What is that black frame around the car windshield? What function does it serve?

What is that black frame around the car windshield? What function does it serve?

Pretty much every car on the road has a black frame, baked into the glass of the windscreen. It is around 3-4 centimetres wide and usually has a dotted pattern right next to it. While it may seem like just a strange design feature, this frame, called the frit, actually serves a purpose.

Even if you crack your original windscreen and get it replaces, they are going to install glass with a frit – it is simply unavoidable. Actually, its function has a lot to do with how windscreens are installed. Back in a day when windscreens were held in place with a rubber frame, frits didn’t exist. But now they are glued in and that is why there is a black frame baked into your windscreen.

And we do mean it when we sake “baked in”, because the frit is nothing else but ceramic enamel, which is applied during the manufacturing process, before the laminated glass is heat treated. Glass is very hard and smooth material, which is great, but because of that it glue doesn’t stick to it very well. That is one of the reasons why ceramic is baked into the perimeter of the windshield – glue sticks better to ceramic than it does to glass.

This black frame around the windscreen is actually baked in and is used to cover and protect the glue.(Matti Blume, Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Furthermore, black ceramic enamel hides the glue from the plain sight. Glue is ugly and so it makes sense to cover it with something. Glue also needs protection against the UV rays, because they can make glue hard and brittle, which is not great, having in mind all the vibrations it has to withstand. Eventually hardened glue would simply let go in some points, probably causing the windshield to crack. That wide frit band helps keeping the glue flexible and strong.

And finally, what are those dots for? The answer is simple – for the looks. They break the hard contour of the enamel frame, allowing it to transition smoother into the clear glass. That dotted pattern does not serve any practical function. However, some manufacturers use it to hide some Easter eggs in their cars. For example, you can find a little Willys MB on the windshield of the JEEP Renegade. This little detail is formed from the same black ceramic enamel and is also baked into the laminated glass.

JEEP uses its frit to hide a little Easter egg – a silhouette of the brand’s first car Willys MB. (JEEP’s image )

By the way, you can also find the frit line around the side windows of the bus as well and there it serves the exact same purpose of hiding the glue.

Why modern cars have so much plastic under the bonnet? We want to see the engine!

Why modern cars have so much plastic under the bonnet? We want to see the engine!

There is one thing you will not see under the bonnet of a modern car – it’s the engine. Nowadays, it is always hidden under several layers of plastic, moulded to look like some mechanical parts. They don’t even look good and you have to dig through them if you want to do any maintenance or repair work. But why every single car has these plastic engine covers? Why do car manufacturers bother to spend extra time and money to make them?

Not so long ago car engines were designed to be easily accessible and to look good. In the beginning of the previous century car manufacturers actually worked hard to make their engines pretty. They chose different metals, neatly organized fuel lines and wires and painted various parts different colours. All of that was expensive and time consuming, but such manufacturers as Packard, Daimler, Duesenberg and others did it anyway. Even Ferrari was always praised for how well its engines were dressed and how beautiful it looked inside and out, but now it is also falling under the plastic trend. But what changed?

Well, a lot of things. Back when Packard was one of the top premium brands, people actually admired engines. The internal combustion engine was the cutting edge of technology and not that many people could afford to own one. Nowadays cars a mundane and boring – everyone has one and no one wants to look at the engine. We, car enthusiasts, still do, but to be honest we don’t buy that many cars. And so manufacturers resorted to the function-over-form mentality, saving cost in the process. Investing into the looks under the bonnet is not a priority anyway, because no one buys the car just because it has a beautiful engine bay.

The engine of the 1910 Packard. (David Berry, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

A plastic engine cover hides unsightly rat’s nest of wires and fuel lines, while making them still quite easily accessible. A nicely dressed engine bay typically means that some components can be hard to reach for repair. When you have a big piece of plastic hiding everything, you don’t have to worry about the looks – it is the cheapest way to keep the engine bay looking tidy. This is equivalent to cleaning the mess off of your desk straight into the drawer – out of sight, out of mind.

Ferrari used to be famous for its well-dressed engines. (Sfoskett, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.5)

However, plastic is not that bad. Sure, metal looks nicer, but it is easier to control the quality of the plastic. It also doesn’t add too much weight on top of the engine, allowing for a lower centre of gravity. Finally, plastic engine covers can be heat-resistant and absorb vibrations, making the sound of the engine just that little bit quieter.

Even luxury car manufacturers are hiding their engines under some cheap plastic covers. (Autoviva, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

And so, plastic is here to stay. Even luxury car manufacturers are hiding their engines under several layers of plastic. And we cannot blame them. Covers do make the engine bay look clean and tidy, they are light, heat resistant and cheap to make. In fact, it is likely that in the future engines are going to be tucked away even more and not accessible without specialized equipment.


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