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Can Window Breakers Really Save Your Life?

They always make it look easy to break a car window in the movies. However, if you’ve ever tried to bust one in real life, you likely discovered it’s very hard. While you might not have any plans to break a car window, there are times when it’s critical and can even save your life. window breaker can help you get the job done quickly and efficiently. I recently had to escape a sinking car and learned a alot about window breakers .

But do window breakers work on new cars, and what do you need to do to use one? Let’s take a look!

What Is a Window Breaker?

Unsurprisingly, a window breaker does exactly what its name implies; it breaks windows. These tools allow for quick emergency exits in case of accidents or fires. It can be a tool such as a hammer or an integrated vehicle feature. While you might think any heavy object can break a car window you may be supprised that they can be extremly hard to break without a tool.

Many drivers store it in an easily accessible location in their vehicles. When used correctly, it can allow an individual to reach safety. While its name and main function may be to break glass, it can do various other tasks.

Some versions of this feature a built-in seatbelt cutter, flashlight, and multitools. You may not plan to need any of these items, but life can be unpredictable. You never know what situation you might find yourself in where they come in handy.

Broken window in automobile
Breaking a car window is a lot harder than the movies make it look.

Why Would You Need a Window Breaker?

Let me tell you from experience that there are situations when your car door might not open and the window is the best course of exit. Recently I had to exit a truck that had rolled into a lake because of brake failure and had to exit out the window. Before going out the window I naturally tried to open the door, but like they say, water pressure is impossible to overcome, and the door would not budge.

So window breakers are for emergencies where a person needs to escape quickly. Other examples are car accidents where the doors have jammed. Drivers can also experience accidents that involve fires. These situations can cause the vehicle’s electrical systems to fail, and the driver could find themselves in a dangerous situation. These accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, and the tool could mean the difference between life and death.

Pro Tip: Make sure to pack these 8 Critical Recovery Gear You Must Have Off-Road and Overlanding in your vehicle.

Photo of me recovering a truck that went in the water
That’s Me… and my truck, yes underwater. The truck went in the drink due to brake failure and I had to exit out the window.

How Does a Window Breaker Work?

A window breaker works by applying enough force to the glass in one spot to cause it to break. It works on the side windows of cars but will not work on the windshield or laminated windows. This is because the windshield has a layer of plastic in it that keeps it from shattering. However, there are various types of devices for consumers to choose from. Let’s look at some of the most common options you might want to consider.

Emergency Hammer

An emergency hammer looks like what you’d expect, a hammer. The primary use of this is to quickly and easily break the glass. It’s not uncommon to see it on public transportation like trains and buses. Some will also feature a tool that can easily cut through seat belts.

One of the largest benefits is that it’s fantastic at shattering glass quickly. In addition, because of its shape, it’s typically easy to carry and use. However, it may not always work with tempered or laminated glass and has limited uses outside of an emergency.

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Spring Loaded

A spring-loaded breaker is another type of emergency tool that can quickly break windows during an emergency. This device has a pointed metal head that attaches to a spring mechanism. Once the user touches the car’s glass with the point, it generates enough force to shatter it.

Drivers that prefer spring-loaded breakers often do so because they’re easy to use and get the job done quickly. However, there have been some malfunctioning or failing, especially with tempered or laminated glass. The last thing you want during an emergency is for your tools to let you down.

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Gunpowder Driven

Gunpowder-driven window breakers are highly effective at shattering glass but are far less common. They have a small amount of gunpowder stored in the device, usually in a .22 caliber charge. When needed, the individual activates the charge, which creates a controlled explosion to shatter the glass.

As we mentioned, these are incredibly effective at getting the job done. However, it’s important to note that since these tools contain gunpowder, they can be subject to certain legal restrictions and regulations in some areas.

These types are usually for emergencies where much thicker glass than a car window needs to be broken and are usually specially installed for one task.

Will These 7 Car Glass Breakers Save You?

Do Window Breakers Work On All Vehicles

Unfortunately, no window breakers don’t work on vehicles with laminated glass side windows. Laminated glass is how the windshield is built with a layer of polymer inside that keeps it from shattering. These tools will crack the glass but may not break it entirely. Many newer vehicles are starting to come with these types of windows because they reduce side window ejection injuries in accidents and reduce road noise.

How Do You Break A Laminated Glass Window

You will immediately know if your window is laminated if it cracks when you try to break it but it does not shatter and remains in one piece. If this is the case, you may be able to use your feet to kick out the window as it may fold over. If this does not work, try to get to the rear window of the vehicle because they are almost always tempered and should shatter.

