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Thread: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

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    Senior Member bikerlbf406's Avatar
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    Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Last night I went to leave in my Dakota. It was approximately 20 degrees outside. The truck was cold & I had the defroster set on high with it all the way on heat. As soon as I started up the truck, the passanger side front window just shattered by itself. I've never heard of a window shattering by itself just by starting up a vehicle. Has anyone else ever had this happen or have heard of this happening? Is there any advice anyone has to keep this from ever happening again? Besides not having the defroster on when I start up the vehicle, in case the temperature coming out of the vents against the outside weather was enough to cause the window to shatter.
    Tim, proud owner of 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & 2007 Honda CMX250C Rebel


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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    That can happen.

    Thermal stress can shatter glass. Most of the time it starts at a small imperfection (small stone hit of some kind) and rapidly spreads until the entire window spider-webs.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by bikerlbf406
    Last night I went to leave in my Dakota. It was approximately 20 degrees outside. The truck was cold & I had the defroster set on high with it all the way on heat. As soon as I started up the truck, the passanger side front window just shattered by itself. I've never heard of a window shattering by itself just by starting up a vehicle. Has anyone else ever had this happen or have heard of this happening? Is there any advice anyone has to keep this from ever happening again? Besides not having the defroster on when I start up the vehicle, in case the temperature coming out of the vents against the outside weather was enough to cause the window to shatter.
    This actually happened to me - with a BMW Mini press car - about a year ago. My wife and I had just pulled into the driveway; I had just shut off the engine and was about to open the door when - BAM! - what sounded like a gunshot. The passenger side window had shattered; small bits of glass everywhere. We thought someone had taken a shot at us.

    It was really scary.

    This seems to be becoming a more common thing; I never heard about it before about five years ago.. maybe something has changed in the way automotive glass is manufactured?

  4. #4
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    This actually happened to me - with a BMW Mini press car - about a year ago. My wife and I had just pulled into the driveway; I had just shut off the engine and was about to open the door when - BAM! - what sounded like a gunshot. The passenger side window had shattered; small bits of glass everywhere. We thought someone had taken a shot at us.

    It was really scary.

    This seems to be becoming a more common thing; I never heard about it before about five years ago.. maybe something has changed in the way automotive glass is manufactured?
    When tempered glass is made it is first shaped to the dimensions needed, curved if needed, etc.; then it is run through a furnace which heats it nearly to the plastic temperature followed by jerking it out into a blast of cold air. The outer part of the glass hardens very quickly putting a compressive stress on the core of the glass.

    Tiny, almost microscopic cracks in glass will grow with time given any sort of stimulus, such as vibration. When such a crack in the outer layer of tempered glass grows clear through into the core the compressive stress releases in a fraction of a second, just as in that BMW you mention.

    The failure you mention is rare, but does happen; most always due to a previous nick or scratch.




  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by D_E_Davis
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    This actually happened to me - with a BMW Mini press car - about a year ago. My wife and I had just pulled into the driveway; I had just shut off the engine and was about to open the door when - BAM! - what sounded like a gunshot. The passenger side window had shattered; small bits of glass everywhere. We thought someone had taken a shot at us.

    It was really scary.

    This seems to be becoming a more common thing; I never heard about it before about five years ago.. maybe something has changed in the way automotive glass is manufactured?
    When tempered glass is made it is first shaped to the dimensions needed, curved if needed, etc.; then it is run through a furnace which heats it nearly to the plastic temperature followed by jerking it out into a blast of cold air. The outer part of the glass hardens very quickly putting a compressive stress on the core of the glass.

    Tiny, almost microscopic cracks in glass will grow with time given any sort of stimulus, such as vibration. When such a crack in the outer layer of tempered glass grows clear through into the core the compressive stress releases in a fraction of a second, just as in that BMW you mention.

    The failure you mention is rare, but does happen; most always due to a previous nick or scratch.

    Thanks for the detailed explanation, Dennis - very interesting!

    Is it becoming more commonplace for glass to shatter? I realize this is just anecdotal, but I can't recall even hearing about things like this happening until fairly recently. And now I hear about it fairly often - "biker" being a case in point...

  6. #6
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Is it becoming more commonplace for glass to shatter? I realize this is just anecdotal, but I can't recall even hearing about things like this happening until fairly recently. And now I hear about it fairly often - "biker" being a case in point...
    I'd say it isn't very common at all. When Olds introduced it's "new, innovative" wrap-around rear window in the late fifties that was, AFAIK, the first use of tempered glass in a US car - and those were failing at a very large rate. Don't know what Olds did to cure the problem, but other makes soon followed suit and I don't recall any spontanious shattering problems on those models.


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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    This actually happened to me - with a BMW Mini press car - about a year ago. My wife and I had just pulled into the driveway; I had just shut off the engine and was about to open the door when - BAM! - what sounded like a gunshot. The passenger side window had shattered; small bits of glass everywhere. We thought someone had taken a shot at us.

    It was really scary.

    This seems to be becoming a more common thing; I never heard about it before about five years ago.. maybe something has changed in the way automotive glass is manufactured?
    In the MINI, the glass drops about a half inch when you go to open the door. It's a common fault for the window control computer to lose track of where the glass is, and not drop it when you go to open the door. As a result, it bangs into the frame, putting a lot of stress on it. In the first few model years (2002-2003), opening the door without the window drop would sometimes break the external plastic cover on the A pillar. Or the glass.

    The fix, when this happens, is to hold the window switch (the toggles on the center console under the radio) in the up position for about 5-7 seconds. The computer will then recognize this, and drop the window back down the needed .5 inches.

    The need for this whole rigamarole, is BMW designed the gaskets to seat deeply (reduces wind noise and helps keep water out).

