Ever gone for a ride in a pre-1970s vintage automobile? Whether spotless or in need of rejuvenating, it’s a rougher and noisier ride than most modern vehicles. Part of that is due to acoustic windshields and other sound-canceling products that have been quietly improving your ride.
Acoustic windshields have a sound depressing membrane sandwiched in the middle that suppresses up to 60% of outside noise. It has ‘Acoustic’, ‘SoundScreen’, the letter ‘A’, or the image of an ear and bent arrow fused or engraved into a corner or top or bottom center of the glass.
In this article, we’ll explain what an acoustic windshield is, how they work, and how to tell if you have one. We’ll look at the benefits and disadvantages, OEM, aftermarket, and SoundScreen windscreens. Plus discuss some other noise-canceling automotive products. Hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding of acoustic windshields by the end of the read.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- What Is Acoustic Windshield?
- Do Acoustic Windshields Work?
- How to Tell If You Have an Acoustic Windshield?
- Benefits of an Acoustic Windshield
- Disadvantages of a Laminated Acoustic Windshield
- Are All Windshields Acoustic Glass?
- How Much Does Sound Screen Windshield Cost?
- Is an Acoustic Windshield Worth It?
- What Cars Have Acoustic Glass?
- What is the Difference between OEM and Aftermarket?
- What Is a Sound Screen Windshield?
- Soundscreen Windshield Replacement Cost
- Other Ways to Reduce Noise in Your Car
What Is Acoustic Windshield?
An acoustic windshield is two layers of automotive safety glass sandwiching two layers of clear PVB vinyl, which in turn sandwiches a layer of clear acoustic PVB. If you’re wondering what does acoustic glass do differently than standard auto glass, it makes the passenger compartment quieter by reducing noise transmission. The sound depressing membrane dampens sound while the safety glass layers ensure the windshield meets all required safety standards.
Do Acoustic Windshields Work?
Highway and street noise can easily generate 75dB or more of sound on the decibel scale, which is what most alarm clocks awaken you with. Listening to that for hours on end can lead to stress, frustration, aggression, and disorientation. Wind noise and the sound of other vehicle’s engines, tires, brakes, and other street sounds can make your daily commute a head rattling experience.
Ideal noise levels are around 25dB, somewhere between a whisper and a library, so anything that reduces the noise entering the passenger compartment is good. For traditional auto glass to decrease sound transmission it needs to be thicker, which increases weight and thus fuel consumption. Adding an acoustic vinyl layer keeps the thickness and weight down, improving noise reduction and fuel economy.
Acoustic laminated windshields reduce noise in the mid to upper-frequency range, between 1500 Hz and 5000 Hz, by as much as 60%, and glass weight by up to 15%. That’s a reduction of around 6dB in the high-frequency range and 2dB to 3dB in the low to mid-range. To further reduce sound transmission, some manufacturers are using acoustic layering on side windows too.
How to Tell If You Have an Acoustic Windshield?
Wondering if you have an acoustic windscreen? Look in the corners or top or bottom center of the windshield for an engraved or fused symbol or ‘bug’ and some letters or numbers. The glazing used in automobiles depends on which glass manufacturer the automotive manufacturer chooses. You may, however, need to check the manual or online to interpret what it means.
If you see the word ‘Acoustic’ or ‘SoundScreen’, the answer is rather obvious. A capital ‘A’, or an ear with a curved arrow, although less obvious, identifies the glass as acoustic. Other letters and numbers identify safety standards the glazing meets, manufacturer, country of origin, date, and type of glass. The windows may also have a serial number engraved for replacement purposes and theft protection.
Benefits of an Acoustic Windshield
Vehicles with an acoustic interlayer windshield and side windows have several advantages when compared to standard automobile glass. They reduce sound in the passenger compartment, are stronger, better passenger protection, lighter weight, improve fuel economy, and offer greater UV protection.
