New laws about breaking windows to rescue babies or dogs left in cars during summer heat have made emergency car window breakers a hot topic. The job of the window breaker is to break the glass in an emergency situation to get out of the car. Having one could help a distressed pet or even save your life.
Here’s the number 1 thing to think about when buying a window breaker: Can you use it effectively?
Everything else is minutia used to determine whether you have the right one or now for you. The hope is you NEVER need to use it. But what happens if you are in a situation and it doesn’t work?
Imagine this: losing control of your car and somehow land some body of water. Before you even gather your senses, freezing water begins to surround you. Grabbing and pawing at the seatbelt, you realize you can’t get out.
More and more news stories confirm the value of having these tools. Most are more than just window breakers:
- Break the window from inside or out
- Cut a seatbelt loose
- Flash an emergency beacon
- Charge your phone.
There are a lot of options and there are a lot of knockoffs of the real deal coming out of China. The reality is you won’t know how good it is until you’re in a dire situation.
Our Favorite Emergency Window Breakers
|OWL Compact||Compact and easy to use||Not for high-end laminated glass|
|Life Hammer||Reliable and well tested||Bulky and requires strength|
|Zytlus Stinger||Innovative multiuse||Cumbersome compared to others|
|Resqme 2 in 1||Portable for keychain||Not durable|
Spring Loaded Versus Static Punch Window Breakers
There are two types of window breakers: spring loaded and static punch window breakers. A static punch window breaker doesn’t have any moving part anywhere on the tool. It often looks like a hammer with a pointed end that is used to target spots on the window to fracture. It requires the user to do all the work when thrusting it into the window.
A spring-loaded window breaker assists users by using a spring recoiled and then released, incorporating a high-thrust punch to a pinpoint target on the window.
Which is a better emergency window breaker option?
If you are concerned about having the strength or skill to break the window on your own, then a static punch might be intimidating. The spring-loaded emergency window breaker offers aid for those who might not have the strength, but with moving parts, one might worry about failure to function.
Regardless of what type of emergency breaker you choose, you will need some strength and coordination to make it work. Unfortunately, that is the simple fact. But that isn’t to say there aren’t some great ones that offer some advantages even to those of us not bestowed with Rocky Balboa biceps.
Multi-tools as Emergency Window Breakers
If you like gadgets, window breaker options won’t disappoint. Many emergency window breakers are a multi-tool, hunting knife or emergency beacon all in one. While all the extras are great, think about whether the window breaker is something you will carry with you all the time or store in the car. This might adjust your choice in purchase.
Often the emergency window breakers on the market have a built-in seat belt cutter integrated into the design. These are usually a tucked blade positioned where you can’t accidentally cut yourself just handling the window breaker tool. For many, being trapped in your car could mean that you aren’t able to free yourself or a loved one from the seatbelt.
Looking for really cool gadgets. You can find the multi-tool or Sog hunting knife that dubs as a window breaker. There are also the phone chargers that serves as an emergency window breaker – usually always and readily available in a jam.
Some emergency window breakers fit on a keychain and others mount under the steering wheel. Just be sure to pick an emergency window breaker you trust in an emergency.
Emergency Window Breaker Testing and Trials
You’re going to want to try your new emergency window breaker out. Just not on the BMW. Watching a YouTube video won’t give you the real-world experience you need to understand how to use the tool under calm scenarios versus totally stressed out for your life ones.
We’ve evaluated enough homes for emergency preparation to know that most people will buy this and never take it out of the packaging. They’ll throw the hole item straight from the shelf into the glove compartment and never even read the directions. You aren’t that person, right?
I’m a woman, 5’6” and one-hundred and something pounds (like I’d share that in an online post) – the point is I’m not a big strong guy even though I’m considered pretty athletic and strong for a girl. We’ll leave it at that. The point is, this is something I would have trouble doing if I hadn’t tried it.
Even guys and emergency responders who are trained to use these types of survival tools find it hard to get them to work sometimes. What, then, happens when you have 60 seconds to make it work?
Granted, your adrenaline plays a big role in this but don’t rely on it. While this may take some creativity, if you are really concerned, try to go to a junkyard or talk to an autobody repair shop to see if there is a test subject you can have some fun with.
