If you have a crack in your windshield, you need to fix it immediately. A slew of unfortunate torments awaits you if you don’t. But should you replace your windshield or simply repair the crack?
If you don’t know the answer, keep reading. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about whether to repair or replace your windshield.
But more importantly, we’ll tell you when to do it. Spoiler alert: do it now. Read on to learn how to fix your windshield and why you should do it immediately.
Why a Cracked Windshield is Dangerous
If you think a small chip or crack in your windshield isn’t a big deal, think again. You face serious dangers when you continue to drive with a cracked windshield.
It Nullifies the Safety Layer
Even a small crack lowers the integrity of the windshield. A typical windshield is actually two layers of glass separated by a thin layer of vinyl resin. This middle layer holds the windshield together during an accident and keeps deadly glass shards from exploding out in every direction.
The catch is, this safety feature only effectively works once. Once the safety layer is broken by a chip or crack, it no longer functions properly to hold the windshield together. It has lost the ability to effectively hold back glass shards in the event of an accident.
It Lowers The Structural Integrity of the Vehicle
Vehicles are specially designed to receive tremendous impact from any direction and still protect the precious people inside. The car may be totaled but it should be able to get through most accidents, even rolling down a hill, without being thoroughly crushed.
The windshield supports the frame of the car enough to keep the roof from collapsing in case of a car-rolling accident. If the windshield is damaged, the support it lends your car’s frame is next to nonexistent.
It may not seem like a glass windshield is strong enough to make a difference, even if it is undamaged. But consider the soda can test.
Stand an empty soda can upright on the ground. As long as the sides are not dented, you can stand on top the can with all your weight and it won’t smash. But if there’s a small dent, or your friend barely taps the side of the can while you’re standing on it, SMASH!
That’s structural integrity 101. And that’s what happens to your car in an accident with a damaged or improperly installed windshield.
It May Be Illegal
Many states have laws against driving with a cracked windshield. And rightly so, considering the dangers described in this list.
It Impairs Your Vision
Most obviously, a large crack can impair your vision while driving. Even a small crack, if located in a majorly important field of vision, can be a dangerous driving distraction. Plus, if untreated, these small cracks will soon become large cracks.
Why You Should Repair a Crack in Windshield Immediately
Just because a crack is small, doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. As we just mentioned, a small crack will spread. This usually happens with exposure to high heat, rapid temperature change, and wind.
If any of these happen to your cracked windshield, the small crack becomes a large one–or a shattered windshield. Assuming a crack or chip will be fine is dangerous.
It’s also costly. Repairing a tiny chip is cheap, quick, and easy. Not so when replacing your entire windshield because you waited too long.
Also, dirt and other debris find their way into the chip while you procrastinate. These can make repair attempts less effective or impossible.
When to Repair Windshield
Most small chips and cracks can be easily and inexpensively repaired. Here are the guidelines of when chip repair is the appropriate option.
- You have one or two small chips or cracks
- They’re each small enough to be covered by a dollar bill
- They’re not directly in your line of sight
- They’re not close to the edge of the windshield
In this case, the windshield can be sufficiently repaired without replacement.
Repairing Your Windshield
Getting your windshield repaired is about as easy as spending 15 minutes on your phone and taking a short drive.
Google “rock chip repair” and your location on your phone to see your options. Make some calls, get some quotes and drive towards the most reasonable price. You should be able to find an auto glass service that repairs chips in minutes at 25-30 bucks a pop.
One word of caution though. Make sure you’re taken care of if the repair isn’t done right and the crack continues to spread. Ask what their policy is on that and keep all your receipts and paperwork.
How it Works
Chip repair may be quick, but it’s an extremely delicate process.
First, the windshield technician makes sure the damage is repairable. Then they thoroughly clean the crack so dirt and debris don’t end up sealed into the windshield, leaving a permanent smudge. They also must clean carefully enough that they don’t make the crack worse.
Then, they must drill through the glass until they reach the safety layer but without breaking through it. This takes expert precision.
Finally, the hole is filled with a special type of resin and cooked with a UV light to harden. It dries clear and then they smooth out any excess resin.
The resin looks just like the glass when it’s finished. But you’ll probably still see a blemish where the damage was.
When to Replace Windshield
Here’s when you need a full windshield replacement.
- You have three or more chips or cracks
- A crack is too big to be covered by a dollar bill
- The damage is directly in your line of sight
- The damage is close to the edge of the windshield
- The windshield is covered with scratches and divots that impair vision
If this describes your windshield, you’ll need it replaced in order to drive safely.
Replacing Your Windshield
Unfortunately, replacement is much more expensive than repair, around $170-$300. As with repairs, call around, get quotes, make sure you’re taken care of.
How it Works
Along with the windshield, a competent technician will also replace the rubberized weather stripping. This is the seal between the car frame and the windshield. They’ll adhere the new weather stripping to the car, and then adhere the windshield to the stripping.
This process doesn’t take long, about an hour. But if you can avoid it by repairing rock chips before they spread, you’ll save a couple hundred bucks.
DIY Windshield Repair or Replacement
There are also windshield repair kits you can purchase from the store. However, because of the dangers listed above, and the experienced precision required to perform these repairs, we don’t recommend you do your own auto glass repairs, ever.
The biggest reason is that there’s no fix for a bad repair job. If you screw up a repair, you’re looking at a $200+ windshield replacement when you could have just paid someone $30 for the chip repair. If you screw up a replacement, you’ll have a leaky windshield and you’ll have to pay for windshield leak repair.
If you have a crack in your windshield, don’t wait to get it repaired. Pay $30 now and you’ll save over $100 not having to replace the whole thing. You’ll also be less likely to die in an accident.
And please don’t attempt to repair it yourself.
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