Is there a difference between OEM windshield and aftermarket one?

I saw online that there may be differences in glass retention rates during a crash, and Optical characteristics differences between the glass materials. Would these differences be true?

  • My experience is that non-OEM parts are worse or a lot worse than OEM parts approx. 80% of the time. But in some cases the quality doesn't make a difference or it's even better. Everything plastic and rubber is almost always worse, because that's always produced with recycled old, used material in China.(again, just my experience) – Bart Jan 27 '17 at 7:57
  • Be very careful because some cheap stuff is not safe; hoods that don't bend and decapitate the driver in a collision come to mind, but glass is very important, it needs to be tampered so that in case of a collision you don't have large sharp pieces (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toughened_glass) – Thomas Jan 28 '17 at 13:03
  • *tempered, not tampered – Dan Z Feb 24 '17 at 22:02

This is a rather broad question.

Nonetheless, Yes, there is a difference. In some cases the aftermarket are cheap and offer poor optical quality. In other cases, the aftermarket replacements are better than OEM. It really depends on the manufacturer and application.

I have had cheap replacements that caused headaches because the glass was not right (was like looking through a glass jar). I have also had replacements that were better than OEM because of the advancements in glass manufacturing since the original was made.

You need to research the manufacturer. Keep in mind that cheaper is not always better.

We have to be careful because the make, model, year, and brand of after market windshield all change the answer. As a general rule of thumb you need to watch the quality of after market parts because in general they're usually not as good as OEM parts, but, it's not a hard and fast rule.

My one experience with this was having the windshield on my 2008 Toyota Highlander replaced. The cost difference to me was $1000 plus if I wanted OEM, and $75 fit aftermarket because then it was covered by insurance. You might consider the insurance angle as well. I could not tell any difference between the OEM and after market windshields. Either visually or in terms of resistance to leaking.

The aspect that the other answers failed to emphasize were that there are quite many devices in modern windshields. For example, a modern windshield can be defrosted by using the integrated heating elements. Also, rain detectors allow variable wiper intervals. Furthermore, there may be a camera behind the windshield monitoring lane markers and speed limit traffic signs.

To install a replacement windshield, it obviously needs to be equivalent to the OEM windshield and thus have integrated heating elements, if the original windshield had these. Also, the camera may need to be calibrated and also the installation is otherwise a professional job so that rain detectors and heating elements work properly.

My current car (a 2016 Toyota RAV4) has all of these high-tech features. If my windshield ever breaks, I definitely will NOT get an aftermarket windshield or perform the installation at an independent garage. I will let the dealership replace the windshield with an OEM component, performing a professional job.

However, this answer doesn't apply to older cars that lack these advanced features. For older cars, aftermarket windshield might be an option worth considering.

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