Unless there’s an obvious crack or break on our car’s windscreen, we hardly ever think about it. Though having a sturdy, durable windscreen is just as important to get you to a destination as having a good, functioning car engine and reliable tires.
Actually, when cars were first introduced, the windscreen was an optional part. It was considered costly and a type of luxury. So the person who could afford it would have to request it to be made. You can probably notice people driving some cars without a windshield in very old movies or images.
Besides providing you with direct protection when driving, windscreens actually serve other purposes. Just to mention a few:
Supports the roof of a car: Without the windshield, the car roof can just collapse. If ever in an unfortunate accident, windshields provide protection if the car flips over and other incidents where the roof could cause serious bodily injury.
Highest insurance claims: When it comes to auto insurance, windshields have the highest claims, accounting for most of them. The reason is clear since the windshield is the part most exposed to outside elements.
Major advancements on repairs or replacements: Windshield repair technology continues to advance. Before, we’d have to change the entire window because of one crack, but later on, especially ever since the early 90s, you can fix cracks that are even around a foot long, without having to replace the entire window. Technology has made repairs much easier to be done and much quicker.
Why do windscreens crack?
Even under normal circumstances, the windscreen is often prone to cracks. There could be several reasons for this, including but not limited to:
Temperature change: This is probably the most common reason. On extremely hot days, for example, washing the window with cold water could trigger what is known as a ‘stress crack.’ The same also applies to extremely cold days and washing the window with hot water.
Pressure change: Any type of pressure, including wind pressure, can also cause a stress crack. Explosions, even if far away, can affect the windshield. Even if located miles away from an explosion, blown out windows or cracked windshields can happen.
Manufacturing defects: Some defects can cause pressure and contribute to cracked windscreens. During the heating and cooling process of the manufacturing process, ‘residual stresses’ are often found along the edge of the windshield, and knowing that the edges of the windshield are also the weakest, makes the entire glass more prone to fractures.
Other things you can know about is that just because windscreens use laminated glass, a type of safety glass doesn’t mean that the glass can’t break. It can and does. The difference is that safety glass breaks into smaller pieces. Also, it’s important to know that not all cracks and chips on the glass are the same. Different cracks can spread differently and at a different speed. A last piece of information to know is that not every damage to your windscreen means a new replacement. Different cracks or chips can be fixed, but it depends on a few factors, which we’ll tell you more about.
Now that you know a little bit more about your windscreen, you want to know when you should consider repairing or replacing it. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell which is needed, which is why lots of people need professional advice. Considering exactly the type of damage on the windscreen will determine if it can be fixed or not. So, let’s take a closer look at our screens, so we can see clearly what the problem is.
1. Discoloration: A sort of white haze around the edge of the glass can sometimes form. This discoloration on window shields can be more than a cosmetic problem. When they’re being manufactured, windshields get treated with a special plastic called PolyVinyl Butral PVB). This plastic safeguards the glass so that if the windshield shatters, it does so into small, rounded portions that won’t cut car passengers or passersby if the car is involved in a collision.
The glass is manufactured like that for safety reasons. When your car is out in the sun, the sun heats up the interior to between around 130-145F. This heat creates off-gassing of the plastic dashboard and any other plastic components, which in turn causes the appearance of this white film. The appearance of a white haze can mean that the PVB is beginning to separate from the glass. This means that during an accident, large pieces of glass can fly in all sorts of directions, putting you and others at risk.
Typically, this haze can be removed with plain water and a mild cleaning solution. What happens, however, is that some people use scouring pads or steel wool, and this is what can worsen any damage already there. There’s nothing angelic about this white haze, and your windshield may very well need to be replaced because in the long-run the haze might not be so removable.
2. Pitting: If you drive daily, especially on routes that could have unpaved roads, your shield will be exposed to lots of elements; small pebbles, sharp objects, gravel, and so on. Over time, this causes what is known as pitting, and pits show on the windshield. Pits are more noticeable at sunrise and sunset. These small pits scatter reflected light, making it hard for the driver to see clearly. Pitted glass won’t perform well during rain, for instance, because the glass won’t clear up as quickly. This is another driving hazard that would need a full replacement of the windscreen.
3. Small scratches/ chips/ cracks
Scratches: A scratch in the glass is a bit similar to a crack, except it does not go all the way through the glass. Most scratches can be repaired without problems, as long as you do it immediately in order to prevent dust and dirt from clogging up the area. In most cases, small scratches that are superficial can be polished away
Chips: These are the most common type of windshield damage. The problem with chips is that they could develop into cracks. When left untreated, they could become cracks that are not repairable. If these chips are in multiple locations across the windscreen, it would be recommended to replace the windscreen.
