Best Emergency Window Breakers
The other night on Prime Video I was watching a movie called “Submerged”, starring Jonathan Bennett, Talulah Riley, and Rosa Salazar. It was a great movie, and a significant part of the plot was the action taking place in a car that had plunged off a bridge into a river. Ok, it was a huge limo, and there was a lot of space for moving around inside as it filled with water, but it made me wonder about how you would get out of a regular car that had been plunged into the water.
Yes, I know about emergency window breakers, but is there any special technique to using them? It got me thinking about the glass that is used in car windows and whether it had any special features that would make escape easier or more difficult. You can see how a straightforward action “watching a movie” can turn into something that takes up the whole day. That’s the problem with having a curious mind.
I was amazed to learn how complex the glass used in car windows is, and that the glass used in the windscreen is different from that used in the side windows. Trying to smash a windshield to escape is not going to work, because of the type of glass used in the construction. So it seems that the side windows are what you should be aiming at breaking. But it’s even more complicated than that. The side windows are built in such a way that it is tough to smash the window by hitting the centre of the window itself. The trick is the hit one of the corners.
You are probably thinking I am worrying about nothing. But did you know that 350 people a year die from drowning in submerged cars? Some cases occur when the vehicle drives of a quayside or bridge, but the other, more frequent, reason is when the parking brake is not correctly applied, and the car just rolls into the water. 
It is not only being submerged in water that can cause you to be trapped in a vehicle. A car crash and fire can also create a situation where you need to break out the windows to escape. More people die from fires in their vehicles than die from apartment fires each year. In the USA 1 in 5 fires is a vehicle fire. It is essential to get out of the car quickly, but occasionally through damage to the vehicle of other factors, it is not possible to open the doors. In these cases, you should get the windows open immediately to allow air into the car and also so you can escape through the window. Seat Belts can also seize and stop you getting out; this is why mist Window breaking devices also have seat belt cutters built-in.
Breaking Glass Other Than in Vehicles
Moving away from cars into a situation where some kind of disaster has resulted in a fire. There may be times when it would be useful to vent smoke from a building by venting smoke. Firman is often called on to do this, and it has been the source of significant injuries.
Smashing windows in domestic situations are not so hard as household glass is typically ⅛ of an inch thick. When glass breaks in a house fire and falls to the ground, it is relatively light, and as long as the firefighter is wearing protective clothing, it is usually not such a problem. When it comes to industrial buildings and more importantly, retail stores, the glass is designed to be secure and is much harder to break. It also is much more substantial when it falls and capable of killing an unwary emergency worker. To be safe in that situation, it is advisable to use an eight-foot pike pole so that when the glass breaks, it is far away from the body.
Apart from domestic situations where you would want to break a house window, glass breaking tools would be potentially dangerous and probably ineffective because of thicker glass. The proximity of the user would also likely lead to serious injury
But Wait! Do these window-smashing devices actually work?
Tempered v Laminated Side Windows
All of the following glass break tools were built with tempered side windows in mind. The idea is that the side window glass can be shattered by knocking the corner of the side window hard with the glass break tool. For many years this has worked well, and many escapes have resulted from the use of these tools.
However, increasingly manufacturers are switching to the use of laminated glass on the front side windows of their models. These laminated windows are more durable, and there is less chance that in an impact, the driver will be thrown out of the vehicle through a broken tempered glass window.
The problem is that these tools will not break a laminated glass window and so are no longer any good for breaking out of a car in our flooding or fire situations. People are still buying these emergency window breakers believing that they will work. Part of the problem is that vehicle owners are not aware of the type of glass used in their side windows, and the implications.
If you want to check what type of side window your vehicle has, it’s quite easy, just look at the bottom corner of the glass, and you should see a “bug” which is some information about the window. It will usually say Tempered or Laminated as part of this description. If you cannot find that information scroll down your window about halfway and look at the class from the top. Laminated glass is a bit like a sandwich, with two layers of glass and something placed in between.
If you have an older car older than 1998, then you probably have tempered glass. Just to help you be sure I found a document that lists which cars do and which cars don’t have laminated glass and the differences between models each year. You can find it at
If your car has a Laminated side window AND a laminated rear window, you clearly are wasting your money buying one of these tools. However, if as in some case, the rear windows are made of tempered glass, then you may still consider the purchase armed with an awareness that you can only use it on the rear windows. Bear in mind with some cars that have headrests it may be tough to get into the rear of the vehicle to escape in an emergency situation. In this situation, your only hope is to try to wind down the window (but with electrical windows being common and liable to fail when the car is flooded that may not be possible). Your only hope then is to remain calm and wait until the car is almost entirely submerged and the pressure inside and outside nearly equalized and later try to open the door.
