It’s the last thing you want to think of; losing control of your car and sliding down into an embankment with a splash at the bottom. Freezing water begins to fill the interior and you realize you are stuck. Did anyone even witness the accident?
Emergency car window breakers have made a lot of news recently. From new laws passed for rescuing babies and pets left in cars to concerns about being trapped inside a burning or submerging car after an accident.
With so many stories hitting newsfeeds, more and more window breakers and multi-tools are released into the market. How do you know which to trust if your family’s life was on the line?
First, lets talk about the types of emergency car window breakers you will find at retail stores, online or at survival specialty stores.
Spring Loaded vs Static Punch Window Breakers
You will come across both spring loaded and static punch breakers. A static punch design, as it sounds, doesn’t have any moving part on the window breaker part of the tool. You do all the work in thrusting it into the window. A spring-loaded design assists users by incorporating a high-thrust punch targeted at the impact zone.
Which is better?
The concept of the spring-loaded assistance is luring to anyone afraid they won’t have the arm strength to break the window. The reality is they both require a certain amount of strength or coordination. And with any device where moving parts are involved, failure is a concern.
Most breakers on the market are more than just a window breaker and serve as multi-tools, some more complex than others. The most common “accessory” is a seat belt cutter since in any emergency situation where you are trapped in a car, being trapped in the seat belt is a scary possibility.
Other emergency window breaker accessories are flashlights, emergency beacons and distress alarms. Some come in bright colors to easily identify and grab in an emergency situation. There are compact designs that fit on a key chain while others are a larger, heavy-duty design.
Testing Your Emergency Window Breaker
Now you probably aren’t going to buy your emergency window breaker and head out to the garage to try it out on your new Jeep. Your insurance agent will probably give you a funny look or two with that claim.
Hopefully you will open it up, take it out of the packaging and read the instructions, diligently trying to master what to do if that worst-case scenario happened. It doesn’t matter how great a tool you have, if it is still in the hard plastic wrapping that requires a box cutter to open, you’re doomed in an emergency situation staring at the pretty tool in the box.
If you find yourself in that worst-case scenario, in a body of water with the interior filling inside of the car, what will you do?
Adrenaline will kick in and your thoughts will be racing. That’s a given. Fortunately you’ll have a kick of strength because as well designed as window-breakers are, that darned window is not easily broken.
This fact is daunting, especially for women who may have seen a video or two of strong men trying, with great frustration, to break a window in a controlled demonstration.
The Science Lesson Behind Breaking Windows
Let’s think about why breaking the window might be so difficult. First is the window design. Sure a pebble at 45 mph can create a crack, but the tempered glass is designed to withstand impact and not shatter. This is for your safety going down the highway.
The other component is physics. Many of these videos show a guy hitting the center of the window. Physics is working against him here. As he hits, the glass absorbs the impact; in fact, many times you hear the dude wondering why he sees the window bow at impact without breaking.
So what do you do if the window is designed not to break?
Trust me, you are smarter than that window and those dudes trying to muscle it in videos.
Get the mindset that your target is one of the corners, where the glass will not bow and absorb impact. Also realize you may need to repeat in the same spot several times. Get this mindset so you don’t panic if the window doesn’t break the first time.
Regarding the difference in the tools, while the spring-loaded tools help in generating thrust and impact force, they can rust over time or become jammed and potentially fail. Some spring-loaded items require a bit of coordination to reload the spring for multiple strikes.
Even with these potential issues, many prefer spring loaded because of the added confidence that added muscle helps get the job done. These are especially popular with women, teens and the elderly.
When using a spring-loaded design, make sure you keep the tool firmly against the glass. This is where you need some strength because the tool will naturally try to rebound away from the glass.
Whether using a spring loaded or a static tool, keep in mind that keeping your forearm in line with the doorframe will reduce the forward momentum of your hand through breaking glass. Of course, in true emergency situations, you probably won’t care all that much. But escaping only to bleed out is not really a good rescue!
Carbide or Ceramic Materials
Many of the tools use a carbide or high-carbon steel point. This is a strong and durable material. Ceramic and porcelain tips are a better alternative though. The thief or poor man’s version of window breakers use the tips of sparkplugs or broken pieces of ceramic.
Once again, that physics class comes to help you in real life. A shard of ceramic, technically “aluminum oxide ceramic” is harder than glass. Glass is harder than iron. There is an official hardness scale used in physics called the Mohs scale that determines this.
This mass hardness and tiny points in the shard of ceramic make an ideal window breaker. But it isn’t really convenient to carry shards of broken cermaics in your pockets. There are some window breaker tools that do offer a ceramic tip for those looking for this added physics advantage.
