Here’s the million dollar question: Can a headrest be used to break a window?
There is a common misconception that headrests can be used to break car windows in an emergency situation. While this idea may seem plausible at first glance, this misconception can have dangerous consequences, especially during car entrapment.
The story of using headrests to break car windows began circulating online, claiming it was a useful survival technique. The idea is that headrests can be detached from seats and the metal bars can be used to break car windows. This method was featured in a Japanese TV show back in 2012. Later, in 2016 a Facebook post about the topic went viral with the headline “I never knew this.”
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a reliable method and someone attempting to escape car entrapment can lose precious time.
If a car is sinking, trapped passengers have between 30-90 seconds before the vehicle is completely submerged under water. Literally EVERY second counts!! Attempting to break car windows with the headrest can be very difficult – especially if you are trapped upside-down. In fact, if already submerged, the water may prevent individuals from generating enough force to use the headrest effectively. This becomes increasingly more difficult if the person in injured from the incident that led to entrapment. Before using the headrest, it is also necessary to remove it from the seat, which is an additional step, and consumes a few more crucial seconds and strength. Try for yourself in your vehicle!
Also, during such a horrific situation, many people panic and freeze up, so retrieving and using the headrest might be too stressful. So time is limited and simple procedures to get out of the car are highly encouraged and recommended.
Moreover, from a technical standpoint, the metal bars connecting seats and headrests are not designed as window-breakers. They are built to stabilize the head of drivers and passengers during the ride. Headrests are constructed from lightweight materials like aluminum so they are too weak for breaking tempered glass windows. In fact, even stronger materials, like steel, would still be ineffective because of the blunt tip of the poles. Of course, it may work in isolated cases—depending on the car model, year of manufacture, and quality of glass the windows—but generally headrests are not designed to shatter glass.
Being experts on car entrapment for the last 25 years, we can confidently say that headrests are not designed for this purpose and we do not recommend it unless there is no other option. It is much safer and efficient to own and use a car escape tool such as the spring-loaded center punch resqme®, seatbelt cutter and window breaker. With a tool like that, you can apply minimal pressure—upside down or under water—to activate the tool and break the glass! Stay safe!