Can Hail Break Car Windows? What You Need To Know


If you don’t live in a hail-prone region, you may not know the adverse effects of severe hailstorms on cars. You’ve probably heard about hailstones causing minor or severe dents on a vehicle’s exterior. But, have you ever wondered whether hail can break car windows?

Hail can break car windows, especially if the stones are large. However, the intensity of the hailstorm also determines the hail’s impact. So, pea-sized hailstones can also crack a car window if they plummet repeatedly and forcefully on the glass. 

This article will discuss a few topics related to the question in detail. Therefore, read on to learn everything you need to know about hail damage.

What Hailstone Size Can Break Car Windows?

Hailstones of any diameter can break a car window depending on its intensity and frequency. However, hailstones with over 1-inch diameter (2.5 cm) have a higher potential of breaking car windows. Other factors can also contribute to the possibility of hail damage to vehicles.

The National Geographic Society defines hail as solid precipitation that forms when water droplets freeze in the upper parts of thunderstorm clouds. Hailstones are not frozen raindrops since they freeze before falling from the clouds. After formation, wind updrafts can lift the hailstones to higher levels where they hit water droplets, creating additional hail layers.

Hailstones exist in different sizes, ranging from 0.25 inches (pea size) to 4.50 inches (grapefruit size). Large-sized hailstones are more likely to have a severe impact on car windows than small-sized hailstones. Nonetheless, the damage that hailstones can cause will also depend on other factors, including their intensity or the presence of strong winds.

On May 1, 2018, large hailstones resembling softballs wreaked havoc in Susank, Kansas. The large-sized hailstones occurring during a rotating thunderstorm were strong enough to break car windows. Here’s a YouTube video featuring a Capital Weather Gang contributor explaining how this hailstorm occurred:

Small-sized hail can also cause severe damage to car windows and windscreens. A retired Electrical Engineer once witnessed ping pong ball-sized hailstones breaking car windows. The hailstones were falling forcefully and bouncing after hitting the ground.

Therefore, motorists and car owners should always take precautions during hail storms despite the hailstones’ size.

Regardless of their sizes, hailstones can break car windows if:

  • Their intensity is above H-4, and their size range is 0.6 to 2.4 inches (1.5-6.1 cm)
  • A car is moving at a high speed
  • A strong wind accompanies the hailstorm
  • The hailstorm lasts for more than an hour

Can Hail Break Tempered Glass?

Hail can break tempered glass in extreme cases. But, tempered glass is more resistant to hail damage than unhardened glass. So, it’s one of the most preferred glass types for car windows, skylights, and solar panels. 

Most car windows, including the side and rear windows, are made from tempered glass. This glass type undergoes hardening through heating and a fast cooling process in a tempering furnace. It is a preferred auto glass since it is tough and shatters into tiny pieces that can’t cause serious injuries.

Although tempered glass is ideal for making car windows, it is breakable. This feature comes in handy when some accidents occur. For instance, if the driver, a child, or a pet gets trapped in the car, it will require rescuers to break the glass to save them.

But, it is a disadvantage in other scenarios. When a vehicle encounters harsh weather, elements such as hail tempered glass can shatter, making the car owner incur repair or replacement costs. So, don’t shrug off the need to protect your car windows from hail damage.

For the windscreens, cars must have laminated glass. The auto glass comprises a plastic layer (polyvinyl butyral or PVB) between two glass layers. PVB prevents the glass from shattering during an accident and blocks UV rays.

Laminated glass is more durable than tempered glass. Moreover, you can repair it if it picks up minor damage such as a crack. But, it is also more expensive than tempered glass. 

How To Protect Car Windows From Hail Damage

At times, a hailstorm may strike unexpectedly. Moreover, driving in hail is dangerous for you and can damage your car. Hence, it is crucial always to be alert and know how to protect your vehicle from hail damage.

Here are effective ways to protect your car windows from hail damage:

Park Your Car in a Garage

When not driving your car, it’s always safest to park it in your garage. If you’ve reserved your garage for storage or converted it into a gym, make room for your car during bad weather. This way, your car windows and the other parts will be safe from possible hailstorm damage.

Buy or Rent a Carport

If you don’t have a garage, an alternative is to use a carport. Buying or building a carport will be cheaper than building a garage. Renting a carport is also a great option if you are in a rented house or apartment that doesn’t provide a garage or other shelter for your car.

Use a Hail Cover

If a car shelter is unavailable and you can’t afford to install one, invest in a hail cover. For example, the NUOMAN 6 Layers Car Cover (available on Amazon.com) comprises six layers to protect your car and the windows from weather elements, including hail. It is available in different sizes and custom-tailored to fit various vehicle types.

Pull Over and Find Shelter

What if you’re driving and hail strikes suddenly? It is preferable to pull over and park your car at the nearest shelter.

You can look for a multi-story car park, a parking garage, or a gas station canopy. In situations where you can’t find a covered parking space, pull onto the shoulder of the road and position your car so that the windscreen receives the hailstones since it is more rigid than the other glass windows.

Stay Up-to-Date With the Weather Forecast

It’s always crucial to be well-informed on weather changes. Stay up-to-date with the weather forecast before traveling, especially if you’re planning a trip to hail-prone areas. Be sure to prepare adequately by packing your car cover and other essentials.

If the region you are traveling to is expecting severe hailstorms, it’s advisable to postpone your journey and wait for more favorable weather.

Use Floor Mats

Sometimes, a hailstorm may strike when you least expect it. If hailstones start falling and you don’t have a car cover or other options available, you can improvise. Your car’s floor mats can provide some protection on your windows. But, if it’s unsafe to leave your vehicle, it would be better to replace the windows than risk your life.

Final Thoughts

Although car windows are made from toughened glass, they may not always withstand the impact of hail. Hailstones of various sizes can break your car windows if they hit forcefully and repeatedly. Thus, it’s essential to protect your car from hail damage.

Recent Posts