When to Repair vs. When to Replace a Windshield


What’s the Difference Between a Chip and a Crack in a Windshield?

 

windshield-chip-repair

A typical windshield chip. This one is considered to be a “combination break”.

Minor windshield damage normally comes in two major forms – chips and cracks. A chip is generally damage in the windshield that clearly marks the point of impact by debris. This point of impact can be in the form of a star break (short cracks forming outward from the center), bulls-eye (circular), partial bulls-eye (half-moon shape), crack chip (small crack less than _ inch), or pit (gouge). Cracks create a distinct line in the glass that can range from under an inch up to the width of your windshield. They generally run horizontally in a straight or somewhat wavy line.

Even long cracks in a windshield are sometimes repairable.

Can Your Glass be Repaired?

Whether or not your windshield can be repaired depends on four main factors:

Size

Windshield repair technology is a rapidly advancing industry, so the ability to repair large chips or cracks changes often and can vary depending on the repair company. Generally speaking, chips smaller than a quarter, and cracks up to three inches long can be easily repaired. The Repair of Laminated Automotive Glass Standard (ROLAGS) guide, administered by the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA), specifies limits on repair sizes depending on the type of damage (bulls-eye, pit, crack, ect.) with the upper limits of a chip being three inches and a crack up to 14 inches. Again, these sizes may vary depending on the location of the damage, as well as the shop’s capabilities. For more technical specifications, check out the the full ROLAGS guide the full ROLAGS guide.

windshield-crack-repair
Even long cracks in a windshield are sometimes repairable.

Depth

This is closely related to the size of the damage, but in regards to how deep the damage penetrates into the windshield. A windshield is basically a glass sandwich– an outer layer of glass, a plastic interlayer, and an inside layer of glass. If the damage is through the outer and inner layer of glass, it is too deep to perform a windshield repair.

Location

The location of the damage greatly effects the ability to perform a windshield repair. If the damage extends to the outer edge of the glass, there is a greater chance that the structural integrity of the windshield has been compromised. Because the windshield is responsible for up to 60% of structural strength in the event of vehicle rollover, it is imperative that it is replaced properly with a new windshield.

Another place where windshield repair should not be performed is within the driver’s line of sight (the glass covered by the driver’s windshield wiper). Repairs will often cause some amount of distortion which can impair a driver’s view of the road if within their line of sight.

Lastly, damage in the view of sensors such as rain sensors, lane departure warning systems, automatic braking systems, or other automated driver assistance systems (ADAS) related components may not be repairable. These sensors require a crystal clear view and even a near perfect repair may cause malfunctions.

When to Replace Your Auto Glass

Safety

Above all, safety is paramount. Many consumers think it’s okay to drive around with a crack in their windshield. It’s not—in fact this can pose a safety risk.

The reality is The Windshield’s Vital Role

In a front end collision, the windshield provides up to 45% of the structural integrity of the cabin of the vehicle and in a rollover, up to 60%, according to the Auto Glass Safety Council. It’s important to ensure the structural integrity of your windshield, so have your windshield evaluated by a professional as soon as possible and make any recommended repairs.

Who to Go to for Replacement

mobile-windshield-repair
Mobile windshield techs use special equipment to perform near-flawless repairs.

 

What does that mean when that rock, or other debris, hits your windshield and causes damage? It means that when it’s time to fix that chip or crack, you will want to choose a company that will install the windshield properly. Choose a company on Glass.com, and pay special attention to those with the AGSC badge. Don’t let time go by when damage occurs. Find a reputable company and installer and make the call today.

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Questions? Contact info@glass.com.

37 responses to “When to Repair vs. When to Replace a Windshield”

  1. I appreciate that you point out that if the damage is at the outer edge of the glass, then it most likely will need to be repaired. I can see why it would be important to talk with the professional about the location and what they recommend to do. It might be helpful to make a list of pros and cons if you do what they recommend. Perhaps it is more expensive than you want, but it could end up lasting a long time.

  2. Thanks for the kind words Scott! I think you hit the nail on the head. When it’s necessary, windshield replacement is more expensive than windshield repair, but shops are really looking out for the best interest of the customer in what will permanently and safely fix the damage.

  3. It’s interesting to read about some of the different factors that go into whether a windshield can be repaired or replaced. I didn’t know that the size and depth of a crack can determine whether it’s safe to drive with. I’ll have to take the car in to see if it can be repaired or if simply replacing it would be the safest option.

