If you have ever followed someone down a dusty or rocky road, you know that once you start driving next to them, you always get rocks and dirt flung onto your car and all over your windshield.
Using your wipers and windshield washer fluid, if you have any, you attempt to clean the window of debris. The wipers then act as sandpaper, creating a new pattern in the glass that tends to show when you need clarity the most.
As off-roaders, we tend to not sweat on cracks or stars in the windshield until they interfere with our vision. A pitted windshield is never a good thing, but thankfully the folks at Optic Armor have created a drop-in polycarbonate replacement for Jeeps.
Uncracking The Code
Project Redneck‘s windshield has seen better days, with issues dating far before we ever owned it. The windshield had a crack in the driver’s sight line, as well as pitting from numerous trips to the trail. To help our vision and improve our 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ, we installed Optic Armor’s replacement.
“The biggest complaint we receive from Jeep owners was having problems with cracking and breaking,” said Jim Dunham of Optic Armor. “We routinely hear from customers that they are replacing glass windshields four to five times a year. Whether the cracking was occurring on the trail or on the road, we had to provide a solution for that problem with our shatter-resistant material.”
“Once fit and finish was finalized, we got them out the field into the hands of end users. We conducted testing in a variety of applications, from your hard-core rockclimber to a daily driver,” Dunham explained. “The feedback we received helped us make a few tweaks to the windshield design, namely, stepping up to a 3/8-inch thick material on our JK windshield. This was done to ensure that the rearview mirror vibrated much less and was less distracting to the driver at night when there was a vehicle behind them.”
Installing the windshield was as simple as removing the factory window since the new glass dropped right in. Removing the window seal and cutting the existing glue allowed us to pull the window out. With a new tube of window glue and seal, our replacement window was in and all we had left to do was install our rearview mirror on the mount that came preinstalled on the windshield.
We Can See Clearly Now
We did not realize how bad our windshield was until we pulled out of the shop and took the Jeep for a drive. The crack was something we had become accustomed to, but everything looked clearer now. The clarity was as if a muddy pond had suddenly turned crystal blue — it was that much of an improvement.
Saying something is scratchproof is like saying “don’t touch” to a three-year-old in a toy store. We had to go and see for ourselves what we could get away with, which we did with a quick drive to a nearby trail.
We followed one of our other project vehicles down a dirt road and, even with the dirt getting kicked up, the windshield was unfazed. The rocks and sand were flying but did nothing to damage the windshield.
It was somewhat odd for us to treat a new product, especially a windshield, the way we did, but it was designed to handle this type of abuse. Driving next to trees trying to hit the branches was unusual, but we had to see what the window could do. To our amazement, there were no scratches to be found.
After seeing how our windshield held up, we asked Dunham what kind of crazy stories he had heard from other customers. “We’ve had a couple customers tell us that when they rolled their Jeep the windshield simply popped out of the frame rather than shattering like a glass windshield would. They replaced the frame and reinstalled our window,” he said.
Just because this windshield’s material is something new, doesn’t mean it can’t be kept up like the factory glass. “Standard glass cleaners and a clean rag work great to keep the window clean. We personally use a product called Invisible Glass, it works great and is widely available at most parts stores,” Dunham explained.
Optic Armor is not done with Jeeps. They are working on producing side windows for hardtops, too. Dunham said, “We all know how heavy they are to begin with.”