Home » Here’s Why A Screen Protector For Your Car’s Infotainment Screen Is A Waste Of Money

Here’s Why A Screen Protector For Your Car’s Infotainment Screen Is A Waste Of Money

Screen Protector Waste Of Money Topshot
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Electronic devices are expensive, fragile, and pretty much everywhere. As such, it’s not surprising that when we spend hundreds of dollars on a smartphone, we typically want some extra protection by way of a case and a screen protector. So what about the screens in our cars? Well, not everyone’s cars because some of us drive old stuff, but you get what I mean. Some enterprising companies are now offering screen protectors for infotainment systems, but you probably should avoid wasting your money on them. Here’s why.

Trawling around internet shops like Amazon, it’s easy to find screen protectors for everything from the Tesla Model Y to the Ford F-150, often retailing for between $20 and $40. Touting all manner of miracle cures like easy fingerprint cleaning and scratch resistance, it’s easy to get sucked in should an infotainment screen protector find its way into your shopping feed. However, most manufacturers already spec screens with durability in mind, so let’s go through and debunk the marketing points of automotive screen protectors.

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The primary purpose for screen protectors on phones is to guard against damage, mostly because humans drop their phones frequently and sometimes have the cat-like reflexes to accidentally punt them into the nearest wall on the way down. However, common sense dictates that it’s pretty hard to drop a screen that’s bolted in place on your dashboard. In fact, I’d wager that if the face of your infotainment screen makes contact with other interior components, you probably have bigger things to worry about, like medical bills and insurance claims.

2024 Ford F 150 Platinum 10

Alright, so what about scratches? Well, unless you’re part of the Scissorhands family, you’re unlikely to scratch your infotainment screen. According to Appalachian State University, glass registers at 5.5 on the Mohs scale, a mineral hardness scale that ranges from 1 for exceptionally soft minerals like talc to 10 for incredibly hard minerals like diamonds. Your fingernails clock in at 2.5 on the Mohs scale, meaning they won’t mar the glass on modern infotainment systems. So, if you don’t really have to worry about dropping or scratching your infotainment screen, what do screen protectors do in this application?

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Some screen protectors tout how easy it is to rid them of fingerprints, but that’s not a good argument either. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising to anyone, but infotainment screens can be cleaned. In fact, Volvo’s kind enough to include a microfiber screen-cleaning cloth with many of their vehicles, and its process is remarkably simple. Here are Volvo’s official instructions:

1. Turn off the system by pressing and holding the Home button (the oblong button located at the bottom of the screen)

2. Clean the screen with the microfiber or similar cloth with small, circular motions.

3. Reactivate the system by pressing the Home button

No chemicals, no muss, no fuss. Some manufacturers want you to add a little bit of moisture to the process, such as how Toyota “recommends cleaning touch screen panels with a soft damp cloth” in its customer support guide, but cleaning a touchscreen doesn’t involve anything harsh. In fact, it’s the same cleaning process you’d use with or without a screen protector, so spending the money on a screen protector won’t prevent buildup of greasy fingerprints.

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So, if impact-resistance isn’t an issue and fingerprints happen regardless, what selling points do infotainment screen protectors have? Well, some screen protectors tout anti-glare properties, although as someone who’s driven hundreds of cars, infotainment screen glare isn’t really an issue anymore. While screens in cars used to suck, most cars on the market now have screens with outstanding brightness, rich contrast, and anti-glare coatings. So long as you just keep things simple and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when cleaning your infotainment screen, that anti-glare coating won’t wear off, and the benefits of a screen protector will effectively be null.

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Amazon Screen Protector Review

In fact, some screen protectors might be detrimental in this case. Looking at Amazon reviews, it’s not hard to notice various customer pictures showing massive glare with various screen protectors installed. Here’s a prime example, from Amazon user Brian Wood, who doesn’t seem happy with this screen protector.

