It’s a simple question that deserves a simple yes or no answer. However, like many questions in the auto and RV industry, the answer is, “it depends.”
First, let’s define what a repair is. When it comes to vehicle glass, whether for a car, truck, or RV, a repair means fixing an issue while keeping the original glass intact. This could mean fixing a gasket or seal around an RV’s side window that’s been leaking water. Most often though, it means fixing a small crack or rock chip in an RV’s windshield. On the flip side of this, we have replacements. A glass replacement occurs when damage is too extensive for repair, and the entire piece of RV glass must be removed and replaced with new glass.
When it comes to repair, some glass can be repaired, and some can’t. In order to understand what can and cannot be repaired, we first need to understand the difference between tempered glass and laminated glass.
Glass becomes tempered by going through a heating and rapid cooling process. The rapid cooling creates higher surface tension on the glass, therefore making it stronger than normal glass. The extra strength makes tempered glass an excellent option for side windows on an RV. However, tempered glass doesn’t chip or crack like regular glass. When tempered glass is impacted, it shatters into tiny pieces. Sometimes it doesn’t take much—just piercing the surface can lead to total compromise.
Laminated glass uses two regular pieces of annealed glass and sandwiches them together with a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) in the middle. This glass breaks like normal glass. And in the event that it breaks, the PVB interlayer helps to hold the broken pieces of glass in place. The PVB interlayer is tough. When used for a windshield, it helps keep occupants inside the vehicle during a crash and also helps keep foreign objects out. Laminated glass is the only type of glass approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for windshield use. It is sometimes used in sidelite windows and sunroofs as well, but this is less common.
Now that you know the difference between tempered and laminated glass, you can easily see why only one of these can be repaired. Tempered glass, rather than chipping or cracking, will simply shatter and must be replaced. Laminated glass, on the other hand, will chip or crack and likely stay intact, leaving the opportunity to repair it.
RVs are big. And the windshield in some of them are really, really big. That means their windshields are big too. And big windshields mean big money. A small RV windshield repair could cost less than $100, whereas a full windshield replacement could cost over $2,000. This is the primary reason that most people choose to repair rather than replace their RV’s glass whenever possible. Not only does it save money, but it also lessens the impact on the environment by reducing waste.
Most auto glass repair technicians that work on cars can also work on RV glass. The main difference is that they might need to use a taller ladder. RV glass repair technicians typically work from a mobile unit and will come to you to complete the repair. That way, you won’t have to worry about squeezing your RV into a shop’s garage.
Technicians will evaluate the damage and clean the crack or chip. They will typically open up the chip or crack by using special tools. This will allow the repair resin to seep into the damage and fill the gap. They’ll inject this clear resin and then use a UV light to cure it. The curing process helps to harden the resin and bond it to the glass. After the resin cures, the tech will likely use a razor blade to remove any excess resin and finish up by cleaning the glass with a high-quality cleaner.
Keep in mind that RV glass repairs are meant to be functional by helping to keep a chip or crack from spreading. There’s a chance that you’ll still be able to see the damage even after the repair has been made. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a poor repair. The important factor is whether or not the resin was successfully injected into the damage to fill it.
Another point to keep in mind is that it’s possible that the repair process may cause your RV’s windshield to fail altogether. Pressure must be applied to the windshield during the repair process, and the stress could cause the already weakened windshield to crack further. It’s disappointing when this happens because it means a bigger job and a bigger bill. But having the windshield fail while the tech is working on it is actually the best-case scenario. Imagine if instead, it failed while you were driving down the road.
Repairing RV glass is the same process as, and has similar limitations to repairing auto glass. Here’s a quick breakdown of when RV glass might not be repairable:
There are exceptions to these rules of thumb, and an experienced auto glass technician will be able to tell you whether or not your RV’s glass can be repaired, or if it should be replaced. When in doubt, replacement is the best option. The windshield is such an important part of your RV’s safety features.
We’ve been talking about windshields a lot because that’s the type of glass that needs repairing most often. But there are other pieces of glass on your RV that could need repair too. As we mentioned earlier, when it comes to the glass itself, only laminated glass can be repaired. Tempered glass must be replaced. If your RV’s side windows, door windows, sunroof, or rear windows are made from laminated glass and need to be repaired, it can often be repaired using the same technique as a windshield repair.
Repairing RV Window Frames
RV side windows and door windows share similarities to windows in a home. Sometimes it’s the frame that needs to be repaired, and not the glass. It could be that water or air is leaking through the window’s frame. Or that a window that was once movable is no longer operable. In this case, it’s best to call on an RV glass specialist or RV repair specialist.
In the event of a leak, the technician might be able to re-caulk or re-seal the window or the frame. If a window isn’t operable, it might need to be lubricated, or parts might need to be replaced in order to complete the repair. Keep in mind that the lead time on RV parts can be several weeks.
In any case, no matter what the issue, it’s always best to leave the job to a qualified professional. They’ll be able to diagnose the problem quickly and get you back on the road to your next destination as quickly as possible. Use Glass.com to find an RV glass replacement specialist near you.