If you can’t find actual glass to practice on and break, do the next best thing, go through the motions. It’s one thing to stand outside the car and whack at the glass. Even then you’ll find you aren’t going to break it. It’s another thing to be inside the car with the steering wheel up in your space and who knows what else. At least run through scenarios and plan on where you would target the impacts.
Note: Targeting the center of the window will not break the glass.
Why Emergency Window Breakers Don’t Break Glass
Cars have been designed to better protect us from an impact. This is why tempered glass is installed on cars. Upon most impacts with pebbles and small objects, the glass won’t shatter. It will just crack. As high-pressured as the window breaker is, you have to find the sweet spots to break the glass.
What happens in this situation is the safety measures and technology of your car is actually preventing you from escaping. As an insurance agent, it was crazy to hear the first time I was told that a windshield cost several thousand dollars to replace. It’s crazy to think that windshields have smart technology. But they do and it will make breaking that glass a little harder.
But this isn’t the only thing that will make it more difficult to break a window with your emergency window breaker. Well, for the most part. Most people aim for the middle of the window. When you do this, the glass surface area absorbs the impact. It actually becomes like a little window trampoline.
The goal of breaking the glass is achieved when you target the corners where the tension in the window is stronger (less trampoline-like). Focus on one spot and repeat in the same spot. Don’t keep bouncing from corner to corner like a game of whack-a-mole. One spot repeatedly in the corner to get the glass to break. That’s the strategy until it breaks.
Emergency Window Breakers Materials
There are really two types of tips used for emergency window breakers:
- Carbide / High-carbon steel
- Ceramic / Porcelain
While many products on the market use a carbide or high-carbon steel tip, ceramic and porcelain tend to be more effective. In fact, if you need to MacGyver it, a spark plug would do the trick.
Here’s a Closer Look at Our Favorite Emergency Window Breakers
We’ve chosen four very different designs. Remember that no tool is perfect and we hope you never have to use them. Choose one that meets your physical abilities and gives you the confidence that you can use it correctly not matter what the chaos around you is.
Our four emergency window breakers of choice are:
This gadget looks like a credit card and comes with a holder than secures to the overhead visor in the car. We love this emergency window breaker for it innovative design. Sure it has the seatbelt cutter integrated into the sleek card. But what makes this emergency window breaker shine is how it slide up under the window edge and the spring action easily breaks the window. Perfect for men, women, elderly and children.
- Portable, sleek and easy to carry
- Doesn’t require brute strength
- Easy to use for anyone in any situation
- Still new design not tested over time
- Carrying it around could lead to an accidental spring release
This is the tried and tested original emergency window breaker by many rescue personnel. It has two carbide tips for redundancy in the unlikely chance one breaks. The hammer design makes it easy to grip for people who need the stability of a handle. It mounts under the steering wheel or dash or on the door for convenient storage and access.
- Comes with mount for easy access
- Tested effectively in real situations
- Easy-grip handle for weaker people to balance
- Requires proper angle for striking
- Not well-suited for those with limited strength
Most of the critique of this emergency window breaker are in the failure of the charging port. As a window breaker, this is an effective tool that is readily available on the car console. This is a new design with many competitors looking to mimic the multi-use design. It has a little way to go before all the bugs are worked out with the electronics, but its emergency design is on target.
- Readily available in the car charging port
- Small handle makes for easier gripping
- Spring loaded so anyone can use it
- Charger tends to fail quickly
- More expensive
Thousands carry the Resqme on their keychains including rescue personnel. This is the original spring loaded keychain emergency window breaker. It comes in a variety of colors and is the choice of those who want to have something on hand for any emergency like rescuing a dog from a hot car.
- Lightweight and portable design
- Useable for all age ranges and physical abilities
- Discreet but packs the necessary punch
- Spring can malfunction
- Keychain connector can fail
Final Thoughts on Window Breakers
More and more people are keeping window breakers handy for situations where they see a dog or child left in an unattended vehicle in a parking lot. Check with law enforcement about the rules in your state to make sure you, a good citizen isn’t getting into trouble.
If you plan on keeping one with you, consider getting a keychain version for you and keeping a secondary one in the car. You never know when your passenger will need to cut you free to save you from an accident. Teach your family how to use them, even little kids. While these aren’t always easy to use, giving everyone the knowledge on how to save another’s life is never a waste of time.
If you have experiences with window breakers or are an emergency responder with some input, we would love to hear from you. We know there are some special tricks you guys have that you swear by!