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by chiph
    That can happen.

    Thermal stress can shatter glass. Most of the time it starts at a small imperfection (small stone hit of some kind) and rapidly spreads until the entire window spider-webs.

    Chip H.
    What thermal stress? He said the truck was cold, so there couldn't be any warm air coming out of the defroster.

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    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Quote Originally Posted by chiph
    That can happen.

    Thermal stress can shatter glass. Most of the time it starts at a small imperfection (small stone hit of some kind) and rapidly spreads until the entire window spider-webs.

    Chip H.
    What thermal stress? He said the truck was cold, so there couldn't be any warm air coming out of the defroster.
    That might depend on whether or not the defroster was run off the engine coolant or was an aftermarket one powered from the battery.

    Ken.
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    Senior Member bikerlbf406's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    This is getting very interesting; after reading all the replies on here; along with doing search after search online. It seems like some Coach RV's have experienced this problem; along with Mini's especially those in the UK are prone for this problem except on their rear windows. As far as the thermal stress; it could not have been, in my case. The defroster was on low, and it was blowing out cold as well; since its stock set-up & runs off of my coolant, not my battery. Appearantly its just one of those fluke things that does unfortunately happen. The one indication I can find that my have caused it, is it seems rapid tempature changes could lead to it shattering in to a million pieces like it did. The outside tempature was only around 20 degrees the night it shattered, and the truck was not started up any at all, until I went to leave in it which was when it shattered. The truck does sit outside; and just the day before it was around 50 degrees and only 35 or 40 degrees the night before. The temperature doing the same day it shattered while the sun was out; was around 30 degrees or so. All of my parents passed vehicles have always sat outside, same with all of my previous vehicles; and this was the very first time of any one in my family or friends hearing about a window shattering spontaneously. Do to everything I can come to; it appears to me it was just a fluke once a lifetime thing that is rare to happen in my area & in a non Mini vehicle; or atleast I hope so.
    Tim, proud owner of 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & 2007 Honda CMX250C Rebel


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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    I hope you were able to vacuum up all the little glass shards. And in this weather, I hope the insurance company got your window fixed quickly, I'd hate to be driving around in 20 degree weather with a window open, or with a sheet of plastic taped over it.

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    Senior Member bikerlbf406's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    I ended up spending $1.50 using the high power vacumn at one the car washes & that was able to allow me to get all the glass shards out. Thankfully since it shattered on its on & no one threw anything threw the window or anything, glass didn't fly everywhere in the truck, just mostly on the passanger side seat & front passanger floorboard. I didn't even file an insurance claim as I had a $500 deductible; so I just ended up calling an indepenent glass contractor who came out to my house & installed it for $140. That was with me deciding to go a used window route. If I wanted a new one it would have been $50 more. I was able to get the window replaced the very next day (couldn't do it the same day as it shattering since it was already about 7pm); so that was good there. Would have been better if it never did shatter to begin with; but things could have definatly been worse though.
    Tim, proud owner of 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & 2007 Honda CMX250C Rebel


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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    I hope you were able to vacuum up all the little glass shards. And in this weather, I hope the insurance company got your window fixed quickly, I'd hate to be driving around in 20 degree weather with a window open, or with a sheet of plastic taped over it.
    Man, that job takes forever... and you still find little bits no matter what!

    I had the Mini fixed on my own nickle because I didn't want to tell BMW (actually, the delivery service) about it - because this happened on the heels of my wife's little incident with another car, that I had to take "credit" for.... :P

  14. #14
    Senior Member bikerlbf406's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    I agree with that. I'm absolutely positive that I'll be finding some glass in it for the rest of the time of owning the truck probably. What I meant by getting all of the little shards out, is that I did go over the truck with a fine tooth comb & the high powered vacumn to make sure that I was able to get out all of the little shards that I could remotely find. I don't think there is a way to get rid of all the little specks of glass when a window shatters.

    Tim, proud owner of 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & 2007 Honda CMX250C Rebel


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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Quote Originally Posted by bikerlbf406
    I agree with that. I'm absolutely positive that I'll be finding some glass in it for the rest of the time of owning the truck probably. What I meant by getting all of the little shards out, is that I did go over the truck with a fine tooth comb & the high powered vacumn to make sure that I was able to get out all of the little shards that I could remotely find. I don't think there is a way to get rid of all the little specks of glass when a window shatters.

    Not without taking out the seats, the carpet... and even then, there's bound to be a few stray pieces...

    I've heard, by the way, that Mini has had an issue with this; have you heard about other Dodge trucks having the problem?

  16. #16
    Senior Member bikerlbf406's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    No supringly enough out of all the checking around I've done, Mini's seem to be the only one that has a problem like this. I'm guessing mine just happened to be a one in a million fluke.
    Tim, proud owner of 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & 2007 Honda CMX250C Rebel


  17. #17
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Re: Window breaking spontaniously by itself?

    Windows can shatter by themselves. A slight warp to the door from a worn gasket, extreme temperature shift and the slightest vibration can cause a failure. Since tempered glass is designed to come apart, it snaps easily. Back in the 60's and early 70's, VW Beetles had a problem on hot days of the rear glass shattering. The Super Beetles didn't seem to have the same problem as they had better ventilation. A regular Beetle in good shape would make your ears pop when you slammed the door. I ran a salvage yard in the early 80's and we would get a call for glass at certain times of the year. Usually, either the middle of a hot summer or a cold winter. The really ratty cars with rotten gaskets rarely blew the glass out. Generally, a slight curve was the type most prone to popping. Now, a little bra....er.....darling with a slingshot could also cause it. That was usually fairly evident because there would be a hole in the glass. If it shatters on it's own, it usually is mostly there but shattered. :-\
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