1. Reduces Sound Levels
Acoustic laminated windshields dampen wind and outside noise by decreasing high-frequency sound transmission by up to 6dB and low to mid-range up to 3dB. Depending on the soundwave frequency, that’s between 60% and 90% noise reduction into the cab for a more peaceful ride. It also makes it easier to listen to passengers and the sound system.
2. Stronger Construction
Automotive glass is made of laminated safety glass so it doesn’t shatter upon impact but cracks into a spiderweb-like pattern. Acoustic auto glass is similar to automotive safety glass, but it has a layer of acoustic (PVB) vinyl sandwiched between two layers of standard PVB and safety glass. The result is improved adhesion between layers and less vibration transfer, resulting in stronger, more durable, and shatter-resistant glass.
3. Passenger Protection
Acoustic glazing protects the driver and passengers hearing from outside noises, plus protecting eyes and skin from harmful UV rays. The greater adhesion between layers in acoustic interlayered windscreens and side glazing makes for better passenger protection in the event of an impact with the glass. Plus, the vinyl sheet between the tempered glass layers improves elasticity making it more difficult to break, thus providing additional protection from intruders or break-ins too.
In an attempt to decrease sound transfer into the cab, many manufacturers increased the thickness of the glass. The result was a significant weight increase, little noise control improvement, and greater fuel consumption.
Classic windscreens prior to 1970 were commonly 1/4″ (6.35mm) or thicker. Standard automotive safety glass has a 3/64” (1mm) thick layer of vinyl between two 5/64” (2mm) thick sheets of safety glass, for a thickness of 13/64” (5mm). Acoustic glass thicknesses are even thinner and lighter, but stronger too.
5. Improves Fuel Economy
Thinner windshields and side glass lightens the vehicle. A lighter automobile requires less fuel to travel the same distance, which also reduces carbon dioxide emissions. The UV protection offered by the PVB layering also means less cabin heat, so less air-conditioning, which improves fuel economy too.
6. Better UV Resistance
Acoustic interlayer on windshields blocks 98% to 99% of UV rays. Thus, helping to reduce cabin heat, sunburn, driver fatigue, and prevent fading of vehicle leather, fabrics, and plastics. It also improves visibility and decreases eye strain.
Disadvantages of a Laminated Acoustic Windshield
Laminated acoustic windshields are relatively new in the auto industry. However, they are becoming more commonly used by manufacturers as a way to improve noise comfort in the passenger compartment and lighten the load. Their relative newness leads to two disadvantages; cost and insurance.
Like anything new, the cost to produce an acoustic interlayer windshield is greater than traditional laminated safety windscreens. As the share of the market increases, though, the comparative cost should come down. Having one installed in your vehicle or replacing a damaged acoustic windshield will currently cost upwards of $400 US at a glass repair business and double or more at an auto dealer.
Insurance companies can be very helpful, but they don’t like paying out more than they have to. So, don’t expect them to pay for acoustic glazing if there’s a cheaper product available. If your vehicle came with acoustic interlayering, you may not have a problem unless it’s the side glass, then you probably will. Glass that was installed aftermarket probably won’t be covered, and you’ll have to do some wheeling, dealing, and arguing. Check the fine print and be prepared to shell out extra.
Are All Windshields Acoustic Glass?
Not all windshields are acoustic glass. Only glass with ‘Acoustic’, ‘SoundScreen’, an ‘A’, or the ear and bent arrow symbol etched or fused into the glass are. All others manufactured since the early 1970s are laminated safety glass, while those pre1970 may not be laminated or even necessarily safety glass.
Regular or non-acoustic windscreens have two layers of safety glass sandwiching a clear standard vinyl (PVB) layer. Acoustic glazing has two layers of safety glass, sandwiching two thinner layers of standard PVB, which in turn sandwich a special acoustic resin PVB layer. The acoustic layer makes the glass a better barrier against noise.
How Much Does Sound Screen Windshield Cost?
When purchasing a new vehicle, the cost of acoustic glazing is embedded in the price if the vehicle has it. Where you’ll really feel it is if you’re Installing acoustic glass aftermarket or replacing a damaged acoustic windscreen or side window. If you’re lucky, your insurance company may cover all or part of the costs.
