Genuine Windscreen vs Generic Windscreen

Genuine Windscreen vs Generic Windscreen, whats best for you?

The quick answer in regards to safety, generic windscreens are an acceptable option when compared with genuine windscreens. When comparing we considered, glass thickness, fitment, shape and electronic module bracket accuracy.

The statistics are very clear, Australian motorists prefer generic windscreens over genuine windscreens given the choice. As an auto glass technician of over 30 years I would agree, I too use aftermarket windscreens on my own vehicles. However, with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) being standard on many cars today there are some other points to consider. When considering these points my personal windscreen choice may not necessarily be the same if I had a brand new vehicle with advanced electronics. So for the longer more detailed answer please read on.

What Makes A Quality Windscreen?

The first question people ask is “are generic and genuine windscreens the same quality?” This is a broad question and does not have a short answer.

The first thing we must asses is what is meant by the phrase “quality”. The fit of the glass, the clarity of the glass (distortion level), the thickness, etc. Most peoples definition of the word “quality” would differ.

Consumer demand for cheaper windscreens forces windscreen shops to sell aftermarket glass more than 99% of the time. Further, many auto glass suppliers will suggest that generic windscreens are just as good as genuine windscreen. Again what does “just as good mean”?

Windscreen suppliers may also use buzz words such as “our windscreens are compliant with Australian Standards AS/NZS2080: 2006”. Whilst this is true and important it’s not very specific and does not answer the simple question of are generic windscreens the same quality as genuine windscreens.

Australian Design Rule 8/01 – 2005

Australian Design Rule Safety Comparison. This means all windscreens in Australia both genuine and generic must pass an impact test See Section 8.1.2.1. In this 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 (the ball must not penetrate though the other side of the glass). This is supposed to simulate a projectile being thrown up on a highway with the vehicle traveling at speed.

Since this test concerns occupant safety the ball drop test is the most critical comparison and it should be considered the most important.

In Australia all laminated windscreens both genuine and aftermarket must meet this as a minimum 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. However, in our opinion for a windscreen to be labeled “better”, it should have to pass further levels of quality.

Windscreen Thickness

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 and that usually includes the glass thickness.

I have personally observed over the years as windscreens have been reduced to a thickness of less than 5mm and 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 assume by purchasing genuine glass this will solve the problem, as they too are made thinner in recent times. See image comparisons below.

Manufacturers will have us believe the thinner glass is for weight saving and fuel efficiency. However, I’m not convinced as the weight saving would be marginal. Cost saving on the other hand is more likely.

Genuine Windscreen vs Generic Windscreen
Generic windscreen thickness Of Holden Commodore
Windscreen thickness
Genuine windscreen thickness of same glass

Windscreen Clarity

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 modern shapes, they often create blind spots in the vehicle as a result. To overcome this problem designers get more creative with the glass shape in vehicles. Simply put, the glass must be bent to accommodate unusual body pillar locations.

For a windscreen to have minimum distortion it must be flat, which in turn means boring boxed body car shapes. Who wants that?

Nice look, but curved glass creates distortion

Windscreen Distortion

When glass is bent it gets distorted. Similar to a hall of mirrors attraction when you look at your reflection looks distorted in the glass.

Unfortunately there is no way of avoiding this problem, all bent glass has a level of distortion. By comparison the distortion level of a genuine windscreen is far less than that of generic offerings. That said, over time the aftermarket glass has caught up in becoming acceptable.

When we talk of distortion we are not suggesting it impairs your vision. In fact, the distortion we refer to can only be noticed from certain viewing angles and is unnoticeable when looking straight through the windscreen. Most people would fail to notice at all unless it was pointed out and explained.

Windscreen distortion
Distortion is common depending on how curved the windscreen is (Example image taken by Dchan157 on Acurazine Forums)

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 to three times more.

It’s important to point out here that regarding distortion we are now not comparing the safety aspects of the windscreens, but the cosmetic details of the product. Only you can decide if this is good value for you 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 reason.

Windscreen Sensors & 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, break assist, 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 come equipped with these mounting brackets. However, there is some debate amongst us professionals as to the accuracy of the positioning and the quality of the camera mounts.

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 issues if the ADAS 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 advice.

Windscreen sensor mounting bracket
Windscreen sensor mounting brackets must be accurately placed for ADAS Cameras to function correctly

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. With that said there will be slight size differences or there could be curvature differences.

These differences are not noticeable on windscreens that are installed with mouldings around the edges (picture framing like moulds). These kinds of mouldings disguise any fitment differences as you cant see the gaps around the edge of the windscreen. An experienced technician should be able to use different gauge after market moulds to make the differences unnoticeable.

However, many vehicles today have windscreens that have whats called “naked edges”. This is were the edges of the windscreen glass are exposed and can be seen, they are not covered up with a plastic/rubber moulding.

The idea of a naked edge is said to be aerodynamics and wind noise reduction that would otherwise whistle around mouldings etc. It also looks cleaner and modern.

This kind of design makes it more difficult for the windscreen manufacturers because if the windscreen does not fit exactly to the contours of the vehicle body it is very noticeable and the fit quality is compromised. Again, this is not a safety issue but a cosmetic difference and only you can decide if it’s worth the extra expense to eliminate.

Summary

So Genuine Windscreen vs Generic Windscreen what have we learnt? As one can appreciate there is much to consider when comparing the differences between a genuine windscreen and a generic windscreen.

The main differences are cosmetic, however if you own a vehicle equipped with ADAS you may want to consider genuine options, especially with prestige vehicles. Service 8® Auto Glass can advise on which makes and models may benefit a genuine glass. Further, an honest auto glass shop will advise a customer of problematic products that may be being pushed by others who have bias.

Your vehicle is an expensive asset and it’s likely you will keep it for many years. If you are someone who cares about windscreen quality you should consider a quality auto glass shop.

Finally, one should pay attention to what kind of adhesives have been used to install your windscreen. Many adhesive products being used in Australia are untested and not fit for purpose. But this is a topic we will have to cover in other blog.

For further assistance in helping you decide what glass is best suited to your vehicle give us a call. Service 8® Auto Glass Tweed Heads.

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