When you should repair your windshield and when it's time to replace it

March 3, 2020
If you've been driving for any length of time, you probably know that sinking feeling that follows the crack of a rock bouncing off of your windshield. When you finally inspect it, one question inevitably comes to mind: Can I get this repaired or do I need to replace the whole thing? The answer may not be as straightforward as you would think! Today, we'll clear up those questions and more as we discuss when you should repair your windshield and when it's time to replace it. 

A woman considering whether to repair or replace her damaged windshield.

Types of windshield damage


Damage to your vehicle's windshield can come a variety of sources, but not all damage is the same. The damage caused by something like a small rock or something like an animal collision can have a very different impact (no pun intended) on your windshield and how you go about handling it. But before we talk about the types of damage, it's important to know how a windshield is put together.

Auto glass, or windshield glass, is sometimes referred to as "safety" glass. This is because it isn't actually a single piece, but rather two pieces with a laminated plastic layer in between. Should an object strike your windshield, this design causes it to break into much smaller pieces and prevents it from shattering into much larger, dangerous ones.

Chips


A chip is a small blemish caused when an impact breaks away a portion of the glass layer. This can typically be repaired if it is small enough. However, if the chip is deep enough that it penetrates the inner layer of plastic, you may be looking at a replacement. While small chips on their own may not be a huge concern, they can often be the seed from which cracks grow.

Cracks


Unlike a chip, a crack is distinct in that it is a line where a single piece of glass has begun to fully separate. While these can start off small, they can (and usually do) grow over time.

Whether the windshield is exposed to the hot rays of the sun or driving through frigid air, changes in temperature can cause it to expand and contract. If you have a crack in your windshield, this process can cause it to gradually spread.

Small particles of dirt can also find their way into the beginnings of a crack, which can eventually make it worse. If your windshield is cracked, putting a small piece of tape over it can be a temporary solution to prevent it from spreading.

Finally, the everyday stress your vehicle takes can make a crack worse. As you drive over speed bumps, potholes, and irregular roads, the impact travels through your entire vehicle. This repetitive stress can also cause the damage spread.

Apart from these two major groups, it's not uncommon to see a combination of the two and everything in between.

When can I repair my damaged windshield?


As you can imagine, repairing a damaged windshield is often cheaper than a complete replacement. An auto glass specialist's ability to repair damage depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of blemish, the size, and the quantity.

As a general rule of thumb, cracks that can fit beneath a dollar bill can usually be replaced. If a chip is small enough (usually under 2 inches) and shallow enough (usually under 3/8 of an inch), repairing it may be an option.

Most of the time, the placement of the damage won't affect your ability to repair it. Breakage that occurs in the middle of the windshield (away from the driver's side) can usually be repaired.

If damage can be repaired, it's best to do it as soon as possible. Even a small crack can eventually spread and force you to replace it.

When should I replace my damaged windshield?


There are certainly some instances where it becomes very obvious that your windshield needs to be replaced. For example, if a truck hauling bowling balls accidentally lets one loose and it punches a hole through your windshield, you'll need a new one.

But it isn't always as clear cut as the above example. Sometimes, much smaller cracks and even chips can require a new windshield to be installed.

Generally, if you have 3 or more cracks anywhere on your windshield, you'll probably need to replace it. After they take a certain amount of damage, they begin to lose their ability to withstand further impacts. It may also be necessary to replace your windshield if a particular crack is around or over 14 inches.

Damage to the driver's side of the windshield usually requires a full replacement because repairs often leave at least some residual markings behind. Breakage on or near the edge of your windshield can weaken its structural integrity, which usually means a replacement is needed.

Sometimes, the inner layer of plastic can get discolored if exposed to the elements too long. For this reason, you may actually want to replace the windshield even if repairing it is an option.

Can I wait to repair or replace my windshield? 


Regardless of the type, damage to a windshield is serious and should be addressed as soon as possible. Windshields may seem like a mundane safety feature, but they are an incredibly important one. A damaged windshield loses its ability to withstand the impact from a flying object and can become a serious visual obstruction. In fact, you can even fail your car inspection if the facility deems the obstruction bad enough.

While a small chip or crack may not seem like a big deal initially, they rarely stay that way. The more a crack or chip spreads, the weaker your windshield becomes, increasing the likelihood that it will fail completely and become a true driving hazard. As with most things in the world of automotive repair, the longer you wait, the more expensive it is likely to be.

Should I use a DIY windshield repair kit?


If you're confident in your ability to repair a windshield yourself, there are kits you can purchase to do so. Many of them even include the same types of materials used by the professionals. However, not all kits are created equal, and the greatest advantage of using a professional for replacement is the expertise they bring to the table.

To the untrained eye, breakage that requires replacement may seem like a simple repair job. Driving with a windshield that was repaired when it really needed to be replaced is extremely unsafe and could lead to dangerous consequences.

If the DIY kit fails or the repair is unsuccessful, there's no going back - it has to be done right the first time. That's why it's always best to trust the job in the hands of a professional auto glass technician, like those at Safelite, who are experts at what they do. They have seen every crack and chip you can possibly imagine, and they know when a patch will suffice, and when it's time to get a new windshield.

Should I use insurance to replace my windshield?


While the cost of replacing your windshield depends on the make and model of your vehicle, it usually isn't a cheap process. As with most automotive repairs, insurance can ease the financial burden.

Most insurance companies provide windshield repair and replacement services for those with comprehensive insurance coverage (sometimes called Other Than Collision). However, some insurance companies may have a separate optional policy specifically for auto glass coverage.

In Texas, there are no laws regulating whether or not an insurance company has to provide no deductible windshield replacement. That doesn't mean that some insurance companies don't, however. In some cases, it is possible to reduce your deductible to $0 at the cost of a higher premium. If you are looking for no deductible windshield replacement in Texas, it is best to speak with your insurance agent for specific details.

Whether it's a single chip or an entire network of cracks, replacing and repairing your windshield is an essential step to ensuring you're safe on the road. Fortunately, with a trustworthy insurance company in your corner, you can get that windshield in working order in no time!

A technician replacing a windshield for an insurance claim

When filing an insurance claim to repair or replace your windshield, great customer service is essential! Since 1896, Germania Insurance has been the Insurance Texans Trust for great coverage and outstanding customer service. But don’t take our word for it! Hear what our customers have to say

For more information about our insurance products, request a free quote online, or reach out to one of our trusted agents today!


Read more: There's a lot to learn about auto insurance in Texas! Whether you want to learn more, or just need to brush up, check out our blog!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.