The only reliable way to break laminated glass is with a windshield cutter or reciprocating saw. These are typically specialized battery-operated saws carried by some police and fire rescue. While a battery-operated reciprocating saw will work, very few people would choose to carry one within reach in their car.

We recommend keeping in mind the risk that your front windows may be laminated and to plan to exit out the rear with your window breaker if the need arises.

Alternatives to Window Breakers

It’s possible to break glass if you don’t have a window breaker available. People have been doing it for decades. You’ll need a hard object and the ability to create tremendous force. Knives, hammers, and hatches are some options you might consider. However, using these tools isn’t as easy as having a window breaker.

A specialized emergency tool like a window breaker or a glass punch will be the safest and most effective option. We recommend storing one of these devices in your vehicle so you always have one readily available. In addition, you can find these tools designed to go on a keychain. So as long as you have your keys, you’ll know you’re safe. 

Pro Tip: For RVers, you’ll want to make sure you have these 13 Most Important RV Safety Devices on hand.

Does a Window Breaker Work Under Water?

Most of the time, a window breaker will work underwater as long as there is still air in the car. However, keep in mind that if you break a window with water outside it will come gushing in so you need to take a deep breath and be prepared for the rush that might push you around. Have your seatbelt off and get ready to exit. Its best the have the breaker easily accessible so you can break the window and climb out before the car sinks.

In my case, I found that the electronics in the car started to fail immediately and that the electric windows quit working. This is why the window breaker is so important. I was able to get out before the truck fully sank.

If you can’t break the window to escape, you’ll need to remain calm until the pressure equalizes between the inside and outside of the vehicle. At this point, you’ll be able to open the door, exit the vehicle, and swim to safety. 

Car trapped in water
If you find your vehicle in water, use your window breaker before you car is fully submerged.

What Other Vehicle Emergency and Escape Tools Should You Have?

During an emergency, you won’t complain if you have too many tools. In addition to a window breaker, you’ll also want a device to cut your seat belt. The locking mechanisms may not work depending on the situation, and it could be difficult to escape a seat belt. However, with a seat belt cutter, you’ll be able to easily cut through the seat belt.

Another item that you’ll want to have access to is a flashlight. While there’s never an ideal time to get into an accident, experiencing one at night can complicate things quickly. A vehicle may lose power entirely, which means there may not be any lights available. Trying to make a quick escape in pitch-black conditions isn’t going to be fun or easy.

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What Do Firefighters Use to Break Windows?

Firefighters typically break windows with similar tools as we’ve discussed today. Many will carry emergency hammers, spring-loaded punches, or emergency keychains with their gear. This can allow them to easily respond in an emergency to various possible needs someone in an accident might have.

If these tools are good enough for firefighters, there’s a good chance they’ll get the job done for you. No matter which tool you choose, it’s important you know how to use it. You don’t want to wait until you go to use it to figure out how to use it.

Emergency Equipment for your Car | Survival Gear | Tactical Rifleman

Carry a Window Breaker and Know How to Use It

It’s important to note that breaking car glass can be dangerous and should only be done in emergency situations. If you are ever in a situation where you need to break a car window, make sure to take precautions to protect yourself from flying glass.

However, a window breaker is one tool everyone should carry on their keychains and have in their glove boxes. You may be a cautious driver, but accidents can happen anytime. Do yourself a favor and prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

Have you ever had to use a window breaker? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Tuesday 18th of April 2023

This is a very interesting article and resonates with me as I cross the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon many times each week and know of a few (rare!) instances where a car went off the bridge into the water. I've learned a lot from your articles and YouTube videos but I would love it if you would proofread your posts a little more before publishing them. This one has a number of typos and it's annoying to read. Just sayin' :-)

Mortons on the Move

Monday 24th of April 2023

Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for the comment about typos, this one was bad and I'm embarrassed. We do write a lot and some days were just off.


Saturday 25th of February 2023

Great idea. But don’t store the window breaker in a glove box or storage area. Tie with a lanyard you can clip from the bottom of the car seat. When a vehicle hits the water usually everything open and gets thrown astray. Even if the vehicle should turn on it’s side or upside down you can locate it easily by reaching to where you clipped it.

Dan Ninedorf

Saturday 25th of February 2023

When driving on lake or river ice, or during rain downpours or flooding, BE SURE to have children closest to the door. There was a father, son, and daughter who was in the center, the pickup broke thru the ice, father and son escaped, daughter died in pickup on the lake bottom. There were three brothers in a pickup, the river covered the washed out road, the youngest brother -in the center- died in the pickup.