Choosing Your Perfect Windshield- Windshield Buyer's Guide
No matter the side-by-side or UTV you choose, chances are you will want to strap a windshield to it! Windshields protect occupants from trail debris, wind, rain, dust, and snow which is why so many are sold. So what do you look for when buying a windshield for your side-by-side? Let’s go over everything to consider when choosing the perfect windshield for your vehicle.
There are primarily two styles of windshields available for your side-by-side. There are half-windshields and full windshields. Full windshields cover the entire front window area to keep everything out, while half-windshields only cover about a quarter of windshield area which still allows the majority of the airflow through. The shape of the half-windshield is supposed to shape the airflow to proceed up and over the driver. Full windshields can come without a vent, with a vent, flip-up, flip-down, and tilting versions depending on what you want.
Pros- By far the biggest pro of a full windshield is how it protects the driver from everything that can come through the front window. Not only does it keep trail debris, rain, snow, sand, and dust from hitting you in the face, but the wind itself. This is particularly true during Winter when the wind is cold! It is important to note that driver safety is high on the list of benefits of a full windshield. Nothing is fun about getting smacked with a rock at 30 MPH!
Cons- What makes a full windshield a good thing can also be a negative thing. A full windshield doesn’t allow for air flow, which can be important during the Summer months or in certain environments where air flow on the driver is important. This can be solved by removing the windshield or choosing a full windshield with vents that do allow some air flow. Another negative can be a vacuum created behind the windshield which can pull dust into the cab. In our experience this doesn’t seem to be a noticeable problem. This can also be solved by choosing a windshield with vents.
Pros- Half Windshields by its shape can funnel airflow towards the upper body and head of the passengers. It can also offer a little bit of protection from trail debris.
Cons- Half windshields don’t offer much in the way of protecting the occupants from the elements or trail debris.
There are two materials commonly used to make side-by-side windshields, which include plastic polycarbonate and glass. Both of these materials have their pros and cons.
Polycarbonate windshields are by far the most common side-by-side windshields you see out there as these types of windshields are less expensive to buy, and offer all the benefits of a windshield. Polycarbonate windshields come with or without hard-coating, and are incredibly strong making them virtually unbreakable. Polycarbonate is around 250 times stronger than glass, and it will not shatter. Though you can get polycarbonate windshields without a hard coating, it is not recommended and we do not carry them. Polycarbonate is soft making it strong but also very susceptible to scratching. The hard coating prevents scratches on the windshield along with yellowing and loss of transparency or the formation of haze. Different windshield producers use different hard-coat formulas for their windshields, but all basically accomplish the same thing. Hard-coat on both sides of the windshield are also important. You will want to clean both sides without scratching the windshield causing a haze that makes the windshield difficult to see through.
Pros- There are many advantages to polycarbonate windshields. They are less expensive, weigh less, can generally be removed easily, are incredibly strong, scratch resistant, and virtually indestructible. Polycarbonate also will not shatter.
Cons- There can be some drawbacks. Polycarbonate can turn yellow and begin to loose its transparency over time with prolonged exposure to UV rays. This is generally not the case with hard-coated polycarbonate however. The lack of weight can also cause rattling and movement of the windshield. Good design of the windshield will eliminate rattle. Using a windshield wiper on a poly windshield can scratch it. It is recommended not to trailer with a polycarbonate windshield on a side-by-side, but many people do it with no issues (facing forward on the trailer).
Here is a video demonstrating the strength of polcarbonate in comparison to Acrylic.
Glass is another option for a side-by-side windshield, though you do not see nearly as many out on the trail. Glass windshields are made with laminated glass or “safety glass”, which is glass that has been bonded with layers of plastic. If the glass takes a hit and breaks, the glass stays intact as it adheres to the plastic layers. This makes it far safer to be used as a windshield. Glass windshields are more expensive because of both the cost of the glass and frame. Using a windshield wiper on a glass windshield is fine.
Pros- Glass windshields have more of an automotive feel compared to polycarbonate. This is due to the added weight of glass in addition to the frame of the glass. They do not rattle or move with the wind and terrain. Glass windshields also do not yellow, are hard and not easily scratched, and remain transparent throughout its lifetime.
Cons- The most obvious issue with glass windshields is they can break or crack. Glass does not have nearly as much strength to withstand an impact. Trail debris can crack a glass windshield, though we do not hear many stories of this actually being a big issue. There is also the issue of cracking the windshield while trailering it.
Additional Things To Consider
Vented windshields have grown in popularity in recent years, and are certainly something to consider. A vent allows for airflow through the windshield or windshield frame to help keep occupants cool. Though there are different kinds of vents, most are adjustable to the amount of air allowed to flow through. This is a nice option for those who want a windshield and still want to allow some air to keep things cooler in the cab.
If you intend to put on and take off your windshield then it is important to buy one that is relatively easy to do quickly. Most polycarbonate windshields can be put on with a single person (though two make it easier) in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes or less after the first time installing the windshield. Glass windshields are generally more permeant and take longer to install or remove to the tune of 5 to 10 minutes depending on the windshield design. Also having two people is almost a must when installing a glass windshield. If you are a person who wants to install the windshield and leave it installed then the time then this is not a real issue to consider.
Wiper Or No Wiper
Windshield wipers are another option available on windshields. Many glass windshields come with at least one hand operated windshield wiper if not two. Windshield wiper options for windshields include hand operated wipers and electric wipers with wiper fluid. There is debate on whether or not to put a wiper on a polycarbonate windshield. If it is not hard coated the wiper will definitely scratch the windshield. If the windshield is hard-coated then wiping water from the windshield is not a problem, but other objects such as mud or trail debris can scratch the windshield when the wiper is used. There are those that have never had this happen, and others that have, so it is a risk. In our experience talking to riders, wipers on a hard-coated poly windshield work fine as long as you are careful with them and make sure to clear off any significant trail debris before using the wiper. Glass windshields have no issues with a wiper.
Many windshield manufacturers say not to trailer with your windshield on the vehicle, but most people do this without any issue. It is important to note the straps or devices securing the windshield to the vehicle must be secure. It is also important to load the side-by-side facing forward on the trailer so the windshield pushes against the vehicle. It is never recommended to load a vehicle backwards on a trailer with a windshield in place. Glass windshields should trailer facing forward with no problem, but it is important to note that trailering with a glass windshield in place is a risk because of highway debris hitting the windshield and cracking it.
Cleaning & Care Of Your Windshield
Glass windshields can easily be cleaned with typical glass cleaner without being scratched, but polycarbonate windshields should be cleaned carefully as to not scratch them. Using any kind of chemical on a polycarbonate windshield will ruin its transparency and should never be used. You can choose a polycarbonate cleaner to clean and maintain your windshield. Good ole` dish soap and water is your best bet when cleaning a poly windshield and it works great. Be sure to wet the windshield first rinsing off dirt and trail debris. Then use a wet microfiber or soft cloth to apply the soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Then use a damp microfiber cloth, chamois, or cellulose sponge to blot the windshield dry to avoid water spots.
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully, this article has been helpful is helping you choose the perfect windshield for your side-by-side or UTV. To find the windshield choices for your vehicle, simply choose your vehicle store, then select your model, and choose the Exterior category which includes the Windshield category. You will then see all the windshields available for you side-by-side or ATV. If you have any questions feel free to reach out via email, chat, or just give us a call. We are here to help you in any way that we can. Also, if you have any comments or additional considerations we need to include, then please leave them in the comments below.