Windshields are a key accessory to have on a UTV. When I say accessory, I really mean necessity, even if you are going 5 miles per hour on the farm. I say this because the windshield protects you from many different hazards that driving a UTV can bring to the table. Windshields serve as structural components, protection from the elements, and as a protection from anything else the trail throws at you. You want to have the best protection for you and your passengers that is available on the market today and you need to know what that is. So what are UTV windshields made of?
UTV windshields are mainly made of a strong and durable material called polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is the strongest material a windshield can be made of. Some companies and older models have glass or acrylic windshields but polycarbonate is the best overall.
Riding a UTV is always a fun activity no matter where you are. If you don’t have a windshield installed on your UTV, you can be opening yourself up to injury. Windshields are a very important piece of safety equipment. Let’s take a look at what these windshields are made of and why they are such an important piece of equipment.
Why Do UTVs Need Windshields
UTVs need windshields because they will protect you, the driver, and your passengers from the elements, harmful UV rays, and dirt, debris, and possible projectiles that can fly into the cab causing injury. Windshields help to block all of these things and allow you to see through the material at the same time. They also provide extra structural support for the frame of your UTV to give rigidity to your entire vehicle.
What Styles Of UTV Windshields Are There?
There are many styles of UTV windshields and glass style enclosures. They all serve different purposes, believe it or not, and are carried for most popular brand models. The different types are:
Full Windshields – A full windshield is just what it sounds like. It covers the entire open viewing area of the cab and is the most common of all the other types. A full windshield will protect you from any rocks, debris, limbs, or weather that is coming at you from the front of the UTV.
Half Windshields – A half windshield only takes up half of the viewing area, normally on the bottom, to allow more airflow to get to the rider. This does not provide as much protection as the full windshield but will do an adequate job.
Flip Up Windshields – Flip up windshields have the distinct advantage of being both a full or a half windshield at any given time. You can flip the windshield up to make it a half setup to get a little more airflow or flip back down to get a full windshield setup. These are normally assisted by gas struts of some sort and can be operated without having to leave the vehicle.
These are probably the most versatile and the best all around windshields on the market. My favorite windshield is a flip up and I really like this one over at Amazon.
Flip Down Windshields – Flip down windshields have the top portion flip down and strap down onto the hood of the UTV. They are a little more difficult to deal with than a flip up and also don’t have an option to crack it open just a bit for extra airflow. It is either flipped up, or flipped down, no in between.
Rear Windshields – Rear windshields cover the rear of the cab and can protect from mud or debris flying up from the back tires. They can also protect from cargo in the bed flying forwards and hitting you in the head.
Full Cab Enclosures – Full cab enclosures essentially box you in and protect you from all the elements, dirt, debris, and limbs. These enclosures are great for the winter months because you can add a small portable heater inside and stay toasty and warm.
There are soft and hard enclosures. The soft enclosures are nowhere near as durable but are a lot cheaper than the hard enclosure models. It is a trade off so you will want to weigh your options if you decide to go a full enclosure route.
Even with a windshield installed on your UTV you need to practice safe riding habits and wear your protective gear which includes helmets, goggles, and gloves at the very least. I have a list of gear that I recommend if you just click this link.
What Materials Are Used To Make Windshields
There are 3 main materials that are used in UTV windshields today. The most widely used material in any application throughout the world would have to be glass. If you are alive today, then you most definitely know what glass is and have seen it in your personal life many, many times.
Glass is a solid-like and transparent material that is used in numerous applications in our daily lives. Glass is a sustainable, fully recyclable material which provides great environmental benefits. Glass is used in countless different applications across the world. Glass is the weakest of the three materials listed here today and is sub optimal as a UTV windshield. Glass windshields are not very common in UTVs because of the nature of use the machines endure. Riding very fast on bumpy terrain and through trails where many large obstacles can fly up and hit them is not ideal and would shatter very easily.
For the sake of this article I am going to compare acrylic and polycarbonate since they are the more effective and popular choices for windshields of the 3.
Acrylic is shinier than polycarbonate and also much less expensive. It does have disadvantages in that it cracks easy or shatters easily on impact much like glass does. If you are looking for acrylic as a windshield material in a situation that would likely throw debris or larger projectiles at you, such as riding a UTV, the acrylic sheeting can shatter and splinter into several sharp pieces. The lower cost of acrylic makes it a more attractive choice but the trade off is significantly less impact resistance and less safety overall.
On the flip side, acrylic is much more scratch resistant than polycarbonate which gives them some advantages when riding through terrain that would normally scratch up and polycarb windshield.
If you want to see more specifications and uses for acrylic glass then the wiki page has more detailed information for you to look through.
