Let’s be honest, most of us don’t give much thought to our car’s windshield until we’re squinting through a spider web of cracks. Unfortunately, the longer you wait to fix your damaged windshield, the more dangerous it becomes.
Car windshields are made of laminated glass formed from two layers of glass with a plastic resin in between. This layer of plastic, when undamaged, provides the proper amount of structural support to the windshield frame.
But here’s the problem – when your windshield cracks, chips, or breaks, this vital layer of protection is gone. The longer it remains damaged, the more likely it will need to be replaced instead of repaired.
In this short guide to windshield damage and replacement, we’ll break down some of the main factors to consider when deciding whether you need a repair or replacement windshield. Because, after all, your safety and the safety of those around you are at stake.
What are windshields made of?
Before we look at the signs that your windshield may be struggling to maintain its structural integrity, let’s look at a brief overview of the components that go into making your windshield.
Modern windshields are composed of two layers of glass with a layer of plastic in between them. This plastic layer is what gives the windshield its strength and flexibility, while the two layers of glass help to protect it from flying debris and changes in temperature.
Windshields are strong – they’re designed to take on the force of impacts from wind, rocks, and other debris. And while they are designed to be strong, they can still become damaged and weakened over time.
When a crack or chip appears, the windshield’s integrity is weakened. Any further damage to the windshield, whether it be from a rock chip or an impact with another vehicle, can cause this weakened area to spread and compromise the structural integrity of your entire windshield.
In some cases, the windshield will maintain its protective benefits even with a crack. But if the crack becomes too large or deep, it’s important to get your windshield repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
With regular inspections and minor repair work, you can prevent further damage from occurring and ensure that your windshield remains in top condition. If a major impact has occurred, it is essential to take care of your windshield right away.
With windshield damage, type matters
Now, not all damage is created equal. A little chip caused by a pebble isn’t the same as a large crack caused by a baseball.
And where the damage is makes a difference too – for example, damage near the edge of your windshield is particularly dangerous and should be fixed as soon as possible.
Here are a few types of windshield damage you should keep an eye out for:
- Chips: Small, often circular in shape, chips are caused by flying debris like pebbles or rocks.
- Cracks: Unlike chips, cracks can extend across multiple areas and over several inches of the windshield. They’re usually caused by larger objects like stones or baseballs.
- Bullseyes: These are circular damages with a dark ring around the outside. They’re often caused by large objects hitting your windshield at high speed.
- Starbursts: These are star-like damages that generally have five or six points. They’re usually larger than chips and can occur from an object as small as a pebble, but they typically happen when something hits the window with a lot of force.
- Stress fractures: These are usually caused by temperature changes and can occur in any part of the windshield. They often look like a web or spiderweb, but they can also be lines that run across the glass.
- Pitting: Pitting is when small indentations form on the surface of your windshield. It’s typically caused by acid rain or bug splatter and can be difficult to repair.
- Crazing: Crazing is a network of fine cracks that form on the surface of your windshield. It’s usually caused by an impact, but it can also happen due to extreme temperature changes or chemical exposure.
These types of damage can occur in isolation or all at once. It’s important to have a qualified windshield repair technician inspect your car and diagnose the problem before attempting a repair. In some cases, the damage may be too severe to be repaired, and you will need to replace the entire windshield.
Signs your windshield is damaged
Spotting a huge crack in your windshield is as easy as pie – it’s pretty obvious that you need a repair or replacement.
But other times, windshield damage might not be so clear-cut. But it’s those smaller signs that indicate you need to schedule a windshield repair or replacement right away.
Small chips or cracks
Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Even little chips or cracks can spread and turn into big problems if not addressed. If you spot a chip or a crack that wasn’t there before, it’s a sign your windshield has been damaged.
Large or complex cracks
Bigger, more complicated cracks are often impossible to miss. They might start small and expand over time or appear suddenly after a significant impact. In either case, they’re clear indications that your windshield needs attention.
Edge cracks or chips
Damage along the edge of your windshield might be a bit trickier to spot since it could be hidden under the molding. However, edge damage is particularly important to catch early as it can quickly compromise the structure of your windshield and affect the seal that keeps out moisture and wind.
Discoloration or fogging
If your windshield starts to look a bit off-color or constantly seems foggy, it might be damaged. This isn’t as common, but things like long-term sun exposure can cause discoloration. Consistent fogging can be a sign of a broken seal, letting in moisture.
Wind Noise or Leaks: You might not see the damage, but you can hear or feel it. If you’re noticing an unusual amount of wind noise while driving, it could be due to a small, unnoticeable crack or hole in your windshield. Similarly, if water is making its way into your car when it rains, that’s a surefire sign of windshield damage.
Assessing windshield damage: Repair or replace?
Ever had that moment when you see a crack or chip in your windshield, and you’re left wondering, “Should I repair it or replace it?” You’re not alone – It’s often the million-dollar question that pops up the moment we spot that unfortunate damage.
So how do you decide? It’s not as tricky as you might think. The decision usually depends on the size of the damage, the type of damage, and where it’s located on your windshield.
Size of the damage: As a rule of thumb, chips larger than a quarter or cracks longer than three inches generally call for a windshield replacement. Remember, we’re dealing with safety here, and larger damage compromises the integrity of your windshield.
Type of damage: The damage type is another big factor. If you’ve got a tiny chip, that’s often repairable. But if we’re talking about a complex crack spreading like a spider web across your windshield, you’re probably looking at a replacement.
Location of the damage: Where the damage is located matters. If it’s right in the driver’s line of sight, even a repair can sometimes distort visibility, making driving risky. Damage close to the windshield’s edge can also mean trouble, as it might weaken the windshield’s structural integrity, making replacement a safer choice.
So, repair or replace? It’s a case-by-case call. Small, simple damage can often be repaired, saving you time and money. Don’t wait too long, though, as the damage can worsen in time. If it’s large and complex, you’ll probably want to replace the windshield altogether. Either way, be sure to have a professional take a look so you can make an informed decision.
Don’t risk it, fix it
When it comes to windshield damage, there’s no room for risk. Even a small chip or crack can quickly become a major issue. From compromising your vehicle’s integrity to impairing visibility on the road, damaged windshields are a big deal.
Here’s the thing: your windshield is one of the key safety components of your car. It shields you from the elements, contributes to proper airbag deployment, and even supports your car roof during a rollover. That seemingly minor crack or chip could mean the difference between safety and danger in an accident.
Therefore, at the first sign of damage, be proactive. Make it a priority to get your windshield assessed by professionals. Many folks fret over the inconvenience or cost but remember, most insurance providers cover windshield repairs, allowing you to fix your windshield at any reputable and approved repair shop nationwide. And ignoring the issue will only lead to bigger (and likely more expensive) problems down the line.
This is where we can help. If finding the right windshield repair provider is keeping you from fixes, myWindshield provides a comprehensive list of the best locations for windshield replacement services!