What’s the Difference Between a Windshield Chip vs. Crack
And does it mean I need a windshield repair or replacement?
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 rock chip is generally damage in the windshield that 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 windows need full auto glass replacement 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. If in doubt about whether your vehicle qualifies for repair, ask a professional.
Below, we’ll look more into these three deciding factors of windshield crack repair or replacement:
Windshield Repair 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, repair services for windshield 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 windshield repair sizes depending on the type of damage (bulls-eye, pit, crack, etc.) with the upper limits of a chip repair being three inches and a crack up to 14 inches. Again, these sizes may vary depending on the damage’s location and the glass technician’s capabilities. For technical specifications, check out the full ROLAGS guide.
Windshield Repair Depth
This is closely related to the size of the damage but in regards to how deep the damage penetrates the windshield. A windshield is considered 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.
Windshield Repair Location
The location of the damage greatly affects 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 windshield’s structural integrity has been compromised. Because the windshield is responsible for up to 60% of structural strength in the event of vehicle rollover, it must be 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). Windshield 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 windshield 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 need auto glass replacement 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
Windshield Repair Safety
Above all, safety is paramount. Many consumers believe it’s okay to drive with a crack in their windshield. It’s not— 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.
How Much Does Windshield Repair Cost?
The cost to repair a chip or crack typically starts at around $50. Costs increase from there, depending on the complexity and size of the damage. Some auto glass repair providers will promote discounts if multiple chips or cracks are fixed at the same time.
Windshield repair technicians will evaluate your windshield before repairing it. If they deem that it is not repairable, your next option is to have your windshield replaced. This may lead you to wonder- How much does windshield replacement cost?
The national average is around $300. This price includes parts and labor for the replacement. However, this cost varies from vehicle to vehicle and will depend on what options your particular vehicle is equipped with. The cost of recalibrating a vehicle equipped with ADAS features will be additional.
Pros and Cons of Windshield Repair vs. Replacement
A benefit to windshield repair over replacement is that Advanced Driver Assistant Systems (ADAS), including sensors such as lane departure warning, don’t typically need recalibration after a repair is completed. This is not the case with full replacements, in which the vehicle typically always requires recalibration afterward. However, you’ll want to check with your windshield repair technician and/or local dealership to verify the requirements of your vehicle.
The above only applies to late-model vehicles equipped with ADAS features. On the flip side, a vehicle that’s a few years older can benefit from having a brand new, crystal-clear windshield installed. This can breathe life back into the vehicle and help you enjoy driving it. After all, the windshield is what you look through every time you drive your car or truck.
Local Windshield Repair and Replacement Near You
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 quality auto glass service company that will install the windshield properly. Many even offer lifetime warranties on their work and can work with your auto insurance company for covered claims.
Don’t allow too much time to pass by when damage occurs. Find a reputable company and installer using Glass.com. Book your windshield replacement now to get your vehicle back on the road quickly and safely.