Cracks: Small cracks can often be repaired. Try the dollar bill method, and if the crack can be covered by a dollar bill, you can get it fixed, typically at a reasonable cost. However, if the crack or chip is directly in the driver’s line of sight, if there are more than three cracks or chips on the glass, and if the damage is at the edge of the windshield, a replacement is advisable.
Do not take small cracks for granted because they can spread quickly. It’s not expected that everyone would know if their windshield can be fixed or needs replacement, so visit here to find expert advice and a written guide that will tell you when and what you can repair and when you need a replacement. It’s important to remember that not every type of crack or chip can be fixed, which is why you need a professional to tell you.
For example, cracks towards the center of the glass are generally easier to repair. Cracks located towards the edges of the glass are usually impossible to repair because as we mentioned, the glass is weakest in that area. Mentioned earlier was stress cracks, but there are actually around a dozen types of cracks that afflict windscreens, and each has its own name, like Bull’s Eye, for example, which is damage caused to the glass by a rock or similar object. It needs an expert to tell you if the type of crack you have is fixable or not.
The important thing to remember is that if a repair can be done, do it immediately before complications arise that would need a total replacement. Keep in mind that repairs only apply to windshields which are made of laminated glass. Most side windows and back glass needs to be replaced because they are made with tempered glass, which typically cannot be repaired.
4. Vehicle inspection: The smallest of chips or scratches means your car can fail an inspection. So you need to give your windshield a good check before an inspection. It doesn’t make sense to put the car through an inspection, when there you can see you have some windshield issues, no matter how small they may be. There are various safety standards that must be followed. Make sure that the company and technician you hire adheres to these standards and follows them to the letter.
5. After a cold winter: Harsh winter weather takes its toll on so many things, living and not! If gravel, pebbles and other smaller elements cause problems, you can bet that snow and ice also cause their own havoc.
If you’re lucky and have a garage, keep your car in the garage when it’s not in use which can prolong the life of the glass. As mentioned, a sudden shift in temperature can break the glass, so don’t attempt to defrost your windscreen with hot water. During winter, ice should be scraped or melted off the windshield with cold water. Sometimes, no matter how many precautions you take in winter, by springtime, you could notice that the windscreen is just different. If the difference is more than expected, a full replacement might be in order.
6. Incorrect repair: As you can see, repair work depends on several factors. If it’s for a crack, it depends on the size, depth, and location of the crack. That’s why you might have tried some repair work that just didn’t work out. You’d just be wasting your time and money to keep trying to repair something that can’t be repaired. Most times, skilled workers might not agree to fix cracks that run along the sides of the glass. That’s because this type of damage tends to spread quickly and is extra difficult to contain. At this point, it would be a much better decision to replace the windscreen.
7. Installation fails: All over the internet, you’ll find tutorials and videos on how to remove your windscreen and install it again. For any reason, you might have wanted to remove your windscreen, but your installation of it failed. Saving a few bucks with a DIY installation puts you and your windshield at risk if you really don’t know what you’re doing. If it’s not installed correctly, the uneven pressure can actually cause chips and cracks in the glass abnormally quickly.
If you want to do a DIY job on your windshield, you should have at least some sort of basic background on how to do it, and pick up some guidance through a read, tutorial or video clip. If a windshield is installed improperly, it could fall out of the vehicle during a collision and even put passengers at risk to be ejected, so that’s just how important it is to have a proper installation of the windscreen.
8. An entire piece is missing: We see it a lot of times; people driving around with a missing piece of the glass. While it’s pretty obvious that you should not drive around like that, it’s not surprising that a lot of people do. This can lead to your windshield popping out or completely breaking suddenly. Imagine that happening while driving! And should it happen because of an accident, any airbags that deploy will be practically useless.
9. Mandatory replacement: Replacement is mandatory in cases where the damage is on the driver’s side of the windshield. That’s because most of the time, the glass can get a little distorted from repair jobs, especially if there have been several. This can be very distracting when driving and is a driving hazard.
10. Delaying repairs: If you’ve had damage on your window for a prolonged period, you might not be able to repair it. This option might not be available because accumulated dust and dirt, as well as the damage, can spread to the surrounding areas of the glass. Cracks and other damages can become more difficult to fix when kept too long, calling for a possible replacement.
It’s more than about cost
In almost everything we pay for, people often base their final decisions on cost. But replacing or repairing your windshield is not one of those things where cost is the main concern. Safety is your first concern. You have to be able to see very clearly when driving, day or night time. Your second concern is to contact a reputable company to repair any repairable damage quickly, so nothing worsens. Your last concern is to follow the advice of a specialist if your windscreen can be repaired or if it needs replacement.