There’s a sound that occurs when a rock or pebble hits your windshield that is unique among most sounds. Most people, if they were asked to close their eyes and listen, would be able to pick out the sound easily. It’s a mix of a smack, whack, and splintery sound that makes anyone cringe. We all know it’s going to need to be either repaired or replaced. To help you decide, here are four questions to ask yourself as you consider whether to repair or replace your cracked windshield.
How deep is the damage?
Modern windshields are made of two layers of tempered glass with a plastic resin sandwiched between them. Auto glass manufacturers developed this type of glass specifically for the front windshield of cars. The side windows are made of tempered glass that is thicker and will shatter into a thousand glittering pieces when hit with something hard. This is not the case with household window glass. It is made of strong, clear glass that breaks into long slivers and could easily skewer an adult or child. Neither of these types of glass will last long at the front of your vehicle while you are driving at speed. Even tiny pebbles would create instant havoc to the front driver and passenger.
Because of this three layered construction, the damage can be shallow and barely dent the first layer of tempered glass. It can be slightly deeper and go into the plastic resin middle layer. Or it can go completely through all three layers leaving a whistling hole in your windshield.
If the crack is only through to the first or second layer, it’s likely you can repair it yourself or have it repaired. If it’s the final case and you can push a toothpick through to the inside and feel it’s poke on your finger, then you’ll likely want to have an auto glass repair guru go through it to see if it needs to be repaired or replaced. Most likely it will require replacement.
How close is the crack to the edge of the frame?
Cracks that touch the windshield frame or that are within a few inches of it are not very good candidates for repair. Todays auto manufacturers have engineered the windshield to be part of the structure that keeps the roof from collapsing when the car is in a rollover accident. Cracks that touch the frame are extremely difficult to repair and are unlikely to stay repaired. This is also true for those close the edge. This type of damage directly affects the integrity of the frame support and could cause a roof to collapse onto the passengers inside, severely hurting them or worse, killing someone. The risk is too high to take. It’s best to just have the windshield replaced.
How big is the chip or crack?
Most cracks less than an inch and a half in diameter and only exposing the plastic resin can be easily fixed with a home windshield repair kit. These are easy to do and normally take only a half a day to accomplish. You can find them online at Amazon.com or you can go to your local Walmart or Sears for a kit. You can also purchase them at Autozone or another auto parts store in your area.
Your local auto repair shops can also easily repair damaged windshields up to three inches in diameter. If the damage is larger than that, most auto repair shops will tell you to replace your windshield. There are some specialty repair shops who are willing to repair a crack up to 12 inches long, but they are quite expensive and it might be more cost effective to have it replaced.
What does my insurance cover?
Most insurances today are required to cover repairs of small cracks done by an auto repair shop and you won’t have to pay anything. However, there is legislature in Arizona being backed by some insurance companies to remove that requirement. So things could drastically change in the near future. Especially if the insurance companies are successful in their lobbying to have the requirement removed. So check with your insurance to see what they cover, how much it will cost you, and if you have a say in who repairs or replaces your windshield. Some insurance companies have specific requirements regarding whether to repair or replace a windshield, so you’ll want to know ahead of time what they are so you’re not incurring costs you don’t need to.
Deciding whether to repair or replace a windshield is an important decision for the safety of yourself, your family, and those who ride with you. Don’t wait to decide what to do because the longer you wait, the more chance the damage will spread. Using your windshield wipers, having the sun beat down on the crack, or allowing water to stay and freeze in the crack are just a few ways the crack can continue to grow, so decide quickly then act just as quickly to repair the damage so you can go back to smiling through your clean clear front windshield.