By Jeff Barker
Let’s face it, windshields on trucks have a rather tough job to do. Whether it’s keeping those huge, torpedo-sized bugs from embedding themselves in your face in the summertime or keeping snow, ice and subzero wind chills at arm’s length in winter, they take one hell of a beating day in and day out.
I chatted with several experienced drivers to find out what their favorite – and most hated – windshield designs are. Although it’s a known fact that no two drivers out there will ever agree on everything, a lot can be learned from their collective input. Here are the different types of truck windshields that came up in our recent discussion:
Flat glass panels
These have been widely used in trucks during the past few decades, and to this day they still have a lot of advantages when compared with other windshields.
Many drivers and truck owners like them because their replacement cost is much less than other types of windshields. Sand pitting alone can often necessitate replacement in just a few months because of glare problems.
Trucks used in vocational applications are even more susceptible to windshield damage, and those who buy them often prefer models with flat windshields. Most are installed with a reusable rubber gasket.
Many drivers also claim to like the flat glass windshields because they have a more “traditional” look to them and are usually much easier to clean with a wet squeegee than the curved ones.
Most reputable auto glass companies have diagrams of various truck models available. If they don’t have a precut flat windshield available, they can cut one from an auto windshield glass “blank” in their own shop for you.
Curved glass windshields
With manufacturers concentrating in recent years on designing and building trucks that can achieve higher fuel mileage through better aerodynamics, curved windshields have become the most widely used, especially in on-highway applications.
Many drivers like the visibility the curved windshields provide, but others who drive trucks equipped with them – such as the Mack Vision, Freightliner Century or Columbia tractors – complain about the windshields’ design blowing washer fluid onto the cabs’ side windows and mirrors. They also think the windshields are harder to clean.
Some curved-glass windshields, such as those used on the Freightliner Century, Columbia and Coronado, are glued into place. Unfortunately, replacement requires the truck to be parked for three to five hours for the glue to dry.
As a truck cab ages and flexes during normal use, it can break the bond of the adhesive holding the windshield in place. Then water can leak into the cab around the edges. If the leak gets bad enough, water can find its way behind the dash to the firewall and harm the truck’s electrical system. A Land Line reader in Wisconsin is a former diesel mechanic who worked at a Freightliner dealership, and he expressed a strong dislike for glued-in windshields.
Another drawback to the curved windshields is difficulty finding them out on the road. It’s fairly common for on-call, 24/7 glass shops not to have replacements in stock.
Most flat-glass windshields used on trucks are of the two-piece design, as are many of the curved windshields. Although replacement of only the damaged half of a two-piece windshield is less expensive, some drivers complain about the center post in the middle blocking visibility.
In either flat- or curved-glass versions, the one-piece windshields offer better visibility because of the lack of a center post. Some drivers also find it easier to keep them clean, too. Unfortunately, it’s much more expensive to replace one when needed.
About those wipers
We know that some trucks – old and new – have a lousy design for their windshield wiper system.
One Land Line reader in Ohio claims that the old GMC Astro cabovers had one of the best windshield wiper designs because the wiper blades were long, stayed in a vertical position across the windshield, and cleaned a very large area. He and many others complained about how the Freightliner Century and other trucks with curved windshields often have problems with the wiper blades not being able to remain in contact with the glass during their entire pass.
A Land Line reader from Fate, TX, drives a 2007 Mack Vision daycab and complained about the passenger side wiper blade blocking his view of the spot mirror on the right fender when it’s not in use.
Clearly – whether flat or curved, one-peice or two-piece – the best windshield is the one you can see right through. LL