Tesla Screen Protector

I understand applying paint protection film to shiny black plastic surfaces since those pick up swirl marks like no tomorrow, but let’s face it, you probably don’t need a screen protector for your car, unless you ferry around a pack of wolverines or something. Instead, just get a good microfiber screen cleaning cloth and keep it in the glovebox. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a screen protector and will save you any potential headache.

(Photo credits: Amazon, Ford, Thomas Hundal. This post contains affiliate links, so if you buy something from of those links we might get a commission.)

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JMJR
JMJR
7 months ago

Funny enough I bought a used 2017 Mazda CX-5 with an infotainment system exactly like the one in the top image and I wish the original owner had installed a screen protector. There are scratches on the left side of the screen that are a bit distracting, plus my infotainment sometimes suffers from “ghost touches” where the screen registers touches for no reason.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
7 months ago

Truthfully didn’t know this was a thing. Now, I think I will try one for my 2019 Cadillac CT6 because the screen is huge and always covered with finger prints and slide marks. Using the highly touted microfiber towelette only results in smeared finger prints. If a protector helps with that, it sounds like a good deal to me.

Rexracer
Rexracer
7 months ago

Current car and last car both got screen protectors, but not as protectors, but anti fingerprint and glare. Both absolutely showed every spot you touched, and glare was bad depending on the light out. The screen protector fixed both issues.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
7 months ago

Nothing needs a screen protector. Even phones don’t anymore. I used to have them on my phones back when it was necessary, but the glass has gotten so good in recent phones, I don’t bother anymore.

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
7 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

Disagree. I do not have a screen protector on my work phone and while by some miracle I have not dropped it on a hard surface, it is incredibly scratched.

I buy cheaper phones as my personal devices and every one of them has broken for some reason or another UNLESS the screen protector compatible with it goes fully edge-to-edge.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
7 months ago

I dunno… my phones have bounced across plenty of floors, been stepped on… one was even run over by a truck in an asphalt driveway, and I have never had a screen break or scratch. *shrugs* I do buy higher end phones, though, so maybe it’s the difference in the glass.

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
7 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

No idea, internet says my work phone is gorilla glass 3. It was a $700 phone when released in 2020. Regardless, I haven’t even abused it other than not putting a case or protector on it and every edge of the glass is scratched badly just from one year of putting it on my desk. Upon further inspection it does have a small crack as well.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
7 months ago

Oh, well, I do always use a case…. I wouldn’t go without one.

Ben Chia
Ben Chia
7 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

What phone do you have? iPhone glass is incredibly fragile.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
7 months ago
Reply to  Ben Chia

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Before this I have always had Note series phones from Samsung. So maybe it’s just that Samsung are more sturdy than most.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

My tablet and phone have a habit of falling screen first onto sharp corners, and I’ve broken a lot of glass screen protectors. I’m not convinced the screen would have survived without a mark. A sacrificial screen protector may not be necessary, but I’m not taking the chance when they’re thin and $3-5 vs the cost and inconvenience of repairing the device.

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
7 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

I’ve never used them either but there are people who keep breaking their screens still.

John Fischer
John Fischer
7 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

I have twice recently had the screen protector shatter from impact, but the screen itself was fine. One instance was my phone got driven over in the road (don’t ask how it got there). Anyway, after peeling off the shattered protector the screen was untouched. I will continue to use one after saving two screens with a cheap protector.

VanGuy
VanGuy
7 months ago

I concur.
I used to use screen protectors on my phones given how often I saw friends with cracked screens. Ironically, I think the only time I cracked and broke a phone screen was with my last slider phone, circa 2012. And even then, it fell out of my pocket as I stepped into my van and I kinda backed over it.

Meanwhile, in college years later, even without a screen protector I could not manage to crack a phone screen with the glassbreaker on the butt of a knife. And it was a cleap Blu Vivo XL phone that I was about to recycle for unrelated hardware problems. Haven’t used screen protectors since that discovery and haven’t cracked a touchscreen since.

I still swear by cases though. Otterbox Defender series when available for a given model.