Many automobile manufacturers and dealers push their own parts and repair facilities, and they may be very good and competitive. However, shopping around may net a better deal. Auto glass repair shops often are less expensive and usually quicker. Make sure, though, that they install acoustic glass by checking the corners or top and bottom center of the glass for ‘SoundScreen’, ‘Acoustic’, an ‘A’, or the ear and bent arrow symbol. It should be etched or fused into the glass.
Depending on the year, make, model, and options, an acoustic windshield will cost up to $400 US at an auto glass shop. Having an auto dealership shop handle the install can run double or more for the same service. That’s great if insurance is paying, but if it’s out of pocket, shop around.
Is an Acoustic Windshield Worth It?
Windshields have come a long way since 1904 when they first began to appear on automobiles. The glass kept out the wind, precipitation, bugs, birds, and some dust, which it pretty much still does today. However, with the creation of acoustic glazing, windshields took on a whole new role.
Acoustic windshields cut the wind and road noise by as much as 60%, which is a significant and noticeable improvement. The noise reduction makes for a more comfortable and relaxed commute. It also improves fuel efficiency, passenger safety, and UV protection. So, if you’re purchasing new or replacing one, spend more and get the acoustic glass.
What Cars Have Acoustic Glass?
Many newer models of Toyota, Honda, Range Rover, Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Lexus, Mercedes, Jeep, Genesis, Tata, Saab, Subaru, and Maruti use acoustic glass. Ford has used SoundScreen glazing since 2008 in many of its models, and GM, Buick, Chevy, and Chrysler also use acoustic glazing in many of their high-end models. Other brands use acoustic glass too, and it is becoming more common in mid-range and low-end models too.
Check the windshield corners or top and bottom center if shopping for a new or used vehicle with acoustic glazing. Look for the word ‘Acoustic’ or SoundScreen”, the letter ‘A’, or an ear with a bent arrow symbol engraved or embossed on the glass. You may pay more, but it’s well worth it.
What is the Difference between OEM and Aftermarket?
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. It is the best fit as it was designed for the make, model, and year it is going into.
There are two choices that aren’t OEM, one is OEE (original equipment equivalent) and aftermarket. OEE parts are made by a different manufacturer to the same standards but may not fit as well. They also often only cost slightly less than an OEM. Aftermarket are manufactured for the broad market, cost much less, and may be made to similar standards or be very cheap knock-offs.
Using OEE or aftermarket parts may void some or all of your automobile manufacture warranty, something to be mindful of when replacing parts. Insurance companies prefer paying for aftermarket or OEE parts, so check the fine print if you want OEM parts. Regardless of who made it, it should be DOT safety approved.
Here are three manufacturers of aftermarket acoustic windscreens:
AGC manufactures windshields and other components for the global automobile industry, including the curved glass display cover in the 2021 Cadillac Escalade and the panoramic sunroof for Toyota’s 2020 Harrier. They manufacture laminated safety, tempered, colored, patterned, privacy, Low-E, acoustic, and other types of glazing for the industry.
Pilkington is a multinational glazing company that manufactures for both the auto and the building industry. It produces OEE and aftermarket windscreens, plus side, back, and sunroof glazing. Its windshield inventory also includes a noise control glass.
Carlex has 10 automotive glazing operations spread across the US, Asia, and Europe. It has been fabricating OEM, OEE, and aftermarket glazing since 1974. In 1991, it began producing windshields, windows, and roof glass for Ford-Lincoln models. It developed the lightweight SoundScreen glazing which is used in many of the Ford-Lincoln lines today.
What Is a Sound Screen Windshield?
SoundScreen is a trademarked windshield that is multilayered, sound-dampening glass that has been used by Ford-Lincoln since 2008. It is acoustic glazing that effectively decreases wind, road, and outside noise transfer into the passenger compartment. SoundScreen glass is used for windscreens, plus side and rear windows which greatly improves passenger and driver comfort. If your vehicle has SoundScreen glazing, make sure to replace it with SoundScreen glass.