  4. I appreciate the tip you gave, that depending on the chip of crack size, you can have it repaired rather than the entire window replaced. My car just got a chip in the windshield and I’ve heard that the longer you drive with it chipped, the bigger it will get. I’ll be sure to have it repaired before it becomes too big to do so!

    • I’m glad you found the information useful, Kourtney! Many of our affiliates perform windshield repairs in addition to replacements so feel free to use us a resource when choosing a repair shop.

  5. I like that you mentioned that cracks on the drivers line of sight should be replaced and not repaired. It makes sense that you don’t want any distortion to make seeing more difficult. I have been trying to decide whether to repair or replace my windshield, because it has a pretty big crack. This article should definitely help me make my decision, thanks!

  6. It makes sense that a crack that goes to the edge of the windshield would compromise the strength of it. We have a car that has 2 long cracks along the right side of the front window and we are kind of worried about its ability to protect us now. If the structural integrity has been weakened I think it’s time that we get a windshield replacement.

  7. I like what you mentioned about how if your glass is damaged from one side of the window to the other, it’s probably a good idea for it to be replaced. Thanks for your comment about how it’s not safe to be driving with a crack in your windshield. My father needs to have his windshield replaced, so we are considering auto glass repair services that will be able to provide that service.

  8. I liked that you had mentioned that if the damage is through the outer and inner layer of glass that it’s too deep to perform a repair on the windshield. I was recently driving home from work and the truck in front of me had run over a rock that was then thrown into my front windshield and it has left a large chip that has turned into a crack. Mine might be in the situation where I’ll need to get it repaired because the chip goes pretty deep and I’d rather not have worry about it, I’ll have to start looking for a professional.

  9. I had no idea that the location of the windshield damage could play such a huge role in trying to get it fixed. If the windshield if 60% of vehicles structural strength I should probably get the crack in mine fixed soon. It’s been hard enough to see out of as it is so I don’t want to risk it getting worse. Thanks for sharing!

  10. My windshield has quite a long crack across the width of the windshield. I have to get my safety and emissions done to register my car and I’m worried I won’t pass because of the length of the crack and where it is located. I’m needing to get it replaced but I’m worried about the cost and it just getting cracked again since there is so much road construction going on.

    • Hi Kourtney, a cracked windshield is an unsafe windshield and should be replaced as soon as possible. Unfortunately, having a crack appear again is a risk that all drives run. One way to possibly help offset the pain of replacement would be to review your insurance policy to see if they provide coverage and perhaps speak with your insurance company about adding this option if it’s not already part of your policy.

  11. I never knew that windshield provided a good portion of the structural integrity in a vehicle during collisions and rollovers. My husband’s windshield is cracked. We should look into getting that fixed soon to be safer.

  12. Thanks for sharing an informative post! I definitely agree that safety is paramount. Any issue from a car’s tools should be checked out immediately for repair or replacement as it can pose a safety risk. If ever my car gets a small crack in the windshield, I’d make sure to go to a professional auto shop right away.

  13. Thanks for your tips on whether to replace a windshield. I like how you recommended seeing where the damage is located. My wife was driving and had a rock come up and hit her windshield. The crack is starting to reach the edge of the window. It sounds like we will need to look around for a good company.

  14. Thanks for sharing this informative post! I agree that driving around with a crack in your car’s windshield is indeed dangerous. If I had even a tiny crack in my windshield, I’ll make sure to have a professional check it out.

  15. I do agree, safety is paramount. I’ll follow your tips and have my car’s windshield repaired asap. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Thanks for the in-depth list!

  16. Thanks so much for letting us know that a windshield provides up to 60% of the cabin’s structural integrity in a rollover. I recently got a huge crack in my windshield and have been wondering if I should get a replacement or have it repaired. I will definitely have to get a replacement since I know it is so important to the structural integrity of the vehicle if it rolls over.

  17. I broke my windshield today by prying on the edge with a screwdriver. I did this while trying to replace the outer seal. I am so mad I am seeing stars.

  18. For the longest time, my fiance and I have been wondering if we should get a windshield replacement service to come look at our car. We are worried about our safety with the state that it is in. Knowing that this is a good tell for replacement, we will be considering this more closely.

