Spontaneous Windshield Breakage

One of Kelly Blue Book’s top picks for best family car, the Subaru Outback (a multi-year winner), is currently the subject of a lawsuit. The reason? Spontaneous windshield breakage. It sounds unlikely, but numerous Outback and Legacy owners have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding the issue.

The manufacturer responded by extending the windshield warranty, but consumers say it didn’t fix the defect. According to the lawsuit, owners reported that their replacement glass also suffered from spontaneous windshield breakage. Other owners also allege dealers denied them warranty coverage and had to pay for the new windshield out of pocket.

So, how can you, as a consumer, protect yourself in the event of spontaneous windshield breakage, or, the more frequently reported spontaneous sunroof breakage?

What is Spontaneous Windshield Breakage?

Spontaneous windshield breakage isn’t very common, but it does happen, as evident by the Subaru case. Rocks and road debris are often the culprit of windshield damage. This affects drivers approximately once every eight years on average. There’s always a reason for the damage—even when it’s “spontaneous.”

In the case of Subaru, the company sent out recalls stating the breakage was due to the vehicle’s wiper park heater. The wiper park heater area is located at the bottom of a windshield. It helps free windshield wipers in icy conditions by working in conjunction with a vehicle’s defroster.

According to the company, the compound used to adhere the heating element to the glass caused superficial damage that quickly turned into structural cracks.

This mean that there was no evident point of impact. Instead, the damage occurred when the heating element and defroster were turned on at the same time. Bob Beranek, president of Automotive Glass Consultants Inc., says this concentration of heat caused a minor divot which became an unrepairable crack.

He warns that, in this particular case, the spontaneous windshield breakage could easily be confused with a stress fracture or thermal break. This is mainly because the spontaneous breakage occurred where stress fractures and thermal breaks tend to be located which is at the bottom of the windshield.

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Is My Windshield Under Warranty?

While the Subaru lawsuit is ongoing, it brings to light a few things consumers should know about automotive warranties and recalls, in particular, relating to glass.

First, most auto manufacturers don’t include glass in their warranties. That’s not to say a manufacturer won’t issue a recall for a vehicle’s windshield or sunroof. However, that’s usually due to a design or manufacturing defect. More than likely, you won’t see windshields included in warranty coverage. As Beranek said, “I never knew there was such a thing as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) windshield warranty. But apparently there is.”

Second, if your vehicle’s windshield or sunroof is recalled, the dealer likely will only fix it if it’s an original equipment (OE) part. Therefore, if an Outback owner had his windshield replaced, and the spontaneous breakage occurred, the company would likely not fix it. In short, aftermarket windshields don’t apply to recalls or manufacturer warranties. However, that doesn’t mean you should not have your windshield properly repaired or replaced should it be damaged. Windshields are designed to protect the vehicle’s occupant, and a damaged one will only hurt the vehicle’s structural integrity.

Third, spontaneous windshield damage will not have a point of impact. This can be tricky since the damage resembles stress fractures and thermal breaks, so be sure to check with a certified installer who will be able to determine the type of damage. If the technician finds no point of impact, contact your local dealer or visit the NHTSA website and see if your vehicle is on recall for a windshield defect.

Spontaneous Sunroof Breakage

You may have heard of spontaneously exploding panoramic sunroofs lately, as it’s more common than spontaneous windshield breakage, but it still doesn’t happen frequently.

There are a number of lawsuits against major auto manufacturers for this reason. Most of the plaintiffs in these lawsuits suggest it has to do with the type of glass being installed. Auto glass technicians, however, don’t necessarily agree that the type of glass being used is at fault.

There are a variety of reasons why sunroofs or windshields could spontaneously break, and consulting with a trained technician could get to the root of the problem.

Now What?

If you’ve experienced spontaneous windshield breakage or an exploding sunroof, Glass.com can help find a qualified technician near you to help resolve the problem. If the technician finds no point of impact, you might be a victim of spontaneous windshield breakage.

In that case, contact your dealership and see if your auto glass is on a recall. You can also search NHTSA’s website for all of the latest safety issues and recalls.