Polycarbonate is a naturally transparent thermoplastic and has the ability to transmit light almost as good as glass and it is able to withstand impacts significantly better than many other commonly used plastics. Polycarb is also very flexible and can be bent and shaped at room temperature without cracking or breaking and can be reformed without having to apply heat to the material. Thermoplastic refers to the nature of polycarbonate and other similar plastics to become liquid at their melting point. This makes this material easy to use in injection molding processes and means that it can be recycled and reused very easily due to these properties.
If you want to see more specifications and uses for polycarbonate materials then check out the wiki page that has more detailed information.
Uses Of Each Material
|Windows And Doors||Retail Product Displays||Window Well Covers|
|Jars For Packaging Food||Fish Tanks And Aquariums||Race Car Windows|
|On Highway Automotive Windows||Storm Window Linings||Machine Guarding Glass|
|Tableware And Drinking Glasses||Hockey Rink Glass||Transparent Visors For Hockey And Football Players|
|Appliances And Electronics||Animal And Reptile Enclosures||Re-usable Drinking Bottles|
|Renewable Energy Such As Solar Panels And Wind Turbines||Roof Windows||Laminated Layers Of Polycarbonate Can Be Engineered To Stop Various Size Bullets|
|Too Many More To List||Flat Screen Tvs||Computers: Apple, Inc.’s Mac book, Imac, And Mac Mini|
What Is So Great About Polycarbonate?
Its durability, transparency, weatherability, and flexibility are several of the features that have made polycarbonate such an in demand material across multiple industries. Polycarbonate is also significantly less toxic than many other plastics, and the fact that it can be melted down and it can be recycled adds to its environmental friendliness. It also has significant heat resistance and can be used in conjunction with different flame retardants without significantly lowering any of its other properties.
Polycarbonate is so strong that it is used to make bulletproof glass and windows for banks, ATM tellers, stores, and even law enforcement vehicles. They do this by layering several sheets of this very hard plastic together into one sheet. These several layers of hardened material slow the bullet down and break up the shape of the bullet rendering bullets ineffective against it and making it so the glass does not shatter when hit with violent impacts. They have even developed polycarbonate glass that is bulletproof from the outside and can be fire through from the inside so law enforcement can defend themselves from inside an armored up vehicle.
It Is Very Strong
Polycarbonate is a lot tougher than acrylic. While acrylic is about eight times stronger than untempered glass, polycarbonate is about 200 times stronger. It’s used in DOT-approved helmet face shields, as well as racecar windows and machine-tool safety shields. Laminated layers of polycarbonate can even be used to stop bullets, though you don’t want to annoy anyone that much if all you have between you and a high-caliber argument is a motorcycle windshield. Polycarbonate is easier to scratch, but windshield manufacturers get around this by adding a protective layer of hard-coating.
Hard-coated polycarbonate is pretty much the current state of the windshield manufacturer’s art. The hard-coating is getting better, too, according to National Cycle, which says its proprietary Quantum process is 10 times more scratch resistant than the original hard-coated polycarbonate and 30 times more than acrylic.
Polycarbonate Windshields Have Less Glare And More Clarity
A glaring windshield can make riding on very sunny days a very daunting task and slow you down. Acrylic and glass windshields are known for having issues with glare getting to the riders eyes especially during bright sunlight. A polycarbonate surface is less shiny and is a perfect fit for anti glare applications. Lexan polycarbonate windshields possess greater clarity and visibility and when you are out on the trails, you most certainly need both of those traits from your windshield to have a great time and be as safe as possible.
It Is Lightweight
While glass is the most popular choice in the automotive industry for its easy maintenance and cleanest vision, it much heavier than the other two options I have talked about here. Polycarbonate materials like lexan offer a significant weight savings over ordinary glass.
For example, a 1/4-inch thick square foot of Lexan weighs 1.56 lbs. when compared to 3.2 lbs. of actual glass. A Lexan polycarbonate windshield will help you cut off the extra weight from your UTV while increasing your maneuverability. The unbeatable strength combined with lightweight makes Lexan a versatile choice for UTV windshields. But didn’t you say that it is not very scratch resistant? I don’t want my new expensive windshield to be all scratched up after its first use. Well there is a solution to that.
Does A Polycarbonate UTV Windshield Need A Scratch Resistant Coating?
Manufacturers have been able to come up with a way to make polycarbonate glass the toughest thing around AND be scratch resistant. In comes the hardened coated polycarb sheets. This added feature increases the scratch resistance of this material and makes it an even more desirable install or upgrade. Now you won’t have to worry as much about getting your windshield all scratched up and hindering your vision. I say AS MUCH because you can still scratch your windshield and one of the easiest ways to do that is through improper cleaning. I outlined how to wash your UTV windshield the right way in an article I wrote, so go take a look.
Now that you know what a UTV windshield is made out of, and what the best material is, you can make the choice of what type of windshield you want for you ride with confidence. Whatever your choice, make sure you always ride safe and most importantly …HAVE FUN!!!