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What are Sun Visors?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 23, 2024
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Vehicles are equipped with sun visors located at the ceiling just over the windshield for both the driver and front passenger. A sun visor is completely opaque and when manually rotated downward from the stowed position, can block unwanted sun and glare. Sun visors are also commonly used with visor “wallets” of various kinds to hold papers such as car registration, or media such as compact discs. A newer design of visor is the automatic sun visor. There are several dozen patents for automatic sun visors, expected to eventually replace standard visors in new vehicles.

Automatic sun visors have a few basic, common components. The driver’s visor works independently from the passenger’s visor. A sensor detects the eye position of the car’s occupant(s) and the degree of light hitting the face. When required, a motor deploys the sun visor into the best position by rotating it downward on a track hidden in the ceiling of the vehicle. Automatic sun visors are more like sunglasses for your car, in that the visors are tinted, transparent material. They block sun without blocking the ability to see.

If you have ever traveled east at dawn or west at sunset, you have experienced the aggravation of having to drive directly into the sun. At these times traditional sun visors don’t help. An automatic sun visor is especially effective when a setting or rising sun is entering the windshield just over the dash, or at an extremely low angle. It will also sense and block any blinding reflection off a bumper or rear window of a car that might be stopped ahead, either in a traffic jam or at a stop light.

Another advantage of some models of automatic sun visors is that they can replace sunshades. When parked, sun visors could be lowered fully to cover the entire windshield, keeping the interior cooler. Visors might also be made of transition-like material that can darken or lighten as necessary.

The automatic sun visor is likely to appear first in luxury models of sedans, trucks, sports utility vehicles and motorhomes. As price drops they will presumably find their way into midstream models.

In the not-too-distant past, many consumers gauged the desirability of a new vehicle by quickly checking the dash for a CD player rather than cassette; in this same way consumers might soon be glancing towards the ceiling, taking the manual sun visor to be the mark of yesteryear’s model.

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Discussion Comments

By Saraq90 — On Sep 29, 2011

I did not know that some luxury cars have automatic sun visors! This sounds like an amazing invention! If I had the money, I would definitely get a new car if it came with the automatic sun visor!

I have an older model Toyota, so I just have the regular, short sun visors. This sun visor has probably prevented me from many accidents when the sun has been shining after sunrise and before sunset!

It is so frustrating having the manual visors when you are trying to see at sunrise and sunset hours! It really doesn't help much then, especially since I am short! I sometimes even get a headache from having to squint and block the sun out with my eyes and hands so much!

By TreeMan — On Sep 29, 2011

@matthewc23 - I don't think I've ever heard of a visor getting torn off. They get loose sometimes, but I guess anything can happen, right, especially when kids are involved.

To be honest, I'm not sure how they install, but if you can't order one online, you might be able to go to a local salvage hard and see if they have the same model as your car sitting around. If they do, I'm sure they'll help find a way to get the visor off the old car for you. I'm sure they'd even be willing to install it for a lot smaller price than if you took it to a mechanic or bodyshop.

By matthewc23 — On Sep 28, 2011

Has anyone ever tried installing a sun visor replacement? One of my kids accidentally broke the visor on the passenger side of our car, and I'd like to fix it.

It looks like something I might be able to repair if I could find all the right parts for it. I've looked online, but haven't really found anywhere to order them. What should I do? I'd like to have it, but its not something I'm willing to take to the dealership to have replaced.

By JimmyT — On Sep 27, 2011

@EdRick - I completely agree. I had a car once where the visors didn't rotate to the side, and it was miserable. I'm tall enough that I can usually crane my head a little to block the sun if it is in front of me, but if it is to the side, I am helpless.

With the automatic visors, surely there will be some type of a manual adjustment feature, right? I can see it kind of being like automatic headlights in a car. They come on automatically, which is nice, but sometimes you want to turn the lights off for some reason. It could be the same way with the visor.

By LisaLou — On Sep 27, 2011

It sounds like automatic sun visors would have many advantages. I would enjoy having a sun visor monitor automatically know when to block the rays of the sun.

There are many times that I extend my traditional sun visor out as far as it will go, or even move it from the front to the side trying to keep the sun out of my eyes.

I also like the fact that it would work as a sun shade at keeping the inside of the car from the hot sun.

It is hard to get in a car on an extremely hot summer day that has been shut up all day long. I have never been very good about carrying around a visor and putting it up and down every day to keep the sun out.

With an automatic sun visor, you wouldn't have to worry about this. I can see how luxury cars would have something like this. Maybe a few years down the road, they will even be a standard feature for most cars.

By andee — On Sep 26, 2011

Automatic sun visors sound like a wonderful idea. Since I am pretty short, there are many times that traditional auto sun visors don't help me out much.

If I don't have any sunglasses in the car, even with my sun visor down, I have to somehow shade the sun so I can see where I am going.

If you have to drive very long directly into the sunlight, this can be very wearing on your eyes.

At a previous job, I had to travel one day a week. What I dreaded most about this was it was an hour of driving east in the sun in the morning, and an hour of driving west back home looking into the sun every evening.

I don't think my day would have seemed nearly as long if it had been the other way around and the sun was at my back.

By EdRick — On Sep 26, 2011

My question is will these new automatic car sun visors also block the sun from the side? That's kind of a pet peeve of mine.

My old Accord has the "upgraded" sun visors that are easier to open up and also have an extender to block just a little more sun. My wife's much newer CR-V, for some reason, just has the "regular" visors. They don't rotate as smoothly and they're not nearly as good at blocking sun coming in through the driver's side window.

So for me to be on board with these automatic sun visors, they would also need to have good coverage for the driver's side window. Sometimes that's worse than sun from the front!

By jennythelib — On Sep 25, 2011

I just heard of this now, but now I'm really looking forward to this! I'm very short and unless it's between about ten and two, I often don't get full coverage from the sun visor. My eyes are just too low. And sometimes it's just not bright enough out to wear sunglasses.

This could really be revolutionary for me, having just the sun tinted out for me but not the whole road.

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