My 2012 Prius v’s stock touchscreen and new aftermarket Pioneer touchscreen have both been absolutely fine unprotected.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
7 months ago

OK, but the first time you drop your dashboard down a flight of stairs, you’ll be glad you added that screen protector

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
7 months ago

Do I get any points for recognizing the Mazda icons in the lead image? Mazdas are the best example of not needing a protector because Mazda infotainment has almost no touchscreen functionality, you do everything with the iDrive knob. In almost 7 years of ownership I have actually touched the screen in our CX-5 twice.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
7 months ago

The screen protector in my Honda Clarity is 100% worth it. I’ll never go without one again in any car I own.

I bought my Clarity used. The anti-glare coatings had started to wear off, just like they’ve done on every single pair of glasses I’ve ever owned, and the screen was actually almost illegible in certain lighting conditions.

Over the course of just a couple months of ownership, I could see additional wear even though I used only my fingertip, a microfiber cleaning cloth, and a few drops of cleaner intended for coated SLR camera lenses.

Replacement of the infotainment costs over $3000 just to buy the unit. It’s integrated into the system, so don’t count on an aftermarket head unit working at all.

Adding a cheap screen protector has improved the visibility of everything on the screen, and is preventing further wear to an over $3000 infotainment screen. The screen looks almost new again when under the screen protector.

A screen protector for your car’s infotainment is not a waste of money, it is an essential maintenance component that you should never go without.

If I can’t use the integrated systems for climate control and other functions reliably, the car is almost useless.

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
7 months ago

Sounds like poor infotainment design if it requires the anti-glare coating to function well. Guessing it is an issue with the “tablet taped to the dash” method of designing infotainment. I don’t own anything new enough to have come with a touchscreen but my cars all do have screens (one retrofitted touch) and I have no visibility issues with them whatsoever.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
7 months ago

I can’t choose how the manufacturers design their infotainment systems. All I can do is select the best car and accept what’s in there, now that everything’s integrated into one interface. They’re all being made this way, so it’s not a flaw you can even avoid any more.

Because of the deep integration, replacement costs will be astronomical for all cars going forward. Therefore I’ll never go unprotected again.

Vintage Veloce
Vintage Veloce
7 months ago

1) Not all car screens are glass. And many have an easily scratched outer layer or coating
2) Check out people’s computer and laptop screens… many people manage to scratch these somehow.
3) Do you wear a ring? My wife’s car has dents in the interior aluminum trim from her small ring! And somehow there is a long scratch in her macbook air screen… and that’s not even a touch screen.
Lots of screen protectors are crap. If you are going to get one, IMO, it needs to be a glass one. I put a new android head unit in my truck and it was obvious the screen was soft and vulnerable. The glass protector I installed is invisible, slick and fits perfectly. Good insurance for under ten bucks.

Beer-light Guidance
Beer-light Guidance
7 months ago

I honestly just noticed a couple of months ago that the cling film cover was never removed from the touchscreen on our 2017 Pacifica. I figured if it had lasted almost 7 years without issue there wasn’t any reason to take it off now.

Drew
Drew
7 months ago

Thomas, I read this article knowing I would agree and certainly not expecting to buy anything. But I clicked through that affiliate link and decided the multipack screen cloths were a sensible purchase. Seems like I often want one where I don’t have one stashed. I know this wasn’t a sales pitch, but it worked.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
7 months ago

On a positive note, I have to say how cool it is that the instrument “glass” of our screen era is so durable.

For those without the experience, from the malaise era until now, most automakers used the softest, hugely scratch-prone clear plastic they could find to enclose the gauge pod. You looked at it wrong and it would scratch.

Sure, mostly of the time you might not notice, but when the sun hit it just right, WOW you’re aghast at how chewed up it looks. And once you notice it, you never don’t notice it.

It was always a slow the hell down moment when detailing the interior, getting the special cloth you saved just for that purpose, and going very light and easy. And even then, you’d scratch it a little.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

The easiest solution is to never detail the interior or the gauges specifically.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
7 months ago

I’ve gotten less obsessive over the years for sure, but I’ll admit I’m still pretty bourgeois about a clean car, esp inside!

