Keeping a Chipped Windshield from Cracking and Spreading
“It’s just a little chip,” you may be thinking. A slight chip in your windshield seems harmless enough, since it may hardly be noticeable at quick glance and doesn’t really affect your driving visibility. However, when neglected, even the smallest windshield chip can turn into a crack and spread—jeopardizing your safety, putting you at risk for a ticket and creating a much more expensive problem than you had before. With a windshield chip, it’s better to nip this one in the bud.
When your windshield is broken or shattered, as opposed to merely damaged, you should look to replace it immediately. It’s unsafe (and illegal in many states) to operate a vehicle with a broken windshield.Get an Estimate
If your windshield isn’t shattered but has a sizable crack in it, you’ll still want to get it evaluated by a professional as soon as possible. Keep in mind that cracks more than 14 inches should never be repaired. While it might appear safe, the structural integrity of the windshield has probably been severely compromised. That means it could shatter at any time, injuring occupants of the vehicle or causing the driver to crash.
When to Repair
The Standard says windshield replacement is required in cases of damage:
- That penetrates both the inside and outside layer of a laminated glass;
- With three or more long cracks emanating from a single impact point;
- On the inside lite (layer) of laminated glass;
- Contaminated with visible impurities that cannot be removed through cleaning;
- To the plastic interlayer;
- In an area of the windshield where value-added features may be negatively affected by the damage and/or the repair process;
Repair technicians should consult and follow any vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations before performing a repair on any value-added feature.
When To Replace
The following are situations where the windshield should be repaired:
- Damage with a pit size greater than 3/8 inch (9 mm);
- Edge crack(s) that intersect more than one edge;
- Stress cracks.
Replacement is also required if the damage occurs in the Driver’s Primary Viewing Area (DPVA) if:
- The diameter of damage is larger than one inch (25 mm); or
- The finished pit will be greater than 3/16 inch (5 mm); or
- The repair will be within 4 inches (100 mm) of another repair; or
- If, in the technician’s judgment, the repair will affect the proper operation of the vehicle.
Stay Legal, and Safe
Beyond safety considerations, driving with a cracked windshield could violate laws in your state.
In New York, you won’t be able to pass inspection if you have a crack more than 11 inches long, or a star-shaped crack that’s more than three inches in diameter. In Virginia, you’ll fail inspection if there is a pit, chip or star break larger than 1-inches in diameter at any location in the windshield three inches above the bottom, or if a crack weakens the windshield so that one piece can move in relation to the other. So be sure to check the laws in your state.
How to Fix a Chip
Using a professional is always recommended. A qualified technician who follows the Repair of Laminated Automotive Glass Standard (ROLAGS) will ensure it is repaired safely and effectively.
A do-it-yourself fix is intriguing. However, most of the “affordable” DIY kits on the market can be comparable in cost to a professional repair when factoring in the time… not to mention the experience of a trained and seasoned technician. Keep in mind, they’re also using tools that cost thousands of dollars.
The technician will use repair techniques such as drilling and flexing and will fill the chip or small crack with resin, using proper methods of contaminate prevention and curing.
Who to Call?
To learn more about when a windshield can be repaired versus replaced, visit the website of the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the safe repair of windshields. It established the Repair of Laminated Automotive Glass Standard (ROLAGS™). That standard describes when repair of a windshield can be made.
Qualified professional companies on Glass.com can handle chip repairs large and small, simple or complicated. Most technicians offer in-shop or mobile services for your convenience, so find a professional near you at Glass.com. When it comes to a chip, always nip.
I didn’t know that I might not pass an inspection if the crack on my windshield is longer than 11 inches. I’ve got a crack in my car glass that extends from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side, but it’s low enough that it doesn’t obscure my view, so I thought it wasn’t a big deal. I should probably find a windshield replacement service before my car gets inspected.
Thanks for these tips. I chipped my car’s windshield. I am now looking up some auto body repair shop to help me repair it.
I’m glad that you talked about making sure you check state specific laws about crack length. I have a small crack near the bottom of my windshield and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I can see how it would be nice to just get it fixed, because I don’t know what the laws in my state are.
I had no idea that your windshield could get stress cracks. It is important to understand this so you can get it repaired before it is too late. We need to replace our chipped windshield, so I’m glad I found your page.
I went in to get a chip repaired but the technician said while he was filling it the chip spread into a crack and now I need a windshield. Does that happen?
Yes, there is always a danger that a chip can turn into a crack, whether it’s during the repair process or simply while driving down the road. Chip repair is a tricky process and sometimes it proves to not be possible, in which case a full replacement is necessary.