Choosing right Side-by-Side UTV windshield material

Choosing right Side-by-Side UTV windshield material

Natacha DugasDec 12, '21

Choosing right Side-by-Side UTV windshield material can be a challenge. This short guide will help you find the right windshield for your needs. 

Here is a list of the top 6 things to consider when choosing right Side-by-Side UTV windshield material:

  1. Materials
  2. Strength
  3. Scratch
  4. Clarity
  5. Coating
  6. Cost

Whether you own a Polaris, Can-Am, Yamaha, CFMOTO or other, there are a few things you should know before choosing right Side-by-Side UTV windshield material and buying your windshield. 

Although manufacturers use a variety of different names to differentiate themselves from one another, there are really only three (3) types of materials used to make UTV windshields; 

  • Glass
  • Acrylic
  • Polycarbonate

 

⭐  Glass 

Material 

Whether laminated, tempered, or safety glass, there are many variations. On the other hand, glass is not recommended and just plain dangerous. However, safety glass is a thing of its own. It is glass that has had features added to it to make it stronger. While many of these methods make glass slightly stronger, it is still nowhere near as strong as polycarbonate. 


Strength

When hitting the trails with a glass windshield, beware of debris thrown by vehicles ahead. An impact could quickly turn your windshield into a huge, cracked spider web, or the object could go right through your windshield. Remember, the glass is irreparable and you will have to replace the windshield as soon as possible and possibly have to remove it on the trail if it obstructs your view. As for the introduction of a branch in case of a serious accident or misfortune, do not be fooled by its strength, it will break or shatter and could take you to the emergency room or worse...


Scratches

This is the most scratch resistant of the three windshield materials. Most small objects won't damage it and you don't have to worry about branches or brush causing scratches. Over time, and with enough speed driving in sand or dust, you may notice small chips, as you see with older car windshields. This will not affect the clarity. One of the advantages of glass is the ability to repair the occasional small scratch you get.


Clarity

Glass is a good gauge of clarity - most people have looked through safety glass. Just think about what the world looks like through your car window. Most glass vehicle windshields are only 86% clear, which means they transmit about 86% of visible light. Keep this in mind when making your choice.


Price

$$



⭐⭐  Acrylic 

Material 

Frequently used names for acrylic are polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), Plexiglas, Lucite, ACRYLITE or OPTIX. Most retailers do not recommend acrylic windshields because regardless of the benefits of an acrylic windshield, the fact is that it is simply not as impact resistant as other windshields on the market.


Strength

Acrylic is about 10 times stronger than glass. Acrylic will take heavy impacts without breaking, but it's far from indestructible. Although it is stronger than glass, it is still possible to break with a good blow (we really mean a good blow) from a rock or an overturn. The problem with acrylic is that it is not layered or tempered like glass, so it can shatter and form blades, and is extremely dangerous. 


Scratches

Acrylic is another very hard material, although it is not as hard as glass. Branches and rocks are both capable of causing scratches on acrylic, even if it takes solid hits. You probably won't scratch acrylic by simply wiping mud off your windshield, but repeated wipes with a sandy or dirty cloth can start to blur the acrylic. If you get a scratch, you can always polish acrylic.


Clarity

Acrylic is the clearest of the 3 materials allowing about 92% of visible light transmission. If you put glass and acrylic side by side, you will notice that the view through acrylic is slightly brighter and clearer than the view through glass, because more visible light passes through. But again, acrylic is a dangerous choice for off-road use.


Price

$ but more dangerous





⭐⭐⭐ Polycarbonate 

Material 

Whether it's Lexan, Lexan MR10®, Makrolon®, Makrolon AR2 or others, polycarbonate manufacturers are busy finding differentiators for their product, some adding various overlays. (We will cover this below.)


Strength 

Polycarbonate is 30x stronger than acrylic and 250x stronger than glass, not to mention 6x lighter. Polycarbonate is virtually indestructible. Polycarbonate has a long lifespan, eliminating unnecessary replacement costs due to its overall durability and ability to withstand impact and weathering. Polycarbonate is a great option for your windshield. You won't encounter any obstacles that could break a polycarbonate windshield, including small caliber firearms. In fact, polycarbonate sheets are often used as bulletproof screens in banks, police stations and anywhere else someone might need to stop a bullet (Please do NOT try to break a windshield with a gun!). There is no stronger windshield material than polycarbonate.


Scratches

Polycarbonate is the least scratch resistant of the three materials. Without a hard coating, polycarbonate is easily scratched. Small rocks or mud can scratch it while cleaning. Small branches and shrubs can also scratch polycarbonate even though it can be locally polished or scratches in polycarbonate can be repaired in some cases. But wait! That doesn't mean it's a bad option. Polycarbonate often has a hard coating that makes it almost as scratch resistant as glass. Polycarbonate's relatively low scratch resistance is why you'll often find it hard-coated with MR-10 (for Lexan) or AR2 (for Makrolon), but more on that later.

For now, hardcoated polycarbonate is very scratch resistant and is the most widely used UTV windshield on the market.


Clarity

Polycarbonate may appear slightly darker than acrylic, but it is still better than your car windshield because it transmits about 89% of visible light. 


Coating 

We've already mentioned hard-coated polycarbonate in the context of scratch resistance. Polycarbonate was the strongest of the three windshield materials, but it scratches easily. By choosing the Flex A Fab abrasion resistant coating option, you can be assured that we are using an extremely hard and durable material. Thus, there are several coatings in addition to the hard coating that can be beneficial.  MR-10 (Lexan hard coating treatment) and AR2 (Makrolon hard coating treatment) hard coating materials are almost as scratch resistant as glass, but are 250 times stronger than glass.


Another advantage of hard-coated polycarbonate is its UV protection. UV protection is important for several reasons. First, it helps prevent your exposure to the sun's harmful rays. Any light that passes through a hard coated polycarbonate windshield will have most of the UV light eliminated. This doesn't mean that you won't burn in the sun, it just means that the ultraviolet light is much less intense.


Second, the UV resistance of the hard coating protects the polycarbonate windshield itself. Polycarbonate tends to yellow over time (several years) as it is exposed to direct sunlight. A hardcoat containing a UV protectant helps prevent color change.

Tint is a dark chemical coating that blocks a large amount of sunlight. Tint can be applied to glass, acrylic or polycarbonate windshields. These types of coatings help block even more ultraviolet rays and prevent glare. The tint acts like a pair of sunglasses. Tint films are measured in visible light transmission (VLT) levels, expressed as a percentage. So when you see a window tint referred to as a percentage, it is the VLT. A dark tint will be low in the VLT, say 5%, because it only lets in 5% or the visible light. A 70% LTV would be much lighter, because more light passes through. Generally, only half windshields are tinted, as they tend to block too much light to be practical on a full windshield. That being said, some people choose a dark tint for their rear windshield panel for aesthetics. Usually, they go for that "cool" look with all tinted glass and a black graphic. Flex A Fab also offers the tinted option for the roofs.


Price

$$ without coating - $$+ with coating but unbreakable



Weigh your options

In conclusion, glass and acrylic remain more dangerous on the trails, but can be more affordable. That said, polycarbonate is the safest option, although it can sometimes be more expensive. The important thing is to weigh the pros and cons and choose the option that is right for you. 


If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at 1 (800) 401-8199 or by email.