When opening a window quietly isn’t a possibility, you might think of breaking the glass as an attractive alternative. The one thing that may prevent you from going to that extreme is the horrific noise that would result from it. Luckily, I’ve got good news for you: there are ways to break a window quietly and safely.
If you’ve never had to consider doing this, you might find yourself wondering why it would ever be a necessity. Most people’s minds go right to burglary when they try to reach the answer to that question on their own. So before I do anything else, I’ll offer a few other reasons you might not have thought about. Afterward, I’ll explain exactly how you might quickly and efficiently remove a glass panel from any kind of window.
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Why You Would Need to Break a Window (Quietly)
As I’ve said, plenty of circumstances might require you to break a window. Depending on whether we’re talking about a vehicle or a house, various factors may be involved. So here are just a few ideas I had when I was trying to understand why someone might need to do this kind of damage.
Someone Is Trapped in a Vehicle
Usually, when people talk about smashing a car window, it’s because someone is trapped inside the vehicle. During the summer months, we often hear stories about children or pets becoming dehydrated and even dying of heatstroke because their caretaker left them in a locked car. Still, if you happen to come across a child locked in a car with no parents in sight, you shouldn’t immediately shatter the glass.
Naturally, the first step would be to call the authorities. Oftentimes, a police officer will show up to break the glass using their baton or flashlight, as demonstrated in this video.
However, if they advise you to break the window yourself, you’ll probably want to be quiet about it. After all, loud noises may contribute to the trauma the child is already going through.
On the other hand, in the right (or wrong) circumstances, you could become trapped just as easily. For example, some people attempt to drive through a flooded street during hurricane season without considering the risks. But if the water level rises, the pressure could prevent them from rolling down the window or opening the door. So their only option would be to break the glass — and trust me, that’s easier said than done.
Locked Out of Your House
If you’re locked out of your car, breaking the glass may not be your first thought. But if you manage to lock yourself out of the house after sneaking out for a night of partying, you might think that breaking a window to get in is reasonable enough. You would be wrong, but I certainly wouldn’t judge the decision.
Still, even if breaking a house window is necessary, you’ll want to do it as quietly as possible. You don’t want the neighbors to think you’re a burglar or call the police on the count of your drunkenly tossing bricks at the windows.
Replacing the Glass
If you’ve noticed that your windows have been less than effective at keeping out the chill, the glass may already have imperceptible cracks in it. And if the air is coming in from the outside, so is the noise.
If that’s the case, the first thing I’d suggest doing is thickening up the glass with a window soundproofing film.
However, if the glass is completely unworkable, you’ll just have to remove and replace it. Of course, you should still be relatively quick and, more importantly, quiet about it, out of consideration for your neighbors.
Blowing Off Steam
While I was researching this fascinating topic, I realized that some people simply want to let loose. If you’re about to send your old car to the local scrapyard, you might feel the indescribable need to vandalize it before you do. And judging by the number of online videos of people doing exactly that, you’re not alone in that desire.
But unless you have somewhere secluded where you can fully enjoy wrecking your car, you ought to keep the noise to a minimum. On top of that, you should practice safe smashing — which is another priority I had while workshopping my guide.
At this point, I’ve exhausted my ideas for why someone might want to break windows. So without further ado, let’s talk about the different methods you could use to get it done quietly.
How to Break a Window Quietly: 7 Simple Steps
Even though I’ve decided to present my findings in the form of an instructional guide, you should know that some of the steps I’ve listed are negotiable. Going forward, I’ll make sure to highlight those while explaining why you might want to take them anyway.
1. Choose the Tool You’ll Use
As I’ve previously mentioned, emergency workers like police officers already carry everything they need to break a window. Yet, in their case, the effectiveness of those tools comes down to technique, heftiness, and durability. Since you lack that training, you probably wouldn’t be able to break a window even if you had the same tools. Fortunately, we’re about to work on that!
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There are plenty of tools regular people could use without having to exert much power. For example, you could opt for:
- An automatic glass punch like this one from Neiko
- The Resqme keychain, which may come in handy if you ever see a child trapped in a vehicle
- The metal end of a seatbelt — you can swing it toward the glass
- Common household objects, such as heavy hammers or baseball bats,or items you may find on the street like rocks and bricks
- Broken pieces of a spark plug — though I’ll have more to say about that later
And before you ask: yes, I have considered using a circle glass cutter with a suction cup. However, that tool isn’t as useful as some movies make it out to be. As you can see in the video, suction cups aren’t usually strong enough to get the circular glass part out of the panel unless you use a hammer.
Still, if you don’t want to smash the whole window, you could use a regular glass cutter to make a circular cut. Then, add some incisions in the center of the circle to weaken that section and punch it out with a hammer.
In addition to some of these tools, you’ll also need protective gear, blankets or pillows, and possibly a plastic tarp. But I’ll talk about those things later on.
2. Duct-Tape the Glass
Duct tape is an incredibly useful tool for minimizing noise and damage while breaking windows.