Let’s look at some of our favorites to help you find the perfect emergency window breaker for you.
Top Recommended Window Breakers
#1 Swiss+Tech 81010 BodyGuard: A spring-loaded glass breaker and emergency 3-in-1 tool. Firmly holding the spring-loaded carbide steel tip against the window, the emergency hammer automatically deploys, reducing required arm force. It also has a seatbelt cutter and LED flashlight. Designed to fit in your palm and hang on a key chain, there is no reason to ever leave home without this emergency tool.
Editor’s Rating: 10/10
- Always with you on keychain
- User friendly auto-deploy design
- Convenient LED light for daily or emergency use
- Cumbersome to use if jumbled with lots of keys
- Potential of spring to fail over time
#2 LifeHammer: The original window breaker sets the standard for all others. This emergency multi-tool has two static window breaking carbide tips in a hammer shaped, easy to hold grip. The bright orange color is easily located when you need it. Should one tip be damaged, the second tip serves as an emergency backup. A steel blade tucked into a slot on the grip slices through seatbelts easily. The case is designed to easily mount in the car, under the dash or on the door for convenient access.
Editor’s Rating: 9/10
- Car mount keeps it where its needed
- East to grip hammer design
- Proven reliable in emergency situations
- No flashlight or emergency beacon
- Striking from within car can be awkward
#3 Resqme Keychain Car Escape Tool: The original keychain set the standard for compact spring loaded window breakers. These come in a variety of colors in a lightweight design with a seat belt cutter integrated into the handle. It is small, portable and convenient with several clip types to attach to keychain, lanyard or rearview mirror. The one downside is the Resqme doesn’t have a flashlight as some other emergency multi tools.
Editor’s Rating: 9/10
- Convenient keychain design
- Spring loaded to aid weaker individuals
- Potential failure of spring
- May fall off the keychain clip
#4 Gaorui T03 Auto Window Breaker (only available in the UK): This emergency multi-tool for almost any car emergency. It has a carbide steel window breaking tip in an easy to hold baton. The seatbelt cutter is on the opposite side of the carbide tip, so you don’t need to flip the baton over to access it. The fluorescent yellow or orange baton is easy to find in an emergency has an LED core that illuminates the baton when turned on. Creative engineering sits a magnet at the baton butt so it sits on the car hood metal guardrail for rescue vehicles to easily locate you.
Editor’s Rating: 8/10
- Extras including magnet useful for other emergency situations
- Easy to grip and swing
- Lightweight design
- Potential for LED to crack during striking
- Baton edge can hit glass before carbide tip if not hit at right angle
#5 ASP Breakaway Gasket: The ASP Breakaway Gasket is designed to break glass efficiently and effectively. ASP designs expandable batons and attachments. Three static ceramic pins give you three points of contact with the best material known to shatter glass. You can still use the unattached gasket in an emergency situation by holding it in your hand with the pins facing out past your little finger. Because it’s a small attachment, it fits conveniently in your glove box or center console.
Editor’s Rating: 8/10
- Effective ceramic tips
- 3 tip design increases success ratio
- Can attach to batons for safer external rescue
- Hard to hold without attachment
- No multi-tool features
#6 SOG Escape: This is a traditional folding knife that has a few extra emergency gizmos integrated. The partially serrated steel blade folds into an anodized aluminum frame where the seatbelt cutter and carbide steel point are integrated. While the SOG is something you would expect to see on an outdoorsman’s belt, it’s a sturdy tool to get the job done in an emergency. While the handle is ergonomically designed, it is a bit difficult to keep a tight grip when punching through glass with the knife casing butt.
Editor’s Rating: 8/10
- Durable outdoor design
- Ergonomic handle
- Everyday pocket knife
- Belt clip can bend and break
- Knife folding mechanism sticks
Remember, once you buy the window breaker, open it up and sit in your car with it. Practice accessing it with your seatbelt locked, preventing your movement. Find the spot on your window you intend to hit and make sure it’s feasible based on your body dynamic.
If you have access to junk cars, give the window breaker a go on several different windows from inside and out. Be sure to wear gloves and protective glasses. When the glass shatters, pieces will fly everywhere. Get comfortable with the motion, the amount of force and the general dynamics of how the glass shatters.
Teach anyone who sits in the passenger seat the same thing. It may be wise to have more than one tool of different designs in the car. Not only does it allow a passenger to work on one window while the driver works on the other, but also consider that if one tool fails, the second may be the difference between life and death.
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