Soundscreen Windshield Replacement Cost
The cost of replacing a SoundScreen windshield depends on who does the replacing, the make, model, and year of the vehicle, and what advanced driver assist system (ADAS) options are linked to the windscreen. OEM SoundScreen glazing is available from auto glass installers and auto dealerships, with dealerships charging up to twice as much for the same glass. The make, model, and year affect the replacement price with larger glass normally being more costly than smaller pieces.
The big expense depends on driver-assist options which often have components replaced by dealers due to warranty issues but not replaced by independent installers. Built-in rain sensors for wipers, auto-on headlights, night vision technology, lane departure sensors, adaptive cruise control, automatic collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, and computer-guided parking are only some currently linked to the glazing and requiring calibration when replacing SoundScreen windshields.
An independent may charge up to $400 US or half as much as the auto dealership to replace the SoundScreen Windshield, but they don’t necessarily recalibrate the ADAS options. Nor do they replace components manufacturers recommend changing during a windscreen replacement. A cost savings that may come back and bite your wallet later on, and negate warranty sections.
Other Ways to Reduce Noise in Your Car
Acoustic windshields, side, and rear windows are one way to reduce outside noise in a vehicle. There are numerous other ways to dampen noise for a more relaxed and peaceful drive. Applying acoustic film to your vehicle windows, using sound deadening mats, plus car cell foam are three possible ways to help combat noise penetrating your ride.
Acoustic Film for Car Windows
Soundproof or acoustic self-adhesive PVB film can be applied to the inside of windshields and passenger windows to deaden noise transfer from outside. The film absorbs or deflects soundwaves and vibrations, plus it’s an added layer of protection from shattering glass or intruder breakage.
Sound Deadening Mats
Sound deadening mats are made of varying thicknesses of sound deadening or reflective material and can dampen sound transfer by up to 30%. Many mats are self-adhering for easier installation behind door, ceiling, and side panel covers and under floor coverings. The mats either block the sound coming into the passenger compartment or absorb it, and some do both. The reduced vibration from the road, tires, and engine, and outside sound transfer, improve the ride and lessens driver fatigue.
The mats are made of different materials. They are natural cotton fiber mats, 100% butyl rubber, automotive foam rubber with or without a reflective foil backing, closed-cell polyethylene foam, and others of butyl and foil. The foam tends to add more weight while the others are lighter. Some mats have an aluminum coating for heat resistance to help deaden engine noise transfer between the engine compartment and passenger compartment.
Car Cell Foam
Any opening, no matter how small, is an open invitation for noise. Doors and windows, plus the hood, trunk, or hatch offer access into the passenger compartment, and they let a great deal of noise in too. Automotive weather-stripping wears, tears, and degrades, and will allow noise and dust to permeate into the cab. It can be replaced or augmented with automotive-grade closed-cell foam.
If you’re replacing existing foam, use OEM parts if available. If it’s not available, or you’re just adding extra protection, look for polyurethane-based EPDM sponge rubber. It’s a closed-cell rubber commonly used to seal automobile doors, trunks, and hatches. Most are self-adhering and easily conform to the different auto surfaces, and compresses without losing their shape.
Closed-cell automotive weather-stripping is available in different shapes, so use the appropriate profile for the location. Clinch seals fit into channels or onto ribs around doors, hood, and trunk or hatch. Flocking has a velvet-like finish for use around windows. Bubble trim seals are teardrop or ‘B’ shaped with hollow compressible centers for sealing around doors, hood, trunk, or hatch. You may also want to try a ribbon strip to augment the primary or secondary door seals too. Just don’t add so much foam that the door, hood, trunk, or hatch won’t close properly or easily.
An acoustic windshield means the glass has a sound-dampening PVB membrane sandwiched in the middle that blocks up to 60% of noise penetration into the passenger compartment. Engraved or embossed in a corner or center top or bottom of the glass is the letter ‘A’, ‘Acoustic’, ‘SoundScreen’, or the image of an ear and bent arrow. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what an acoustic windshield is, its benefits, and whether it’s something you want.