Who Should Replace Your Cracked Windshield?

By: Sandy John
Cracked windshield

For a piece of glass, a windshield plays a lot of roles in your vehicle:

  • It keeps wind, rainwater, and road debris out of the passenger compartment as you drive down the highway.
  • It provides visibility, so you can monitor the road and other drivers.
  • It protects you in a collision by shielding you from objects flying around outside.
  • It keeps you from being ejected from the car during a crash.
  • It helps support the roof of the car, adding protection if you’re involved in a rollover accident.
  • In some cars, the windshield also helps to position the airbag after it deploys.

Unfortunately, a crack or chip in a windshield can compromise all functions. A crack or chip can make it harder to see out of the window. Cracks can spread, and if the crack interferes with the seal around the windshield, the glass could fall out in a crash, taking away the roof and airbag support you need for safety.

That’s why it’s important to repair or replace chipped and cracked windshields. Read on to learn more about the dangers of windshield cracks, the factors that determine whether you should repair or replace them, and who is equipped to do so.

Can you drive with a cracked windshield?

Chips and cracks in windshields usually result when a rock hits your vehicle’s window as you’re driving. In most cases, you don’t have to pull over and stop driving, but you should consider repairing or replacing the windshield as soon as possible.

The longer you wait to make a repair, the more chance the crack or chip has to spread. Several situations can cause a chip to spread and become a serious crack:

  • Sudden stresses, such as if you hit a pothole
  • Sudden changes in temperature, such as turning on the AC after the car’s been sitting in the sun
  • High heat, because glass expands and contracts
  • Vibrations your car naturally produces as you drive

State laws may also dictate if you can legally drive with a cracked or chipped windshield. Typically, the law defines the size and location of cracks that aren’t acceptable. Often the law prohibits you from driving a vehicle where the damage is in front of the driver’s face.

In Utah, for example, vehicles can’t pass the safety inspection if there are any cracks inside the “acute area,” which is the area of the windshield inside a six-inch boarder from the edge of the glass. Damage or repairs of more than one inch aren’t allowed within the acute area.

Georgia prohibits windshields with cracks in a starburst pattern or spider web effect that are larger than three-by-three inches. Intersecting cracks, chips larger than a quarter inch, and chips and cracks in the area in front of the driver are also against the law.

You could be ticketed for driving a vehicle that violates these rules or one that hasn’t passed a safety inspection because of windshield damage.

Image 1: Chipped windshield

Image 2: Cracked windshield

Cracked windshield repair

Whether the windshield glass can be repaired instead of replaced depends on the size and location of the crack or chip. Repairing the chip is much cheaper than completely replacing the glass. The National Windshield Repair Association says that a crack smaller than the size of a dollar bill can usually be repaired, as can chips up to about the size of a quarter.

However, if the crack is in the driver’s line of sight, you should have it replaced because repairing the glass could distort the driver’s vision. If the crack extends from the edge of the window, experts suggest replacing the windshield no matter how long the crack is, because these types of cracks often spread quickly, according to the American Automobile Association.

To repair a chip or small crack, inject a polymer resin into the crack and let the resin dry, then smooth out the area so you can’t notice the repair. You can purchase do-it-yourself windshield crack repair kits at auto parts stores, but the AAA recommends leaving the job to a professional who has the experience to do a skilled job, as well as access to specialized tools and advanced resins.

The sooner you get the windshield repaired, the easier it is to do a good repair. If you wait, rain can wash dirt into the crack and make it harder to fill with resin. For a quick home remedy, you can cover the chip with clear tape or fill it with nail polish or superglue until you can get it repaired. However, those quick fixes are only temporary solutions.

Windshield repair costs

Costs for repairing a windshield depend on issues such as the size of damage, your location, and the technician you choose. Repairs for a single chip fall in the $60–$100 range, with longer cracks costing over $100 to fix.