If you’ve experienced spontaneous windshield breakage, we’d like to hear from you. Feel free to leave us a comment detailing your experience. If you have a damaged windshield, be sure to use the Glass.com affiliate locater service to find a trained technician in your area.

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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.


34 responses to “Spontaneous Windshield Breakage”

  1. I rented a Jeep Patriot from Enterprise. There was frost on front windshield and back window. I turned on the rear defroster which has a wiper imbedded into the bottom of the glass. We stopped to to pick breakfast and just after exiting the vehicle. The back window exploded like a gunshot. The center of the glass was gone and glass all over the cargo section. The pattern was rectangular in shape and bottom center of rectangle extended to embedded wiper.

  2. I have been driving the hyundai Getz 07 model for 2 yrs. last week i noticed a small crack appear in the lower left side of the windshield. Yesterday the temperatures plummeted to below zero, and in the morning i saw the crack had enlarged and extended across the windshield !

  3. Purchased a brand new 2019 Subaru Outback. The windshield cracked spontaneously while parked in my garage. Had only 23 miles on it. Had nothing to do with the defroster or heating element as it was summer and 80 degrees.

  4. Same thing happened with my car Hyundai I-20 asta suddenly my rear windshield bursted and there was no any external impact .

  5. I was driving home recently and my windshield in a 2019 Jeep Cherokee just popped like a gun shot. Vehicle is still under warranty but they refused to replace it. Any advice?

  6. My son purchased a 2019 Subaru Impreza 3 weeks ago…. Less than 1,000 miles on the car. We’re on a road trip with 2 other vehicles caravaning and his windshield just suddenly cracked, not sure if there was a point of contact. Seems like it spontaneously cracked:( I’m very sad to hear this is obviously an ongoing issue since 2015. I sure hope Subaru gets it together and makes this matter right!!! Hoping to be covered under warranty. Ridiculous… #subaruimpreza#windshieldproblems!!!

  7. My 2018 Honda Fit (1400 miles) was in my locked garage. Over the weekend the passenger side window spontaneously shattered. We are taking it (minus the window, because I am afraid to drive it with all those little pieces possibly hitting me if wind blew them into the car) to the Honda dealer this morning but the technician told us when we called that he had never heard of anything like that happening. Very discouraged.

  8. I just had my windshield crack on the 2019 Subaru Forester I bought at the end of November. It had 2555 miles on it when it cracked. There was nothing on the road in front of me, but it was 15 degrees out and I had the defrost and heat on. The crack came from where the defrosters seem to be. I made an appointment with the dealership to see if they’ll cover it under their warranty.

  9. The rear (trunk) window of our new Subaru Forester 2019 was shattered without any known reason, we bought it few days over one month ago (in the end of November, 2018), the temporary license paper was still taping there.

  10. In early January 2019 got in my 2018 Subaru Forester and noticed a crack 6-8″ long in my lower driver’s side windshield extending down to the windshield wiper heater. I saw no pit or chip by it. Brought it to a dealership which confirmed my observation and stated either Subaru or they would pay for it.

  11. I wanted to ask Suzie Null if she was able to get Subaru dealership to replace her windshield at no cost. I also have a crack on my 2019 Forester about 20 inches long starting at the bottom of front passenger windshield where wiper de-icing is located. I was driving in the rain with the defroster and heater on and did not notice a crack until I parked my car in the garage. I know the 2015-2016 Legacy and Outbacks had issues with cracked windshields due to the wiper de-icingl

  12. I bought a new 2019 Subaru Outback ~6 weeks ago and a 4-5 inch crack developed from the bottom of the windshield in the center while driving on the highway on a sunny 28 degree day. The crack went straight up and extended to 9.5 inches over the next 2 hours and then developed a perpendicular crack 11 inches long to form a T. Prior to this, we didn’t experience anything hitting the windshield (ex: pebble). The road was smooth. I’m contacting the dealer today. The car has 2,460 miles on it. This is clearly a defective windshield.

