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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10 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.

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