Discovering a crack or chip in your windshield is frustrating, but few people attend to this damage with the immediacy it deserves. It's common for people to drive around for months with such fractures, but the longer the damage exists, the greater the windshield repair cost. If left untreated, you'll likely have to get your windshield completely replaced.
Costs may vary depending on the type of crack, its severity and the make and model of the car involved. Charges are per incident - that is, fixing each crack is usually a separate charge.
- Small cracks generally cost between $20 and $60 to repair.
- Long cracks cost up to $100 to fix, on average.
- A windshield replacement commonly costs between $150 and $300.
How a Windshield Works
The front windshield is made of safety glass - two planes of glass held together with a thin inner layer of vinyl. An oven known as an autoclave applies heat and pressure to the layers, laminating glass together. Because of this process, damage usually occurs only on the outside layer. In larger accidents with a lot of breaks, the glass can shatter, but the windshield won't disintegrate because of the lamination.
Tempered glass is heated to over 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tempered glass covers the side and rear windows. This glass is heated to more than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit - over 600 degrees Celsius - and then cooled rapidly. The process makes the glass several times stronger without making it thicker. It also means, in the event of a severe accident, the windows will break into small, mostly harmless pieces instead of larger shards.
An Overview of Windshield Damage
The Parts of a Windshield Crack
Auto repair shops have their own terminology identifying the different elements of windshield damage. Knowing these terms helps you explain your problem to an auto technician.
- Impact site: The damaged area of a windshield.
- Pit: The exact point of impact where a piece of debris struck your windshield. Most pits are easy to spot, as a small piece of glass is chipped away when the debris hits.
- Legs: Cracks that splinter out from the pit.
Types of Windshield Damage
Not all windshield problems are the same, and some cracks or breaks are easier to fix than others.
Cracks can't be repaired - you'll have to replace the windshield.
- Cracks are single lines that often occur toward the edges of your windshield. Cracks can't be repaired - you'll have to replace the windshield.
- Bull's eyes look like a circle surrounding a single point of impact - think of a bull's eye on a dart board. These are some of the easiest cracks to fix.
- Half moon breaks form after a piece of debris strikes the windshield at a singular point. They're similar to a bull's eye, but the difference is they are semi-circular in appearance. The fact that they aren't completely round actually makes them easier to repair than bull's eyes.
- Star breaks occur when debris strikes a windshield and various legs stem out from the point of impact. They look more like asterisks - or stars in the sky - rather than a traditional five-pointed star. Star breaks get worse over time, so it's best to get them repaired immediately.
- Combination breaks are some of the most difficult to repair. They're a mix of two or more types of cracks and often result in missing bits of glass.
Causes of Damage
- Debris is the most common cause of chipped or broken windshields.
- Hail causes damage similar to gravel. Slowing down during inclement weather reduces the impact.
- Accidents, such as collisions with other vehicles, often cause windshield damage.
- Drastic, rapid temperature changes make glass expand and contract. The edge of your windshield heats up faster than the middle, so the expansion and contraction occurs at different rates.
- Abrupt pressure changes from high speeds, objects pressing on the glass or other causes may cause damage.
- Sunlight causes damage similar to temperature changes.
- A loose windshield resulting from poor installation can lead to damage. The glass will vibrate when driving at high speeds or through heavy winds, causing it to crack.
How to Reduce Your Chances of Windshield Damage
- Drive slower, especially when approaching other cars or driving on gravel roads. Decreasing your speed will reduce any potential damage.
- Park safely away from areas of high-speed travel like highways. It's also a good idea to park away from sports fields, trees and areas with children.
- Follow other cars at a safe distance. Tailgating increases your likelihood of getting hit by debris sent flying from the tires ahead of you.
- Watch out for large trucks, especially construction trucks. These vehicles carry lots of rocks and other debris that falls onto the road.
- Be careful in construction zones and on gravel roads. Drive slowly in these areas and don't tailgate other cars. In addition, keep an eye on the tires ahead of you. Most gravel in construction areas sits on the shoulders of the road, so be on the lookout for cars drifting over the white lines.
Additional factors to consider
Water can get inside the crack and fog, freeze or delaminate the glass.
Why it's Important to Have Your Windshield Repaired as Soon as Possible
Cracks, bull's eye breaks and other windshield damage can easily get worse over time. The crack weakens the windshield, so other debris can more easily cause additional damage. Plus, cracks must be cleaned before repairs start. The longer a crack goes untreated, the more dirt gets inside it and the harder it is to fully clean. Water can also get inside the crack and fog, freeze or delaminate the glass.
In addition, damage to your windshield impairs visibility and creates dangerous driving conditions. It doesn't matter if the crack doesn't occur on the driver's side of the windshield - you need as close to 360-degree visibility as possible when driving.
Getting a Bad Repair
Many people hope to cut costs on their vehicle maintenance, but it's always a bad idea to go with the cheapest option without doing further research. Some technicians simply pound a new glass windshield in place instead of taking the care necessary to place one properly. A poorly-installed windshield can pop out in the event of an accident. This makes it easier for passengers to end up launched from the car. Also, a windshield helps support the vehicle's roof. If it flies out, the roof can cave in and seriously harm anyone inside the car.
Windshield Repair Best Practices
- Don't delay. Have your car repaired as soon as possible. Otherwise, the damage will spread over time and could necessitate an entire replacement.
- Find an installer certified by the Auto Glass Safety Council. These technicians are tested on their knowledge of glass replacement types and techniques, Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and National Auto Glass Specifications.
- Ask how often a repair professional replaces windshields. You want someone with experience.
- Use the same glass as the original manufacturer.
A damaged windshield can raise your insurance premiums.
Going to a professional is always a good idea, but you may not immediately have the funds or the time. A damaged windshield can raise your insurance premiums, and some insurers don't cover the cost of repairs. Luckily, certain small chips are easy to fix yourself. These include star breaks, bull's eyes and half moons.
- Purchase a repair kit at an auto supply store or the automotive section of a mass merchandiser. You might also be able to find one from a distributor.
- Use a small amount of acetone - not detergents or window cleaner - to clean the windshield. Don't start repairs until the glass is completely dry and close to room temperature.
- Follow instructions on the kit. Most have a syringe full of adhesive you will inject into the crack.
- Allow some adhesive to sit above the crack. Let it cure for a few hours.
- Use a razor blade to scrape the excess adhesive off so the windshield's surface is even.