Is a genuine windscreen better quality than a generic windscreen?
The quick answer for those with limited time is: The quality of generic windscreens are very acceptable when compared with genuine windscreens. Comparing factors being cost/value, availability, thickness and fitment.
Customers in Australia prefer generic (aftermarket) windscreens given the choice, insurance claims aside. As an auto glass technician of over 25 years I would agree, I too use aftermarket windscreens in my own vehicles.
However, there are some other points to consider and my windscreen choice would not necessarily be the same if I had a brand new vehicle with electronics on the glass. So for the longer more detailed answer please read on.
what makes a Windscreen Quality?
The first question people often ask is are generic and genuine windscreens the same quality? This is a broad question that does not have a simple short answer.
The first thing we must asses is what do we mean by the phrase “quality”. The fit of the glass? The clarity of the glass (distortion level)? The thickness etc.
Consumer demand for cheaper generic parts in Australia forces windscreen shops to sell aftermarket glass more than 99% of the time. Many auto glass suppliers will tell you that generic windscreens are just as good as genuine windscreen.
Suppliers also use buzz word statements such as “our windscreens are compliant with Australian Standards AS/NZS2080: 2006”. This is important and very true, however, it’s not specific and does not answer the simple question of are generics the same quality.
Australian Design Rule 8/01 – 2005
Australian Design Rule Safety Comparison. This means all windscreens in Australia both genuine and aftermarket must be able to pass an impact test See 188.8.131.52. In the test a steel ball is dropped from a controlled height onto the windscreen.
In order to pass the test the windscreen must hold its form (ball must not penetrate though the other side). This is supposed to simulate a projectile being thrown up on a highway with a vehicle traveling at speed.
Since this test concerns occupant safety the ball drop test is the most critical comparison, It should be considered the most important.
In Australia all laminated windscreens both genuine and aftermarket must meet this requirement. However, we still cannot suppose all windscreens are the same quality because they pass the ball drop test.
The ball drop is the legal minimum requirement and it goes without saying. For a windscreen to be labeled better, it should have to pass further levels of quality.
The thickness of windscreens have been reduced over time. By this I don’t just mean generic windscreens either. Generics are a copy of the original for the most part and that includes the thickness.
I have observed over the years as windscreens have been reduced to a thickness of less than 5mm, in some cases closer to 4mm. This does not mean they are unsafe, as the windscreen still has to pass the ball drop test.
However, it does mean they are more vulnerable to windscreen chip damage. Thin glass will chip more readily than a thicker one. But don’t think by purchasing genuine this will solve this problem, as they too are made thin these days. See image comparisons below.
Manufacturers will have us believe the thinner glass is for weight saving. However, i’m not so sure as the weight saving would be marginal. Cost saving on the other hand being a more likely reason, but your guess would be as good as mine.
Many motorists purchase a vehicle for its looks and as a result vehicles today have sexy curves and shape. This is great for styling.
However, when manufacturers design vehicles with cute shapes, it also creates blind spots in vehicles. To overcome this problem manufacturers have had to get more creative with the windscreen shape. Simply put, the glass must be bent more to accommodate.
For a windscreen to have minimum distortion is must be flat, which in turn means boring boxed body shapes.
There is a problem here and that is when glass is bent it gets distorted. Similar to a hall of mirrors attraction where your body looks distorted when you look at your reflection.
Unfortunately there is no way of getting around this problem, all bent glass has a level of distortion. By comparison the distortion level a genuine windscreen has is currently much less than that of generic offerings. That said, over time the aftermarket glass has caught up becoming very acceptable.
When we talk of distortion we are not saying it impairs your vision. In fact the distortion can only be noticed from certain viewing angles and is unnoticeable when looking straight through the windscreen. In fact, most people would fail to notice at all unless it was pointed out and explained.
Does Windscreen Distortion Matter?
Many customers would say that windscreen distortion does matter. However, the vast majority often change their mind when they discover that the genuine windscreens costs on average two thirds more. So for example, a $300 windscreen replacement becomes $900.
It’s important to point out here that we are now not comparing the safety aspects of the windscreens, but the finer cosmetic details of the product. Only you can decide if this is good value or not.
The numbers don’t lie. Australian motorists support the generic windscreen brands by over 99 to 1, when compared with genuine. With price being the obvious number one reason.
Windscreen ACCESSORIES & Electronics
Modern windscreens are equipped with electronic devices such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These consist of many different types of devices such as rain sensors, headlight sensors, lane assistance camera, autonomous cruise control, antennas and more.
These electronic accessories are mounted to the windscreen via a plastic or metal bracket that is glued onto the glass near the interior mirror. In most cases the aftermarket windscreens do come equipped with mounting brackets. However, there is some debate as to the accuracy of the positioning and the quality of the mount.
The mounting brackets positioning would not matter so much for a basic device such as rain sensor or headlight light sensor. However, it could compromise the function of a lane detection camera, or autonomous cruise control if the position of the mounting bracket was a fraction askew. This could lead to possible safety issues if the system malfunctions.
Since this comparison is quite technical you must rely on the advice of your chosen windscreen repairer and hope they are giving you unbiased quality advice. Service 8® Auto Glass are industry advisers and are always happy to offer free advice to motorists. So don’t hesitate to contact us should you want a second opinion.
Windscreen Fit Accuracy
Finally we should consider the fit of the windscreen. Aftermarket windscreens are a copy of the original so they are not exactly the same. There may be slight size differences of a couple of mm, or there could be curvature differences also.
These small differences are not noticeable on windscreens that are installed with mouldings around the edges. These kinds of mouldings disguise any fitment differences as you cant see the gaps around the edge of the windscreen.
However, many vehicles today have windscreens that have “naked edges”. This is when the edges of the windscreen can be seen and are not covered up with a plastic moulding.
The idea is it’s more aerodynamic, and therefore reduces wind noises that would otherwise whistle around mouldings etc. It also looks cleaner and more modern.
This kind of design makes it a little more difficult for the windscreen manufacturers because if the windscreen does not fit exactly to the contours of the body it is very noticeable and and the fit quality looks poor. Again, not a safety issue but a cosmetic difference that only you can decide if it’s worth the extra expense.
So as we can appreciate there is much to consider when comparing the differences between a genuine windscreen and a generic windscreen.
For me personally the main differences are cosmetic. It may come as a surprise to many, but genuine windscreens are not thicker than generic windscreens. In addition, they are no safer, in fact all windscreens have to pass testing.
The differences are for the most part cosmetic. If you are someone who cares about windscreen quality you should consider a quality auto glass shop. Real quality comes from the techniques used by windscreen technicians to prevent body damage to your vehicle on removal of the glass.
In addition you should pay attention to what kind of adhesives have been used to install your windscreen. Many of these products being used in Australia are untested and not approved.