Most modern cars come equipped with all sorts of sensors throughout the vehicle. They serve various purposes, from monitoring the overall health of the vehicle to external driving conditions. Sensors are quite commonplace nowadays, yet do you realise that some of those sensors are right on your car’s windscreen?
That’s right! A windscreen with sensors might have sounded like something sci-fi a decade ago but not these days.
Generally, these sensors provide data to the car's many advanced driver assistance systems or ADAS. They include lane departure warning, autonomous braking, and they even act as part of the forward-collision warning system.
In this article, we're going to look at a few things you should know about windscreens and sensors. Firstly, you'll undoubtedly want to know if your windshield has any sensors to begin with (not all cars do).
Then, we’ll explore the issue of replacing a windshield with sensors and how challenging that might be.
Let’s get started.
How Do I Know If My Windshield Has Sensors?
There are several ways to know if your windshield has sensors. You can refer to the car’s user manual, peruse its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), or inspect the windscreen yourself.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these methods.
Car User Manual
The first and probably most straightforward way to figure out if your windshield has sensors is to refer to the vehicle's user manual. There, you should find information on sensors located throughout the car, assuming the model has any.
The user manual should inform you of what sensors your car may have, how many there are, and what purpose they serve.
Car’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)
Another method of figuring out whether your car relies on windshield sensors is to consider what advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) it has. These days, auto manufacturers put all sorts of ADAS in their newer models.
The ADAS that rely on those kinds of sensors include:
- Lane departure warning
- Autonomous braking
- Forward collision warning systems
- Automatic wiper systems
- Automatic headlight systems
These types of ADAS rely on sensors to provide them with the necessary data. That data can include the presence of rain, light, or even pedestrians and oncoming vehicles.
If you know what to look for, you can also identify your windscreen sensors visually. Here's what you do: Stand in front of your vehicle and look at your windscreen. Search for attachments to the glass that look like gel pads. These sensors can be round or even rectangular.
How Do Windscreen Sensors Work?
A windscreen with sensors can serve many different purposes at the same time. Each sensor typically has an optical component that senses things like rain (for rain sensors), light, and the road’s lanes. The sensor works closely with an analogue component that processes all these pieces of information and a control algorithm that decides what to do about it.
For example, if the optical sensor detects that you're drifting into another lane, it will not know whether that's good or bad or what to do about it. Instead, the control algorithm will register that as dangerous behaviour and then sound the alarm to alert the driver.
Another straightforward example is automatic headlights. When the sensor detects that the brightness levels outside the car are too low (i.e. the sun has gone down and it’s getting dark), this info prompts the control to turn on the headlights.
Why Is It Difficult and Costly to Repair or Replace a Windscreen with Sensors?
A windscreen with sensors has plenty to offer. However, it also has significant drawbacks; for one, repairing or replacing a windshield with sensors is costly. As a rule of thumb with cars and anything else in life, the more high-tech or ‘smart’ it is, the more resources are required to fix or replace it.
You see, on a car that doesn’t have any sensors, a standard windscreen is much more straightforward to replace. As you may have guessed, that’s not the case with a windshield with sensors.
Here are a few reasons why.
The Windshield Must Be Recalibrated
Replacing a regular windshield is pretty straightforward; the overall process would involve removing the old windshield and cleaning the area, replacing it with the new one and securing it in place. Done!
With a windshield that has sensors, it's a much more complex process. Remember: The sensors must collect data accurately to work correctly for the car's systems. For that to happen, a lot of extra care has to go into how the windshield is positioned.
That means the installer must place the windscreen at precise angles that enable the sensors to work. That will take additional time and effort and require installers who know what they're doing.
The Sensors Must Be Recalibrated
Once the windscreen is in place, the sensors themselves need to be recalibrated as well. Think of this as having someone come in to reprogram each sensor to do its job correctly.
Calibrating one sensor is challenging enough. The issue is that these days, many car brands and models have a dozen or more calibrations that are required before everything can work as it should!
Technicians Must Have the Correct Qualifications
To do all of the above, you need technicians or installers with the correct qualifications. That means your regular windshield installers won’t be able to get the job done correctly unless they’ve got the credentials to calibrate both the windscreen and the sensors correctly.
And your guess is as good as mine—anything that involves specialists will also come with a heftier price tag.
There’s More to Learn about Windscreens!
To learn more about topics like replacing a windscreen with sensors, feel free to check out our blog. It’s the best place to learn and source out spare parts for your car! Find out how it’s easy to locate auto parts sellers these days!
By Ray Hasbollah