When to Repair or Replace a Damaged 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 in windshield less than 1 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 Chipped or Cracked Auto Glass be Repaired?

Keep in mind, this only applies to windshields, which are made of laminated glass. Most side windows and back glass need to be replaced because they are made with tempered glass which cannot be repaired.

Whether or not your windshield can be repaired depends on three main factors: size, depth, and location. Larger, deeper cracks in the glass that extend to the edges of your windshield are much more likely to need replacement than small shallow chips away from the edges of your windshield. When in doubt, opt for replacement.

Below, we’ll look more into these three deciding factors of windshield crack repair or replacement:

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 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 intersects more than one 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

Replace your cracked windshield when the above factors aren’t met. It’s always best to have your auto glass inspected by a professional in person. But as a rule of thumb, you’ll want to replace your auto glass if:

  • The glass is tempered glass, not laminated glass
  • The crack is longer than a dollar bill
  • The crack or chip is deep enough that it penetrated more than halfway into the windshield
  • The crack or chip extends to the outside edge of the windshield

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.

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.

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

Who to Go to for Windshield Repair and Replacement

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.

Glass.com attempts to provide accurate information but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. All content is provided on an informational basis only.

Copyright © Glass.com Inc. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed written permission. Questions? Contact info@glass.com

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By Daniel Snow

Daniel Snow serves as the Vice President of Operations for Glass.com and is also a contributing editor. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from George Mason University and has a background in the real estate industry. After high school, Daniel even worked at a family-owned glass shop for a short period of time and is an Auto Glass Safety Council certified installer.

In his free time, Daniel enjoys being outdoors, especially around the water where he can be found surfing, fishing, and boating. He has a passion for bringing old vehicles back to life and loves working with his hands to restore cars, boats, and motorcycles.


  • Satelite rep. just told me that it was against the law for him to repair a chip in my windshield because there was more than 5, none large or near the edges, chips in my entire windshield. I can’t find the applicable WA law…5 seems arbitrary, particularly since the location or size aren’t being taken into account. Wondering your opinion?

  • Recently we looked at a used vehicle to purchase. The vehicle had bullseye damage to the windshield about the size of a quarter. The dealer said the damage had been repaired, but in my opinion this was not evident. In the past I have had numerous repairs done to our windshields which you could not see when they were done. I am diligent about this because I found that even the smallest chip will crack across the windshield during extreme weather changes, such as using the defroster or heater when the car is very cold. My question is; after having a repair done to a windshield can it still be visible if done correctly, or should it be invisible?

    • Repairs usually reduce the visual presence of damage but it’s near impossible to remove all evidence of damage. Chips and cracks on windshields are similar to snowflakes- easy one is completely unique. Some may fill better than others. The primary purpose of chip repair is to increase structural integrity; cosmetics are secondary. One way to test if a chip has been repaired is to run your fingernail over the damage. If you can feel a rough divot in the center of the damage, then it likely wasn’t repaired. A repair that was performed well should be smooth to the touch.

  • It’s a very shallow crack. about 6″..to the bottom right edge. I bought the strongest super glue and am trying to stop it right there. At least at the edge you can build the glue up.
    IF the crack travels one more inch replace it. For the second time in five year. I thought this replacement was a little short..big gape between it and the body.
    Aftermarket parts are all bad. Once you lose the original anything..its all second rate.

    • Bob, we agree that a factory install is typically the best. But we encourage you not to use superglue as a temporary fix. A better option is to put clear heavy-duty tape over the crack to keep out dirt and debris until you can get it repaired, if repair is possible.

  • Nicely written! People often ignore the minor chips on the windshield. Although, you should never ignore it and get a new windshield installation.

  • Anymore just replacing a windshield can be very expensive. With all the safety sensors and re calibration when replacing a windshield or even a back window with defroster or antennas built into glass. My chip cost $70 to repair a windshield replacement would have been $700. It’s no wonder I see so many driving around with cracked windshields. You don’t realize what’s tied into that windshield in terms of technology until you need it replaced.

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  • I’m very happy I came across the information you posted. I have 2 cracks in my windshield, both about the size of a dime about 8 inches apart from each other. My insurance company had their glass investigation and said it can be repaired opposed to being replaced. I was concerned about that being that my windshield is the type that needs to be calibrated due to all the safety features. I made a screenshot of the paragraph where you explain that for safety reasons, it’s highly recommended to replace the windshield rather than repair it. I have windshield replacement without a deductible, so I’m not out of pocket on the cost.

  • A detailed and informative blog that differentiates whether to have the windscreen repaired or replaced. It’s important to assess the windscreen if it really needs to be repaired or replaced. And the best way to know it, is to have it checked by the repairer. Thank you for this informative post.

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