Car Window Replacement: DIY or Hire an Auto Glass Specialist?

By Sandy John
Car accident broken glass

The windows on the side and rear of your car aren’t as prone to chips and cracks as the windshield, but they do get cracked and broken in accidents and break-ins.

When side or rear windows are broken, they usually have to be replaced. Below, we’ll look at the cost of replacing car windows and consider the pros and cons of DIY vs. professional car window replacement.

My car window is broken. What do I do next?

The side windows on your car do more than give your passengers a view. The windows keep dirt and fumes out of the passenger compartment, trap heat and air conditioning inside, and protect the interior of your vehicle and the occupants from rain and snow. Windows, while breakable, also provide some protection from theft, although that might be difficult to believe if your car was just vandalized.

Until you can arrange to have your car window replaced, you want to cover up the gaping hole in the window. It’s not going to look attractive, but it’ll help keep the dirt and weather out. Here’s what to do.

  1. Remove all the broken glass. Put on gardening gloves or leather gloves to protect your hands, then pick up the large glass pieces and throw them away. Use a vacuum to clean up the smaller pieces of glass in the interior of the vehicle. Be sure to put the vacuum nozzle right up to the window frame to get any glass that’s inside the door.
  2. Clean the area around the window seal and window frame on the interior of the car. This area needs to be free of dirt, so you can tape your window patch there. Use water, cleaner, or rubbing alcohol to remove the dirt. Test the rubbing alcohol or cleaning spray in an inconspicuous spot first to make sure it won’t remove any color or damage any fabrics.
  3. Use clear packing tape to create a covering for the window. Working on the inside of the window, apply the tape in vertical strips across the window, starting at the top. After the first strip, every strip should partially overlap the strip beside it. Continue until you’ve covered the entire opening.
  4. Alternately, you can tape heavy plastic, bubble wrap, or cardboard over the opening. Plastic is a better choice than cardboard because it will stand up to rain and keep moisture out better.

Will insurance cover the car window replacement?

Contact your insurance company about the broken window as soon as possible. Whether your insurance will cover the auto glass replacement depends on the cause of the breakage and your insurance policy.

If the window was broken due to vandalism or theft, the repairs may be covered if your policy includes comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage covers non-collision damage to your car, such as damage caused by theft, hail storms, or floods. This type of coverage is optional, unless your lender requires it until you pay off your car loan, so some people drop the coverage when their car is older.

Comprehensive coverage usually has a deductible, and you will have to pay the full amount of the deductible before the insurance company will pay anything. If your deductible is $500 and the window replacement cost is $250, you’ll have to cover the entire cost yourself.

Some insurance companies also offer optional full glass coverage policies that cover window breakage.

If the side or rear window was damaged as part of an accident, the replacement should be covered under your collision coverage. If you have a deductible, you will have to pay the full amount of the deductible before the insurance company picks up the bill for car window replacement and other repairs of damage from the accident.

How much does it cost to replace a car window?

The cost of car window replacement depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Which window needs to be replaced—If you’re replacing the rear window, the window might be wired for a defroster or built-in antenna, which make it a more expensive part.
  • The make and model of the car—The price could be higher if you have a newer model.
  • The kind of glass—Many cars have tempered glass as a safety feature. Tempered glass shatters without sharp edges, so it’s less likely to hurt anyone, but is more expensive than regular glass. Because of its tendency to shatter, you always have to replace a broken window made of tempered glass. New cars may have laminated glass windows, which cost more than tempered glass.
  • Whether the glass is tinted or not—Tinted glass may cost more to replace.
  • Whether the car has crank-up windows or power windows—Dealing with the power window mechanism adds complexity, so there are higher labor costs when you replace the glass in a power window.

All these variables mean there is no easy answer to the cost question. For instance, the prices quoted for a Honda Civic include are about $150–$170 for side windows and $170–$190 for vent windows. However, the cost for replacing the rear window on the Civic varies widely:

  • Hatchbacks will be at least $300, but older hatchback windows could cost up to $450.
  • Back windows for coupes and sedans are around $300 for more recent models but closer to $200 for older models.

If you want to install the window yourself, you may be able to save money by finding a used window. Check with local auto recyclers. You’ll probably have better luck locating a useable window if you have a model that sold well, making it easier to find a junked version of the same model.

broken tempered glass

Broken tempered glass

DIY car window replacement

If you’re comfortable working with tools, you may be able to replace the side windows in your car yourself, especially if your car doesn’t have power windows. It’s best to check the manual to learn about your specific model, but here are the general steps to replacing car window glass yourself:

  1. Remove the door panel. Use a flathead screwdriver to pry out the plastic panel, then remove the screws that hold the panel in place.
  2. Unscrew the window crank. If it’s a power window, unscrew the power window switch, then unplug the connector.
  3. Remove the door handle, then the door panel.
  4. Peel back the liner that you’ll find behind the panel to reach the inside workings of the door.
  5. Roll the window all the way down, then unscrew and remove the nuts.
  6. Vacuum up any remaining shards of glass you find inside the door. If the glass is in large pieces, put on heavy gloves and carefully pull it out.
  7. Place the new glass into the track, loosening the track bolt if needed to get the window to slide in.
  8. Line up the mounting holes and tighten the nuts to hold the window. Then, screw the track bolt back in.
  9. Check the window to make sure it smoothly rolls up and down.
  10. Reinstall everything you removed in the reverse order that you took items off the door.

For someone who has never replaced a car window, the process could take a couple of hours, and getting the new glass properly seated on the track can be a little fiddly and frustrating. And, of course, DIY projects don’t come with a guarantee, so if something doesn’t work, or your door starts rattling, you’ll have to take the door panels off again to fix the problem.

Professional car window replacement

For ease and convenience, professional installation is the way to go. Choose a reputable automobile window service, so you can be confident the window is safely installed and will protect your passengers.

If the repair is covered by insurance, find out if the insurance company recommends any glass shops or has cost agreements with any shops.

If not, check reviews of local shops and pick out a few auto glass repair services to call.

  • Ask the shop about its guarantee policy, and make sure you get the warranty in writing.
  • Look for a service that emphasizes technician training and certification.

Many car window replacement services have mobile units that will come to your home or office to install your window, so you don’t need to interrupt your busy day. Some also let you schedule the service online at your convenience.

Professional technicians will follow the same replacement process as a car owner would use, although they have the expertise to do the job faster. They may also have specialized tools that make it easier to pry off the panels. Most importantly, their work should come with a guarantee.

FAQ: Car window replacement

How long does it take to replace a car window?

Technicians that specialize in auto window repair can replace a side car window in about an hour. They can also replace a cracked windshield in about an hour, although they generally recommend that the car remains sitting for at least one hour while the adhesives cure. Chipped windshields can sometimes be repaired in 30 minutes.

What’s the difference between tempered and laminated glass car windows?

Tempered, or toughened, glass is created by being heated quickly and then cooled rapidly, resulting in glass that’s about four times as strong as regular glass. Tempered glass breaks into tiny pieces when it shatters, so people are less likely to be injured by flying shards of glass in a car accident.

Laminated glass is made of several layers of glass bonded together with a strong resin. It’s less likely to break than tempered glass. As of the 2018 model year, all new cars are required to have safety glass, such as laminated glass, on most side windows. The federal government made the rule as part of its efforts to reduce the number of people who die or are injured when ejected from their cars during rollover crashes. Laminated glass is more expensive than tempered glass, but it’s more difficult to break, so side car window replacements may be rarer in the future.

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