When something hits your windshield, it's loud, violent, and scary. Sometimes, the result is a tiny chip, and sometimes, it's a larger crack. Cracks can happen in your windshield other ways, too. For example, you might hit a big pothole that sends a shock through your chassis.
You might not even notice the crack until you're doing your regular vehicle inspection, which all drivers should do to make sure their car is in peak operating condition.
Regardless of how it happens, you should always fix a crack in your windshield as soon as possible. There are a few reasons:
Cracks in your windshield can grow if left unchecked, and in some cases, you can avoid replacing your windshield with quick, decisive action.
You can be ticketed for a cracked windshield.
Cracks in your windshield are dangerous.
Why Cracks in Your Windshield are Dangerous
Even a small chip can be a major hazard when you're driving. Glass cracks and chips refract light, causing blinding flashes inside your cabin.
Larger chips and cracks can cause your windshield to fail suddenly, too. These days, most automotive glass is coated in a thin film that holds it together. This means you're unlikely to have shards of glass suddenly erupting into your lap, but a sudden windshield failure can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
Also, your windshield is a vital safety element. It helps prevent objects from flying inward during a crash or if you hit an animal. When your glass is cracked, it compromises the structural integrity of the windshield, and that can be a problem down the road.
What Can You Do About Cracks in Your Windshield?
There are two main options for your cracked windshield: replace or repair. Replacement is expensive, but it is the safest and best solution. Repairs are acceptable in some situations.
Windshield repairs have been common since the 1980s when the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority (NHTSA) created glass repair standards. Since then, glass repair products and techniques have improved dramatically. Today, you can find windshield repair services in many major mall parking lots, as well as at your local automotive dealership or garage.
The general rule of thumb is that small chips and spider cracks less than an inch wide can be repaired with modern methods. Long cracks are much more difficult and less reliable to repair. If a crack is longer than 12 inches, you'll have a hard time getting a satisfactory fix.
If the crack extends from one side of your glass to the other, there is no choice: You must replace your windshield immediately.
Is Replacing a Windshield Expensive?
Some insurance companies or car club memberships get you access to one free windshield a year. They do this because it reduces their risk of a more serious collision or incident down the road, and drivers are sometimes reluctant to repair their glass when they should.
Windshield repairs can cost anywhere from $20 to $200. To save money, you can even do it yourself with DIY kits. A total replacement will cost you anywhere from $200 to $800 for most vehicles. Cars, trucks, or SUVs with embedded sensors or heater filaments can cost up to $2,000 to replace. That cost climbs again when there are cameras or radar sensors, like the Subaru EyeSight system that need to be recalibrated for the new glass.
Preventing Windshield Cracks
Sometimes, windshield damage is unavoidable, but there are ways to reduce your risk. One is to learn how to "read" the road and take steps to avoid obstacles and potholes. The other is to keep a distance from large trucks or construction vehicles that might drop stones behind them.
Learn to Drive Defensively
Getting the appropriate driver training from a licensed professional is one way to mitigate your risk on the road. Defensive driving lessons that teach you about scanning and maneuvering can help you be a safer, happier driver.