How to prevent a smashed rear window when towing on gravel

If you’ve ever seen 4WD’s with cardboard, or some other protection on the back window of their 4WD, its usually there to protect the glass when they are towing on gravel. If this is not something you’d heard of before, don’t feel bad; there’s thousands of people who only learn about it when a rock smashes their glass.

Triton canopy and wellbody
If you’re towing something, a broken rear window is incredibly common

What makes the glass shatter?

More often than not, the cause of your rear window glass shattering is a rock getting flicked up, hitting your trailer and bouncing backwards. I’ve spoken to a heap of people who tell me they didn’t even notice anything at all, until they pulled up to get fuel.

I’ve even heard of those in wagons, who were commenting on why their car was so dusty and warm when driving along, only to pull up and see they are missing the entire window at the back!

It’s never a good time

When this happens, you are never prepared for it, and its never a good time. No one carries a spare rear window with them, and most people wouldn’t have anything to seal it up even temporarily, without visiting a town to pick up supplies.

Then, you have the costs associated with a temporary repair, the proper repair and the wait times between all of it. Pulling into Meentheena Veteran Retreat, I spied a Dmax with a makeshift window on his canopy, and we got chatting about it.

He’d been stung $450 for a piece of Perspex to do a temporary repair, and then 4 weeks to get a new piece of glass, plus whatever that was going to cost. Fortunately his insurance covered up to $750 for a temporary repair, and then also covered the glass replacement, but its never a good time.

In his case he was able to continue travelling thanks to some handy skills, and ingenuity. If you have a wagon, your going to have immediate dust issues into your travel area, and that’s without considering the huge loss of security. Yes, its only a piece of glass, but it makes a 4WD look far more vulnerable without it!

Meentheena Veteran Retreat
The bloke we camped next to had his window smashed, and spent a small fortune repairing it to continue his trip

Protecting your glass

The cheapest, and most simple method for stopping your rear window from getting smashed is to take a couple of cardboard boxes up with you, and duct tape them onto the window. This will need regular attention, but if you clean it properly and apply it well you should comfortably be able to do a big trip across the Gibb River Road for example.

When you get to the other side, hop out and have a look at the condition of the cardboard; you might be surprised to see a fairly significant number of dents put in by little rocks flicking up, all of which could have resulted in a shattered piece of glass.

Beyond this, you can buy products that stick onto the glass, or you move into stopping the actual rocks from flicking up. Rock tamers and different deflectors all help, but the most efficient way to stop the rocks from getting there is to fit a stone stomper.

These are a mesh product that runs horizontally from the rear of your vehicle to the start of your van, and stops any rocks (and a lot of dust) from being able to come up at all. Its all forced under your trailer, and that means nothing can hit your wind.

This is probably the best caravan stone protection option out there.

Stone Stomper on a Prado
A Stone Stomper is 100% effective in stopping stone damage to the front of your van, and rocks flicking back into your vehicle

I’ve seen a number of people replace their rear canopy glass with Perspex, or another plastic product that doesn’t shatter like glass. We don’t have a rear window on our Isuzu Dmax canopy, and I’m pretty happy about it; rocks can bounce up all day long against the plastic and don’t worry us at all. We may still end up with a stone stomper in due course though, to stop the dust and the van damage.

El Questro water crossing
If you are doing something like the Gibb River Road, tape some cardboard in place as a minimum

Risk it if you want

There is certainly a slim chance of getting a rock to shatter your rear window, and you can choose to do nothing and just risk it. I’d say each year there would be hundreds of people who do the Gibb River Road and end up with a smashed rear window, but then there are probably tens of thousands of people who do the track each year, so what’s the chances?

Canopy windows randomly explode

If you are running a Fibreglass canopy on your Ute, you should know that the rear windows on these often explode, without notice and for no particular reason at all. I’ve read of plenty of people who’ve had them go bang in their locked garage, or on their driveway, or at a shopping centre. Of course sometimes there’s idiots involved doing the wrong thing, but for some strange reason these just have a habit of going bang at random times.

I had a mate tell me his shattered when he closed it one day, as one of the gas struts had pitting and it grabbed, twisting the glass and resulting in the shatter. Other people say they shatter when it gets warm, and then you have the completely unexplained ones. It seems to happen across a variety of different canopy brands, and is one of the reasons we are glad we run an aluminium Ute canopy, that has no windows!

Have you had a rear window smashed on your 4WD? When did you notice? How did you get it repaired?

Well body canopy
Canopies often have glass shatter for no real reason

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