  13. I have a 2018 Subaru Outback with aprox 11000 kms, I was driving on the highway no other traffic in front beside or behind me when I heard a loud crack, I saw nothing to cause this. The outside temp was 7-8c. About 2-3 hours later I noticed a crack in the windshield starting at the bottom in front of the steering wheel.

    Contacted Subaru Canada who advised to have the dealership check it and they would send an evaluation report onto Subaru Canada for followup.

  14. We have a 2019 Subaru Outback Limited with Eyesight that has nearly 12,000 miles on it mostly on California I5. Yesterday, I came back to our car parked on the street for seven hours and saw a crack on the drivers side windshield running from the heating zone and eight to ten inches into the clear glass area. It definitely was not there when I parked the car and I never heard any impact from a rock or other during my freeway driving. there is no obvious external point of impact.
    Is this a design flaw? Poor choice of glass ?
    Or what? Whatever it sounds like this is going to be expensive!

  15. For the 4th time, my 2015 Subaru Outback gets a cracked windshield, no impact. I am very upset. Apparently I am not alone but I may have set a record; 4 times.
    Is this the end of Subaru’s good reputation?
    It is the end of Subaru for me.

  16. 2019 Subaru Legacy 3300 miles, parked in the garage at night with no crack and upon backing it out in the morning a crack coming from the lower passenger wiper heater area upward at an angle then toward the center of the windshield toward the mirror. A definite edge can be felt on the outside which will likely destroy the wiper blade rather quickly. Apparently I’m another statistic!

  17. I have not experienced spontaneous glass break. However under normal driving conditions the 2018 Outback windshields are very frail. On 2 occasions a small rock (1 being road salt) hit my windshield. As a result I’ve had to replace my windshield 2x in 8 months. I had a 2010 Outback and never had an issue. I’ve driven the same route for 20 years and never had issues until now.
    I recommend if you experience the same file a complaint with NHTSA.

  18. 2019 Forester with 417 miles and spontaneous shattering of driver side rear window on a residential street with no other cars around. I heard a pop and looked back to see the entire window shattered and glass all over the back seat. Called dealership and while I could point to this website and others regarding glass issues, they are fighting me. Guess I’ll be making an insurance claim and reporting this to Subaru and the NHTSA.

  19. Bought my 2019 Subaru Forester Sport December 29th. January 19th it was in the shop because all ES had shut off..the gas cap was faulty. Two weeks later I’m driving 20 miles an hour in cold, icy conditions with the heat blaring and the defrost on when I hear a loud crack and an 8” split right up the middle of the windshield.

    Brought it to the dealership, that runs a pen up the line and makes a giant circle around a spot when the “rock” supposedly hit it. I was like “no, there was no rock, no debris, we were driving 20 miles an hour!” He told me not to get into it with him, that he would argue the case to Subaru. Now, of course, they want $1800 for my just purchased $40000 Subaru.

    Cannot wait to call corporate on Monday morning after reading all of these complaints. I have had a rock hit my car before, there is always a web before it splits, but still no web on this crack. Also, if a microscopic debris can split the windshield of a car at 20 miles an hour, sounds like a huge MANUFACTURER problem.

    I’m not giving them a dime. And if they do not replace this, I will literally bad mouth Subaru to everyone I know. Could not be more bummed about my purchase after 10 great years with a 2009 Ford Escape!

  20. My 2015 Subaru Outback is going to get it 4th broken windshield replaced this week. Clearly Subaru is failing it’s grades and it’s reputation is scared. I paid For the first break then Subaru paid for the 2nd and 3rd (deductibles) but now they don’t want to help any more fearing, I guess, the consequences.
    I am done with Subaru.

  21. A few days ago, the windshield on my 2015 Subaru Impreza with 24K miles cracked at the base of the passenger side while I was changing the wiper blades…a 42° sunny day in the driveway. The crack grew to twice the size and curved toward the driver side during a short in-town trip.
    Since the new car warranty has just expired, I am going to press Subaru to take care of this, noting the vast number of complaints here and on other sites, including on NHTSA. I filed a complaint on the NHTSA website as well. This is the best way to pressure Subaru to expand its recall or extend the warranty for all its late model Subarus. Otherwise, time for another class-action lawsuit. This was my first long-awaited Subaru. It may be my last.

