You might think that driving with a few small chips and cracks in the windshield is harmless, and to a certain degree, it is. Tiny chips that don't impede the driver's view of the road might be safe for a while. However, once the integrity of the windshield is compromised a new windshield must be fitted.
More specifically if one crack is too close to another crack, it's time to have the windshield changed.
Causes of a Damaged Windshield
Anything that hits a windshield at speed might damage the glass. Debris and stones that kick up from the road surface, or wildlife that hits the glass, including birds or larger animals.
Existing small chips can be worsened by a second impact causing it to expand or worse still, shatter.
The Purpose of a Windshield
You might not think it, but the windshield is an integral part of a vehicle's capacity for safety.
It must provide a significant barrier to keep all passengers within the vehicle in the event of an accident. A damaged windshield will shatter quickly and fail in preventing passenger ejection.
The toughened-glass windshield also offers support to the main body construction of the car. Should you be involved in a collision that results in the vehicle rolling, the windshield has to support the weight of the roof to prevent it from collapsing and crushing the passengers.
An already-defective windshield will shatter instantly upon impact, weakening the struts, framework, and the strength of the roof.
Air-bags rely on the windshield to correctly deploy. Once activated, the glass forces them forward into the direction of the passengers to protect their upper body from harm.
A chipped or cracked windshield might shatter spontaneously from the pressure of the bags, rendering them useless.
Visual impairment is a real consideration. If the crack falls within the driver's line of vision, the windshield should be changed with immediate effect. Anything large enough to obstruct the view of traffic, pedestrians, and other hazards is considered a danger to life and is not safe to use.
Windshields and the Law
The FMVSS, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, consider a windshield a safety feature and as such, it should be fully operational at all times.
The glass should be strong enough to keep the windshield in one piece during a collision and if the vehicle has air-bags fitted, the adhesive used should be six times stronger than vehicles with none fitted.
Therefore, the glass must be in perfect condition for not just passenger safety, but also to stay within the constraints of the law.
How Long Does it Take to Change a Windshield
Once you have chosen a reputable, certified technician to carry out the work you should know how much time to set aside.
A professional will take as little as 30-60 minutes to have the old windshield out and the new fitted.
However, this doesn't mean that the car is ready to drive away immediately, you should expect to have to wait. The adhesive used in the process has a curing time, and must fully set before taking the car on the road.
This is the soft, caulk-like glue that technicians use to stick and seal windshields into place. It is an ultra-sticky, black adhesive that bonds to anything it touches.
It is applied in a thick layer around the frame and the new windshield pushes into it. It creates a solid, weatherproof seal that holds the glass firmly in place.
Safe Drive Time
Safe drive time is set by the manufacturers of the adhesive used for replacement windshields. It is the period it takes for the glue to fully harden before it's safe to drive.
The time depends upon the glass and the adhesive and can vary between 30 minutes to several hours.
Minimum Drive Away Time
An alternative description used by the adhesive manufacturers but usually amount to the same amounts of time.
It is believed that disregarding the word 'safe' reduces any liability.
Any window technician of worth won't let a vehicle be driven until they are 100% positive that the adhesive is fully cured. They will know that driving a car before the adhesive is fully cured compromises both the structure and safety of the windshield.
The Effects of Temperature on Curing Times
High humidity and temperature combine and result in the ideal temperature for the fast curing of windshield adhesive.
This makes summer the ideal time and the perfect environment for outdoor windshield replacement.
If the temperature falls below 40° it is advisable to replace the windshield in a heated location so as not to prolong curing time.
Technicians often carry special products that assist curing times when applied with adhesives, this is ideally suited to outdoor windshield replacement in cool temperatures.
Can a Windshield be Repaired?
It's possible to repair smaller chips and cracks as long as they are less than 1” wide and 3” long.
There are five types of glass impairment:
- Circular – Caused by impact from a rounded object
- Half-moon – Similarly from a rounded object but doesn't leave a full-circle chip
- Star-breaks – Small radial cracks splaying out from a central point of impact
- Crack chips – Otherwise known as dings and usually the size of a quarter
- Pits – Areas where small pieces of glass are missing
Providing the damage is small and out of the driver's line of vision, repairing the windshield can be undertaken by a novice.
An auto-glass repair kit will contain most of the equipment required to complete the job. It should take around half an hour to achieve a near-perfect finish.
Each kit will contain a suction cup tool, thread repair tube, plunger, a tube of resin, and a sheet of clear finish film.
Repairing window chips requires a clean area, free from loose glass or dust.
Follow the steps on the included instructions and be sure to wait for the recommended time for the resin to completely cure.
Do You Need to Make an Appointment for a Windshield Replacement?
Many auto-window replacement businesses will come to you. Your day doesn't stop as you wait for the adhesive to cure, instead, you can go about your business while the technicians replace the car's windshield.
Many of the larger companies offer a 24-hour service, after all, a windshield chip isn't something you can plan for, and few of us can be without our cars for very long.
If you're going to a dealer, it is advisable to book ahead. Although they will have a stock of windshields, the one to fit your particular vehicle might not be included. They can often source the correct part the same day.
How Much Does a Windshield Replacement Cost
Many criterion are factored in when costing a windshield replacement.
- Make, model, and year of the vehicle
- Any special features i.e. rain sensors, solar and UV light blocking, condensation sensors
- Quality of the windshield wipers
- Amount of damage to the existing windshield. If it has experienced damage it will take longer and be more difficult to remove.
- Type of glass in the replacement windshield
For a standard car with a standard windshield, supply and fit, you should expect to pay between $250 and $400, with costs rising for more specialized requirements.
The same company will repair chips and cracks with costs rising from $60 dependent upon the size and severity of the damage.
If you're looking to reduce costs, it is cheaper to source a windshield yourself. Depending on the make and model of the vehicle, it is likely that local stockists or even scrap parts yards will have one available.
Reduce the work that the experts need to carry out by removing the rear-view mirror from the existing screen.
Before you spend any money, check your vehicle's insurance policy – you might find that windshield cover is included without any adverse effect on your premiums.
DIY Windshield Replacement – Is It Possible?
Replacing the windshield of a vehicle should not be undertaken lightly; it is a difficult task that requires many specialized tools.
When the cost of renting equipment is factored in, along with the angst and stress that a novice might face when replacing a windshield, calling the professionals should be a definite consideration.
Even removing the damaged windshield is a difficult task that might incur greater expense if the trim cannot be saved.
To answer the question “can you replace a windshield yourself”? - Maybe. The answer to this question is highly dependent on your own capabilities and if you have the required materials/equipment to do so.
Whether you are replacing a windshield as a precautionary measure or because it no longer abides by your state's laws, it is a task best undertaken by the professionals.