Chips and Cracks: When to Repair or Replace a Damaged Windshield
If your vehicle’s windshield gets chipped or cracked, should you repair or replace it? Regardless of where you live, your windshield may take a beating. There could be pea gravel falling from uncovered construction trucks, sanitation vehicles laying down salt and sand when the weather calls for it and the occasional chunk of unknown debris kicked up by cars passing by.
I once had a pigeon fatally misjudge the 18-wheeler I was following under an overpass and fall onto my windshield. I thought my whole windshield was going to come down on me. It’s amazing that windshields survive as long as they do.
No matter the cause, it’s important to repair or replace your windshield after it has been damaged to help ensure it doesn’t get worse. Whether you need to fix a small ding or replace the whole windshield, here’s what you need to know about a damaged windshield
When to Repair or Replace
The good news is that smaller chips and cracks can usually be repaired by a professional for a reasonable fee, according to Edmunds. If the chip or crack can be covered by a dollar bill, Safelite Auto Glass says it’s typically safe to repair.
However, if the chip is directly in the driver’s line of sight, there are more than three cracks or chips on the glass, the damage is at the edge of the windshield or the windshield is old and covered with tiny divots, it should be replaced rather than repaired, says Safelite. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the windshield serves as an important structural part in many vehicles that contributes to the overall strength of the car — this is why it’s important to repair cracks before they grow and your windshield must be completely replaced.
The repair process works by injecting a special resin into the chipped area. For cracks, holes may be drilled at the ends of the crack to help prevent it from spreading. Windshields are made of three layers: A layer of resin or polymer is sandwiched between two layers of glass, says Popular Mechanics. Drilling to, but not through, the plastic takes an experienced hand.
If your windshield can be repaired, do it immediately. A small chip can spread across the windshield if you hit a big pothole, drive on a bumpy road or make an aggressive turn, says Glass.com. And, most states make it illegal to drive a car with a cracked windshield, says the Insurance Information Institute. If you’re on the road away from home, a repair company can typically come to you.
If you’re comfortable doing so, you can attempt to repair the chip or crack yourself. There are many do-it-yourself repair kits available at auto parts stores, and they often replicate the resin injection technique of the professionals. The difference, of course, is the quality of the tools and materials as well as the training and expertise of the person administering the repair. Because these kits may not perfectly replicate a professional repair, you might want to consider using them on chips that are located in an inconspicuous area, like the bottom right corner of the passenger side.
Remember, a key function of the repair is to help prevent the crack or chip from expanding or spreading, and also to help restore some of the structural integrity of the glass. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the DIY repair process, consider hiring a professional.
The takeaway: Repair if possible and logical. Replace if you must. And consider using a professional for best results.
Originally published on May 29, 2016.