Most of the time, windshield damages are caused by pebbles, rocks, and other roadside debris. However, one unusual situation in Vancouver leaves experts warning drivers everywhere of an unexpected risk during the hot summer months — aerosol cans.
Late last month, Karmen Ayres returned to her car after work to find a can of hairspray lodged in her windshield.
“Saw my window and instantly thought something had fell from the sky,” Ayres told WTSP. “But sure enough, it was my hairspray that exploded, and it was in the back seat… it’s a far distance to travel and with a lot of force to break through the window.”
With temperatures in the low 90s for the day, Portland Fire Lt. Rich Chatman attributes the excessive heat as the cause of the explosion.
“They say at 90 degrees, the interior of a car can reach over 140 degrees in less than 30 minutes,” he said.
Most parents know they shouldn’t leave children (or pets) alone in a car, but even an empty car can be damaged in the hot sun. Almost 40 million used cars are sold by private sellers and dealerships every year, and Chatman wants to emphasize that aerosol cans simply cannot withstand temperatures exceeding 120 degrees.
“When things heat up, they expand. So when you have those pressurized containers … it’s going to want to release,” he said. “She had a missile in her car. You saw the damage it did to the window, that could do a lot of a damage if it were to strike somebody.”
When it comes to damaged windshields, stone-breaks up to two inches in diameter and single line cracks up to 14 inches are usually repairable, but it seems like Ayres may need a whole new windshield after the unexpected blast. Most modern windshields can withstand tension stress up to approximately 9,400 psi. However, even a small crack or chip can reduce the windshield strength to just 800 to 1,500 psi.
To be safe, Chatman recommends removing all aerosol cans and butane lighters from vehicles on particularly warm days, even if drivers won’t be away from their vehicle for long.
“I just never thought it would happen to me,” said Ayres.