Ben
Ben
7 months ago

I’m not 100% sold that the glare argument is invalid based on the amount of glare I see off modern screens even in press photos where they presumably stage everything to look as good as possible, but given that any screen protector diffuse enough to help with that is likely to mess up visibility of the screen too I think the point stands.

Drew
Drew
7 months ago
Reply to  Ben

The glare would be better served by a film than these hard protectors. I do think there’s something to be said for offering a product that reduces glare, but it needs to strike a usable balance that I don’t trust most of these cheap protectors to even consider.

R Rr
R Rr
7 months ago
Reply to  Ben

My motorycyle’s TFT dash was shiny as a mirror, because KTM thought their riders are sunflowers who really need to catch every life-giving ray to grow up strong.

When I got fed up after a couple weeks of riding, I bought a cheap anti-glare screen protector off Amazon and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Should it have come like that from the factory? Ofc, but for $7 and 2mins of my time, it was one of the easiest fixes ever.

Last edited 7 months ago by R Rr
LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
7 months ago
Reply to  Ben

I had a layover in Vietnam recently, and one charming little idiosyncratic habit I noticed among the approximately 5 billion scooter pilots was that
a) every one had a phone mount on their dash and
b) they had all sorts of fun little anti-glare devices from little umbrellas to baseball hats in phone size mounted above their phone-holders
Made me smile.

BOSdriver
BOSdriver
7 months ago

No need at all. Really no need even on a phone these days. There was a time when screens cracked at the slightest drop. Manufacturers fixed that but then made glass too “soft” and they picked up scratches easy. Now, all good on my last few generations of phones – (Samsung for work, Pixels for personal use). Very little to no scratches, no real need for a protector anymore. A thin case around is all I need and even those might be going in the trash soon.
As for infotainment screens, zero need for a protector.

Last edited 7 months ago by BOSdriver
PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
7 months ago
Reply to  BOSdriver

I don’t buy screen protectors for my Pixel phones mostly because they’re far more durable than other phone screens, and because I replace my phone every few years.

I can’t replace the touch screen in a modern car without spending thousands of dollars. Phone screens are also far more resistant to repeated touch damage than those in a car’s infotainment system.

A car screen is more like an eyeglass lens with anti-glare and anti-scratch coatings. ALL of those coatings eventually wear off and cause visibility problems. And a car’s screen lives in a place where extreme hot and cold cycles cause further stress on the anti-glare coatings.

I’ve already seen the damage of normal wear on infotainment screens. There’s no way I’m leaving a $3000 system unprotected.

Drew
Drew
7 months ago

I’m pretty sure the way these sell is by short-circuiting our reasoning. “Protect your phone screen” becomes “touchscreens need protectors,” and pretty soon you have a reasonable chance of selling people protectors for all their touchscreens, not thinking about why it makes sense for any of them. They just think about the time they broke a phone screen (or a phone screen protector) and they certainly don’t want that to happen to their car (never mind the frequency of accidentally dropping your car vs your phone).

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
7 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Now you’ve sold me on getting a giant screen protector for my TV.

Drew
Drew
7 months ago

Well, just in case that isn’t enough protection, can I interest you in a projector? Yes, we can get you a screen protector for the fabric screen and a protector for the projector lens.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
7 months ago
Reply to  Drew

YES, Screen protector for fabric screen – count me IN!

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
7 months ago

I didn’t know screen protectors for car touchscreens were a thing. It doesn’t surprise me, since the development process is basically make that thing we already make a little bigger. I am typing this on a phone with a broken screen protector, which pretty much sums up why they are a good idea for phones. If you hand something shiny and fragile to a clumsy oaf like me you can pretty much expect that I will damage it.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
7 months ago

According to JerryRigEverything, glass registers at 5.5 on the Mohs scale a level 6, with deeper grooves at level 7.

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