Trading your glass windows for polycarbonate or acrylic in a racecar can be a beneficial move on a couple of fronts. Polycarbonate windows save considerable weight over their thick and heavy glass counterparts, but perhaps more importantly, polycarbonate can offer better safety characteristics.
While modern tempered safety glass is designed to break into small gravel-like pieces, rather than razor-sharp shards, it can still be the source of injury and when struck, and end up obscuring the driver’s vision behind the opaque windscreen.
Polycarbonate windshields like those from Optic Armor are advertised to be 250 percent stronger than glass, 50-75 percent lighter and shatter resistant. One of the concerns many have when it comes to making the change is abrasion resistance. Polycarbonate has a reputation of picking up scratches and scuffs from even a simple wipe down, but technology in surface coatings and manufacturing is changing that.
We talked to Jim Dunham of Optic Armor Windows to get the latest on polycarbonate windows, and were impressed to learn that easily scuffed panes are a thing of the past.
“For race and motorcycle applications, Optic Armor utilizes high optical grade polycarbonate, that is then hard coated with our Optic Armor Coating. This provides a highly scratch resistant surface that can resist rubbing with steel wool,” Dunham prefaced. “Obviously the scratching issue with polycarbonate was a huge issue for racers throughout the early years of polycarbonate use. The Optic Armor coating extends the life of the window as well as creates a much more clear viewing environment, thus increasing safety and performance for the driver.”
Running down to the local hardware store and picking up a sheet of acrylic or Lexan does not mean you’ll end up with the same thing as a purpose engineered racing window. The technology that goes into surface treatments has developed over time and varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
“FMR is an off the shelf polycarbonate product that stands for formable mar resistant. This coating is much softer and not near as scratch resistant as Optic Armor’s product. Optic Armor post coats our windows allowing us to create compound shapes that have both amazing optics as well as being highly scratch resistant,” Dunham continued.
Like the heated strips that run through your rear glass window or the de-fog function in your ventilation, modern polycarbonate windows can have a selection of other useful features when it comes to maintaining visibility.
“Optic Armor’s proprietary coating is ‘hydrophobic’ allowing the water to bead and quickly roll off the window once the vehicle is moving. Optic Armor also offers anti-fog coating that provides scratch resistance as well as anti-fog capabilities. Which is basically a necessity for road racing applications,” Dunham concluded.
So if you need to shave some weight and pick up some durability in the often contact-sport of road racing, polycarbonate windows might be your answer. With the latest coatings, scratching is much less of a concern so visibility and appearance will be retained. For more information on custom or direct fitments check out Optic Armor’s site.