Effective laser defense in a bottle
by Craig Peterson
Last updated: 2015
It's no secret that police lasers can get confused. Generate enough ambient light and they can have trouble in picking out their own return signal from the clutter.
An alternative strategy: find a way to reduce the amount of light reflecting back from a target. The laser needs more time to get a lock on the target, reducing range. That's the phenomenon Laser Veil ($99.95) seeks to exploit. Skip directly to the test results.
Laser Veil is a translucent bluish liquid intended to coat the reflective bits on a vehicle, in particular the headlights, fog lights, turn signal lights, license plate and any vertical brightwork capable of reflecting the laser beam. We have no idea what's in this witch's brew and after having worked on getting the formula exactly right for well over a dozen years, its inventor is understandably reluctant to volunteer the information. We don't blame him. And frankly, we really don't care. Our only question is: Does it work?
Finding out wasn't quite as straightforward a project as testing the only known antidote to lasers, a laser jammer. First we had to spend some time carefully applying the substance. It comes with reasonably helpful directions, along with a paint brush and a painter's foam applicator for the final finish. The directions caution against attempting the application in high ambient heat, cold weather, in direct sunlight or damp conditions. Violate this rule and the result can be a sagging, uneven coating that's a bit, uh, aesthetically compromised.
Another consideration is transmissivity. Laser Veil definitely darkens the headlight lens and it sure seemed like the halogen lights in the oldest of the test cars were putting out less light than before. We didn't run any tests to quantify the reduction in light output, though it doesn't appear to be a major problem.
Some owners may get light-headed at the thought of painting part of the car with an unfamiliar liquid, a very understandable reaction on the part of, say, a guy who just laid out 175 large for a Ferrari. And we'll have to admit that no matter how expert the application, the brush strokes remain visible.
On the plus side, it takes more than a hard rain to make Laser Veil wash off. Something on the order of a high-pressure car wash is required, and even that will work only after the coating has first been loosened with an application of ammonia or rubbing alcohol.
We tested Laser Veil on three test cars: a silver 2005 Corvette Z51 convertible, a 2003 BMW Z4 and the target car we've used in more tests than any other, a 1990 Honda CRX Si.
The first two vehicles were available only for short periods, meaning there wasn't enough time to run each through a complete set of tests. That's because when testing products like this, only one variable can change at a time. Then the entire battery of tests, using exactly the same procedures, must be re-run and the results recorded. Try changing more than a single parameter from one run to the next and you may as well throw the scores out the window. They're worthless for before-and-after comparison purposes.
Before we get into the test results, there's more you should know about Laser Veil. Most important, it's not designed to make your vehicle disappear from lasers. Laser Veil makes no such claims and they're entirely honest when they say their product is intended to reduce the effective range of a laser, giving a driver additional time to react.
In particular the manufacturer touts Laser Veil's potential to enhance the effectiveness of an active laser jammer. We've rarely seen an LED-based laser jammer that can't be defeated; some are just better than others. Translation: if you get close enough to the laser and the officer continues to paint the entire vehicle, eventually he'll get lucky.
But only a dimwit will continue to target the front license plate or grille area after several attempts fail to produce a target speed. And most officers aren't dimwits. They'll automatically shift the point of aim to a headlight--and the complex, computer-designed headlight assemblies increasingly found on today's cars make fabulous targets for lasers and radar alike.
But if the headlight for any reason isn't available as a target--like the retracted headlights on some cars or a Laser Veil-coated headlight--options dwindle and more time is expended, giving the driver an edge.
For the record, we found that using Laser Veil with even a marginal laser jammer will enhance its performance. The magic coating even made a K40 Defuser Plus, unquestionably the least effective laser jammer we've tested, look like it was dramatically chopping the range of some lasers. (It wasn't the jammer, trust us; Laser Veil was doing all of the work.)
We've tested dozens of products over the past 15 years that promised to defeat lasers, including another liquid anti-laser coating. None worked. So we were frankly skeptical about Laser Veil's claims. But after spending three days testing it, on different cars, against different model lasers, with and without front license plates, plates with different degrees of reflectivity, you name it, we can offer some conclusions.
First, if you've got a highly reflective front plate (California's is one of the best targets, Virginia and other states with light, highly reflective background colors work almost as well) you'll have to cover it with a very darkly-Laser Veil-coated plastic cover. Even with every light on the front of the car Veil-coated, fail to protect the plate and you're toast.
The plate cover we tested was dark enough that it'd be illegal in every state. But a semi-legible plate is an equipment violation, not a moving violation. One's a simple, relatively inexpensive fine, the other can be a megabuck fine plus demerit points and insurance surcharges. And the possible loss of a driver license. You decide.
In states where front plates aren't required, coating exposed lights with Laser Veil usually reduces maximum laser target range.
The Kustom Signals ProLaser III proved very tough to beat; the others were susceptible to varying degrees, some to a significant extent. Laser Veil alone chopped the range of the Riegl laser, for example, by fully 62 percent. When we added a BEL LaserPro 905 laser jammer, so far as the Reigl laser could tell, the car had simply disappeared. It drove right past without a speed ever appearing.
Review the test results below and form your own conclusions. But after 120-plus man-hours of testing it on a variety of vehicles, we can confirm that Laser Veil indeed cuts laser target-acquisition range, sometimes dramatically so. It's not an all-purpose antidote for laser attacks; a few of the lasers were relatively unaffected in some circumstances. But hey, it's not a perfect world. What we can say with assurance is that, particularly when used with a quality laser jammer, Laser Veil in most cases will buy you valuable extra time to react to a laser ambush.