  22. Found my 2019 Subaru Forester with only 4K miles on it with a large crack on the lower windshield near the wiper blades yesterday. Wasn’t there that morning. Don’t remember Nyrhing hitting it while driving. No webbing. Was 28 degrees out and snowing, had defrost on. Really hoping Subaru fixes this for me and I don’t have to use my insurance/deductible.

  23. My 2019 Subaru Forester is 5 weeks old. Yesterday got in the car to go out to lunch crack which started on passenger side under windshield wiper appeared. Went to dealership this morning they claim a rock hit it! Took the car to Safelite and set up an appointment. Fortunately it will only cost me $50. I am glad the car is a lease. I’ve been reading many complaints on line. Brought this to the dealerships attention, they acted like they never heard what I was talking about!

  24. Just bought a 2018 Subaru Legacy with 14,000 miles on it. Windshield has been replaced once according to CarFax. I’ve put 4,000 more miles on it and windshield cracked in a Y pattern coming up from base of windshield in the center sitting in garage!! Subaru asked for pics so they know there’s an issue obviously!! I’ve got the premium warranty. Don’t know yet if they’ll assist with replacement

  25. Bought 2019 Subaru Forester May 28. Started 300-mile trip on PA Turnpike May 30. After less than 100 miles driving I heard a loud “Crack!”. I saw no rock coming, no mark on the windshield. A few minutes later I saw a line start creeping up the windshield from below the wiper on driver side. The crack continued, curving an erratic path toward the right. When we reached Pittsburgh, the crack was maybe 18 inches long. I couldn’t arrange repair on the weekend. At end of homeward drive 4 days later, the crack had reached 23 inches total. Next day, I had the windshield replaced. The mechanic said the crack had started at bottom edge of windshield. No marks, no holes, just the long meandering crack. Insurance covered all cost but $100. I have no confidence this won’t happen again with the Subaru.

  26. I bought a new 2019 Subaru Outback a week ago–37 miles. While driving on a highway six days later, with less than 1,000 miles, I saw a crack develop from the top of the windshield. I didn’t see or hear anything strike the windshield. No trucks around, no debris of any kind on the road. Within an hour, the crack went down and curved to the right and up. The sheer number of cases of spontaneous cracks in Subarus from 2015 on points to an on-going problem. Subaru Corporate has been destroying Subaru
    s reputation by not responding appropriately to the windshield problems.

  27. A “rock” supposedly hit my windshield, it didn’t. Bought my car in November 2018. Went to sleep and woke up with a long crack originating at the base of my windshield curving across. No rock hit my window but Subaru insists that it did. This will be the last Subaru I own.

  28. Subaru hasn’t been very responsive in addressing the problem with the windshields. Their answer instead is to have your automobile insurance cover it. Please report your windshield cracking problems to NHTSA .

  29. My windshield spontaneously cracked on my 2019 Subaru Outback while driving down the highway last week. Nothing hit the windshield. It started in the lower left (drivers side) area and curved into a 2′ crack over the last week.

  30. I have a 2019 Subaru Forester with 7,000 miles. While driving on the interstate, in the right side lane, my side window shattered. It sounded like a gun went off and then I heard glass shattering . It is not likely that anything hit the window since I was in the right hand lane . I plan on reporting it to the NHTSA.

  31. Same story as many here. New Subaru Outback, 2 months ownership, spontaneous crack of windshield while driving in warm weather. Nothing hit the windshield. Service department tried to claim something hit it and took pictures to send to Subaru. Subaru is replacing for free. We downloaded this article as well as sited another about a class action suit. We really love the car, it’s ridiculous to lose customers over this flaw. Management need to step up.

  32. 2019 Subaru Forester, less than a year old still – just had my SECOND windshield crack! Both times it was cool during the morning, and I used the heater inside the vehicle, parked it for some time, came out to use the vehicle and see a HUGE crack on the windshield.

    When will http://www.nhtsa.gov step in for the consumers and when will Subaru admit to the windshield issues being there still?

    This is my first and probably my last Subaru vehicle.

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