The American Automobile Association have conducted tests on six unnamed glass-breaking devices and found that the spring-loaded tools had the best performance. Two of the three hammer types that were swung at the window failed even to break even tempered glass. They conceded that it was possible to break laminated glass but significantly harder.
Glass.com, experts in matters relating to glass state that these tools will not break a laminated glass and that even first responders equipped with special purpose-built tools have difficulty 
It is hard to review glass breakers for general purposes when all of the product descriptions talk exclusively about use in a vehicle. I imagine that there could be situations where you may want to break glass to get into an abandoned house in an emergency and these tools would certainly do that, but they would not work on shop windows or any other window that uses toughened glass. Even in breaking a house window, they potentially could result in injury as they have all been designed for breaking tempered glass which crumbles.
The Ztylus Stinger is a spring-loaded tool which the AAA said had better performance results than traditional hammers. In the product description, this model was described as NOT SUITABLE for laminated side windows and windshields. So please check what type of glass your car features.
The device is plugged into your car cigarette lighter and has a USB outlet that can be used for charging phones. The unit also features a sharp seat belt cutter for freeing yourself in the event your seat belt jams or is damaged.
One significant advantage that this unit has is that you will leave the unit in the cigarette lighter so you will always be able to find it, in reduced visibility. Amazon ranks this as 4.5 out of 5.0 based on reviews. As with all emergency devices chances are that you will never use this and consequently cannot rate its effectiveness. None of the reviews I found said they had ever used it, but felt it would probably work. One user announced it would work, based on the fact that it made a dent on his wooden door frame. People do not read actual product reviews or consult experts like glass.com. One plus point was that at least this manufacturer admitted it did not work on laminated glass, although clearly, the implications of this fail to impress most of the people who still bought it.
This is another emergency window breaker from Ztylus. Once again, it is spring-loaded. This model does not have the USB charger featured in the first model, which actually made it more worthwhile since they accept it only works with tempered glass. It does, however, have a better shape and allows a better grip on the tool. Instead of leaving it in the cigarette lighter, this model is designed to be hung up, and they provide a cord for this purpose. As with the previous model, it still comes with a seat belt cutter tool. It is only $1 cheaper than the first model yet does not have the phone charger accessory.
Off-Grid Tools Emergency Survival Axe
Firefighters occasionally have to break through laminated glass windows in vehicles and various emergencies. The suggested tool for doing so would be an axe. This procedure takes a level of skill and protective clothing.
This particular axe is designed for a survival situation smashing through the laminated glass. This axe also has other tools, most notably a seatbelt cutter built-in. For a prepper, this tool has far more application than one of the previous glass-smashers.
Off-Grid Multitool Combination
Another axe designed for off-grid use, which would be a useful tool for breaking into a laminated window. The device also includes several other functions as well, such as spanner, hammer, nail puller, t pry bar and lever, and tire chain hook.
This type of tool is far more effective and versatile than the spring-loaded or small hammer type glass-breaking tools and will be useful in and outside a vehicle.
AND FINALLY, ONE TO AVOID! – VicTsing Safety Hammer
This is Amazon’s Top Selling glass breaker and is ranked 4.8 stars out of 5.0 in the reviews. My problem with this product is that nowhere does it say it will only work on tempered glass and that it will not work on laminated glass. Furthermore, later in the product description, it states that “Breaks the Car Windows Easily, Very hard hammerhead ensures you break the glass with only 1 or 2 hits.” I changed the English to be more grammatically correct. Even when in the questions and answers section, this was challenged the company answered that it would break any car window. They repeated this claim several times!
If this review were to be solely on window breakers for tempered glass then according to the AAA it might work, but not as well as a spring-loader. If you like a hammer variety, then this unit is probably the best of the non-spring loaded models available.
This unit is not a spring-loaded device and is simply a hammer that you hit the glass with. I have included it in this review but only because Amazon lists it as the top seller. There is NO WAY I would recommend this product.
It is always a worry when companies advertise emergency tools without making it clear what they can and cannot do. By the time you find out that a device cannot handle a situation, it is too late.
Many of the small hand tools for breaking-glass would once have been adequate in the era of tempered glass, but they have been left behind by progress. The last two products I recommended are more of what a prepper needs, a tool that will cope with most situations and while it may be overkill in some cases, it is better to face that than find the emergency tool that will not do the job.
Have you invested in any emergency window breakers yet? Are there any that we missed from the list? Leave a comment below.