industry has historically been what is commonly referred to as ‘delamination’, which is a fancy way of saying that the layers of the film start to separate over time.
ExoShield GT3, which is our next generation windshield protection film, uses our proprietary Endurance Class nanocoatings system, which creates a stronger bond between the layers, guaranteeing longer-lasting protection that doesn’t sacrifice clarity or durability.
Windshield protection film is installed by shrinking the film to fit the curvature to the windshield followed by a squeegee step to adhere the film to the windshield.
For the vast majority of windshields, there is a relatively high degree of curvature, which means that you'll need to get the film professionally installed. All of our partners are experienced in working with film, and are specifically trained to install windshield protection film so that your windshield still looks great and is protected.
We do offer DIY kits for Jeeps and other flat glass windshields with our latest ExoShield ULTRA product line. In this case you'll get a kit that includes film cut to the specifications of your windshield and the basic tools you'll need to install the film in about 30 minutes.
Still have more questions? Check out our technology information and FAQs pages to find out more! And if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, we always love hearing from you, so contact us here and we’ll do our best to answer any questions you have!
Looking for a windshield protection film installer?
Check out our map to find our list of certified windshield protection film installers.Visit Map
Think you have what it takes to be an ExoShield Partner?
Join the fastest growing network of installers