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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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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