  19. It was quite helpful when you said that repair is not advisable if the crack of the windshield is in the line of sight of the driver because repairing will cause some amount of distortion that will impair the driver’s view of the road. I guess it’s safe to say that if this were the case, then we have no choice but to get the window replaced. The windshield of the car has a crack the size of a penny near the driver’s line of sight. It might be for the best to bring it to an expert and get the glass replaced before I get arrested by the authority. Thanks!

  20. I have probably 3 or 4 pits, gouges, whatever you call them, they look as if the glass has a 1mm bubble where the stones hit, are these significant enough to have repaired via the drilling out/epoxy resin repair? Can these types of pits cause cracks eventually? It gets cold up here and that’s usually when you hear of windows cracking when the defroster is turned on and warming up.. Just curious, thanks!

    • Thanks for the question Rye! From your description, it sounds like these would be repairable, but your best bet it to have them evaluated in person by a local repair shop (find one here). Small pits/gouges are less likely to turn into cracks than impacts like star breaks, but it’s still possible. You’ll want to get them evaluated and repaired as soon as possible, especially if they affect your line of vision when driving.

  21. Another question, I own a 2016 RAM 1500 pickup, it weighs 5500lbs, now I know RAM was rated very badly for rollover safety on this year of pickups, you say up to 60% of the structural integrity comes from the windshield. Now I know the pickups issue is more than likely a design flaw, but could the poor rating be somewhat due to the OEM windshield that the pickup comes with, if by upgrading from the OEM windshield, could it potentially add some strength? These OEM windows chip if you look at them the wrong way, RAM reaaaaally cheaped out on some of the stock options. (Windshield, tires etc.) I really can’t fathom how a windshield would help protect in a rollover in a vehicle that weighs this much. Especially if it lands on top and stays on the roof of the cab.

    • Rye,

      You’re correct- your 2016 RAM 1500 received a roof strength rating of “marginal” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In comparison, the 2016 Ford F-150 and 2016 Chevy Silverado both received ratings of “Good”. However, rollover resistance and roof strength have always been weaknesses for pickups due to high centers of gravity and heaviness (respectively).

      The IIHS tests roof strength by pressing a metal plate against the roof. The roof must withstand a force of at least 4 times the vehicle’s weight before the roof is crushed 5 inches to receive a “good” rating. For your RAM that’s 22,000 lbs.!

      Many factors could cause a weak roof from the thickness and type of metal used, to the design of the roof itself. The glass certainly plays into this, but it’s impossible to say if that’s the determining factor in this particular case.

      However, there are other important options that should be considered besides just the strength of the roof itself. Is your truck equipped with Electronic Stability Control (ESC)? This can help prevent rollovers altogether. Does it have side curtain airbags? This can help protect passengers in the event of a rollover.

      Thanks for the question and stay safe out there!

  22. My windshield has a crack. My insurance company will waive the deductible if I can have it “safely repaired.” But they said because the crack was “larger than a dollar bill” the windshield would probably need to be replaced which would cost less than my deductible. How can I tell if it can be “safely repaired?” I am not a glass expert.

    • Hi Ruth,

      Great question! As you can see in the article above, there are many factors that go into determining whether or not a crack can be repaired. The best way to determine whether or not it can be repaired safely is to have it evaluated by a local, reputable windshield repair shop.

  23. I had a stone crack my windshield on Mon., May 7, and the construction company in charge of the road construction said they would replace the windshield, which saved me 629.00. However I had to go to their place of business where I was met by 2 men in a white van, they said it would take 20 min. to repair. They put in a new windshield, the correct one for my Honda Van, but said they did not have to replace the seal around it. They would just place in the glass and that should be okay. My question is, will it be okay or will the window fall out? Yikes dont know what to do. Also I received no papers, guarantee. They have their own crew to do this with their work trucks.

  24. I had a chip recently. A star. The damage did not go through to the inner glass. From point to point the star was about 1 inch wide. It occurred on the driver’s side, lower left not in field of vision, about 4 inches away from the left edge about 3 plus inches from the lower edge. Is this likely reparable?

  25. I have a couple chips in my windshield and I wasn’t sure if I should replace it or juts get it repaired. I really appreciate this article being to straightforward and informative about windshield care. I had no idea there was so much depth to the glass on a windshield, I like way it’s described as a sandwich.

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