As you can see in this video demonstration of the resqme tool, glass punch tools make glass shatter quite thoroughly. The whole panel will crack at the same time, causing the shards to crash to the ground, accompanied by an ear-splitting sound.
However, duct tape may allow you to take out most of the glass panel in one fell swoop. Most people would only tape one side of the glass, completely covering as much of the surface as possible. But, to prevent the glass from dropping on the other side, I suggest covering both of them. You’ll just have to leave the edges uncovered so that you can take the panel out when you’re done.
3. Lay Down a Blanket or Pillows
Unless you’re looking to enter a locked vehicle or house, you’ll want to lay down a tarp or a blanket before you start punching the glass out. Doing so should:
- Protect the floor from being damaged
- Absorb the noise of the falling shards
- Make cleanup easier
Of course, if noise is your only concern, even old pillows or acoustic foam panels would do the trick. Alternatively, you could just stick with soundproof or moving blankets — or just regular ones you’d use to cover up.
If you have someone helping you, though, I may have an even better way to use these tools. Instead of laying them down in the fall zone, you could press them up against the glass on both sides. That would muffle the initial sound of the glass breaking as well as catch any shards before they get a chance to hit the ground.
4. Wear Protective Equipment
At this point, you might think you’re all set for smashing, but you should never rush into this. Even if you find yourself having to free a child from a locked vehicle, you ought to spare a thought for your safety first.
Use whatever loose article of clothing you have to protect your hands before going in with the glass punch. If you have a jacket, wrap it around your arm. If you’re rescuing a child or a pet, you should break the window on the opposite side of the car from where they are.
On the other hand, if you’re performing a scheduled smashing, you should have all the equipment you might need. That means wearing:
- Safety glasses, a bandana over your lower face and neck, and a hat
- Thick work gloves, several layers covering your arms, and full-length pants
- Reinforced work boots
Some of these items are more important than others, but if you’re going to be taking your chances with household objects, it’s best to come prepared. In fact, if you’re planning on chucking rocks at your old car, I suggest wearing a helmet instead of a regular snapback.
5. Break the Glass
Finally, you’re ready to crack the window. If you’re having good, clean scrapyard fun, rocks and bricks will do in a pinch. However, some windows are harder to break than others. Sometimes, even a metal bat or a hammer won’t do the trick — and they’ll certainly be louder than using a glass punch.
So if you want to weaken the glass before using a punch, I recommend drawing lines around your duct-taped zone with a glass cutter first. Alternately, you can go straight for the kill by pressing a glass punch tool against the corner of the window, increasing the pressure until it cracks.
After the glass breaks, you should be able to extract the duct-taped glass almost in one piece. But even if you don’t use the tape, you may have to nudge the shards off manually. The sound of the glass breaking should be negligible, especially if you’ve taken the precautions I have suggested above.
6. Alternative: Use Spark Plugs
If you’re mostly looking to have fun while vandalizing your car windows, you could try using pieces of your spark plug. But first, you’ll have to break the ceramic part of the spark plug with a hammer. After you do, locate the sharpest and most tossable shards of the incredibly durable ceramic.
If you manage to throw those shards at the windows with enough force, the glass should crack almost soundlessly. Yet if it doesn’t break on the first try, the shard will simply ping off the glass, as shown in the video. That is a major improvement from the sound that would come from repeatedly hitting the glass with a hammer.
However, there’s one crucial thing you should know about this method. Since ceramic shards have been used in smash-and-grab car thefts since the mid-nineties, some states, including California, have classified them as burglary tools. If the authorities catch you with so-called “ninja rocks” and determine that you were using them to steal a car, you can get a fine and/or jail time.
7. Clean up After Yourself
If you implement all the tips I suggested earlier, you probably won’t have to deal with a huge mess. As I have explained, taping the glass should prevent most of it from falling to the ground. What’s more, if some does get on the ground, a tarp or blanket should catch most of the fallout.
However, if you didn’t think you’d need to prep the windows before going ham on them, you could pick up most of the shards with a broom and a dustpan. Whatever you do, don’t use your regular vacuum cleaner for cleanup. If you must, use a shop vac instead.
How Is Breaking a House Window Different From Breaking a Car Window?
Finally, I’d like to highlight some differences you might experience when breaking a house window and vandalizing your old car.
To begin with, keep in mind that both kinds of glass were relatively weak until about a decade ago. Before we started transitioning to PVC frames, house windows used to only have one layer of glass. Nowadays, we often have two or three layers of reinforced glass.
What’s more, cars have evolved in a similar direction. According to this news report, that emergency hammer you hold so dear may become impotent when you really need it. It only works on tempered glass, which has mostly been phased out and replaced with laminated or glazed glass.
So if these tips have been difficult to execute, check the label in the corner of your window. You may discover that the glass you’ve been assaulting is more stubborn than you imagined it would be. But that’s nothing a few more whacks with a hammer won’t fix, though you’d have to make your peace with the noise if it comes to that.