Woman on the phone about a cracked windshield

Windshield replacement

If your windshield damage is too bad for a repair job, the glass must be replaced. The cost for this service varies widely depending on the vehicle you own. Replacing the windshield in a regular sedan might average $250–$300, while the same procedure for a luxury car could run 50% higher.

If your car has an advanced driver assistance system, with cameras and sensors that support to the vehicle’s safety features, you may be looking at a much higher price tag, perhaps in the $1,500–$2,000 range. You might be required to use original equipment replacement glass, which can be costlier than aftermarket windshields, and the driver assistance system will have to be recalibrated after the new windshield is installed. Often, the recalibration can only be performed at a car dealership’s shop.

Will insurance pay to replace my windshield?

If you have comprehensive coverage on your car, your insurance company might reimburse you if your windshield cracks or shatters due to a stray rock. Comprehensive coverage is the part of your auto insurance that covers non-collision-related claims, such as flooding, fire, or hailstorms. This type of coverage is normally optional, but your lender may require you to have it until you pay off your auto loan.

Comprehensive coverage usually has a deductible, or the amount you have to pay up front before the insurance company covers the claim. If you have a high deductible, you may end up paying for the windshield out of pocket. However, some states require insurance companies to waive the deductible for windshield repairs or replacement because they consider driving with a damaged windshield to be dangerous.

Some insurers may also offer separate glass coverage that could pay for the cost of repairing or replacing a window. This is known as full glass coverage, and it’s not available in every state. Contact your insurance agent if you’re interested in such a policy.

If the windshield damage occurred during a collision, repairs or replacement should be covered by insurance.

Repair and replacement of the windshield. Car mechanic is putting a black sealant to a windshield.
Automobile special workers replacing windscreen or windshield of a car in auto service station garage. Background

Can you repair a windshield yourself?

If you like DIY projects, you might wonder if you can do the windshield repair by yourself.

It’s possible to repair a chip or crack using a kit purchased in an auto parts store or big box retailer or ordered online. Kits cost less than $20. The repair should take you about an hour, and you might want to do it on a clear day because the sun will help dry the resin faster.

The steps will vary depending on the kit your purchase, but here’s the general windshield repair process:

  1. Clean the area around the crack with rubbing alcohol, and use a pin to remove any loose glass chips from the crack.
  2. The kit will have a two-sided adhesive seal that you center over the chip. On top of that you’ll adhere the mechanism designed to hold the syringe that injects the resin—some kits call it a pedestal.
  3. Following the manufacturer’s directions and recommended waiting times, use the syringe to remove air and bubbles from the cracked area, and then to inject the resin.
  4. After you remove the seal, pedestal, and syringe, you’ll spread more resin over the crack, let it dry, and scrape off extra resin with a razor.

If that sounds like a lot of work, many auto repair services offer mobile service and will come to your home or office to take care of the crack for you.

DIY: How to replace a windshield

While you might be up to repairing a small crack, replacing an entire windshield is much bigger and more daunting task. You may also have to invest in specialized tools, such as a special blade to cut through the sealant around the windshield and suction cups to help you place the windshield correctly.

Here’s a simplified look at the basic process for replacing a cracked windshield:

  1. Remove the molding and review mirror, cut around the windshield to release the seal, and press the old windshield out from the inside.
  2. Remove the old urethane bead that held the glass in place and apply a fresh line of urethane all around the edge of the windshield opening.
  3. Use suction cup handles to place the windshield into the correct position and apply pressure to set it in place.
  4. Replace the trim and touch up any paint that was scratched during the installation.
  5. Let the urethane cure, which could take 24 hours or longer depending on the brand and the weather conditions.

Before you decide to DIY a windshield installation, remember the safety functions the windshield performs in your vehicle. A windshield that’s installed incorrectly can pop out of the car if involved in an accident, which could make it more likely the occupants would be ejected or harmed in a rollover accident.

Before undertaking this project, it makes sense to see if your insurance company will cover professional replacement. As with windshield repairs, glass shops will come to your home or office and replace the windshield in about an hour.

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