Whether your window has chipped, smashed, or has a failing mechanism that won't allow it to close, you are going to want to cover it until such time that a repair is undertaken.
Knowing how to cover a broken car window can provide a temporary barrier that helps helps to keep you motoring within the law.
Reasons to Cover a Broken Window
If you need to drive your vehicle until the repair is carried out you will want to cover the window to protect it from varying factors:
An open window is a clear invitation for opportunistic thieves. Not only can they reach in to take your belongings, but they can also gain access to the vehicle to damage/steal it.
Harmful UV rays from the sun can damage the interior of a car causing the fabric to fade (the reason leather conditioners are necessary).
Worse still, rain, hail, or snow could create countless problems if they were to get inside the vehicle.
If the window has shattered it's likely that there are tiny pieces of glass inside and outside of the car, no matter how well you think you've cleaned up.
Covering the gap protects the passengers from further loose glass, and ensures nothing further falls to the floor, risking tire damage.
What You Need to Cover a Window
Covering a window doesn't require any special tools.
A plastic garbage bag, not the black variety, but the transparent type. Any strong, clear polythene that can be cut to shape will suffice.
Strong tape such as parcel tape. Many people suggest duct tape, and whilst it provides a supreme grip, it might also harm the car's bodywork and protective layers.
Scissors or a blade to cut the plastic to shape.
Newspaper or cardboard box to safely collect and dispose of any broken glass.
Safety gloves to prevent cuts or splinters from glass particles.
How to Cover a Broken Car Window
Wear safety gloves and remove large pieces of broken glass. Place them on the newspaper or into the cardboard box. Once you are sure you've collected as much as you can, tape the parcel closed or lid shut and dispose of the glass safely.
It's impossible to have collected all the small glass shards in the first step. Use the nozzle attachment to suck up the remaining particles and ensure that you also use it along the window crevice.
Clean the area around the window with a damp cloth. Cars naturally pick up dust particles and debris that might prevent the tape from sticking and creating a tight bond.
Do not attempt to begin the job until the area is completely dry.
It is best to have two people for the next step. One to hold the plastic as taut as possible whilst the other applies the tape.
Place long strips of tape along every edge of the plastic, all around the inside of the window. Press firmly down, if air can get in, then so can moisture.
As each strip is added, the second person should pull the plastic to ensure it remains as tight as possible. Any sagging will create noise nuisance and allow rainwater to settle.
Repeat the process around the outside of the frame. If there is a possibility that tape might stick to the paintwork, put a strip of masking tape down first to protect it.
Again, ensure the tape seals the entire perimeter.
Adding further strips of tape across the plastic will give it added strength, this is advisable in wet and windy conditions.
Which Plastic is Best for Covering Car Windows?
Not all trash bags are the same, some are made from very thin, low-density plastic, usually between 0.7 and 0.9mm thick. You might have found this out to your peril when a heavy bag has spilled its contents all over the kitchen floor.
Opt for plastic that is high-density and at least 2mm thick. This will offer greater protection from the elements, particularly when traveling at speed.
Other Methods of Covering Broken Car Windows
- Clear duct tape is an option. It is simple to install as the strips stick directly to the inside of the door frame. Run them vertically, slightly overlapping to create a tight seal. First applying a layer of masking tape around the perimeter of the window for the duct tape to stick to (also protects the paintwork).
- Crash wrap is a relatively new style of window covering. It is a sticky-back plastic on a roll and is installed easily. Run the roll up from the base of the window, over the top, and down the front. Cut it off neatly and press firmly into place. It has the bonus of being UV, water, and weather resistant.
Should the Window Be Covered From Inside or Outside the Vehicle?
As tape is used to keep the plastic in place, the adhesive will break down very quickly if it is exposed to the elements.
Therefore, it is advisable to cover the window from the interior. However, the gap where the window sits is still open and exposed. If moisture were to get inside, it could damage the electrical system that powers the windows.
To prevent this occurrence, seal the gap with a strip or two of tape.
If you choose to use a stronger tape, such a duct tape, we recommend running a strip of masking tape along the paintwork to protect it.
Duct tape can not only pull off sealant and/or wax, but it can also remove paintwork.
Putting plastic on the outside of the window will draw attention to the vulnerability of the vehicle.
Can You Cover a Broken Rear Windshield?
Anything that obstructs a driver's view of the road, traffic, and pedestrians is illegal and shouldn't be considered.
If either windshield is shattered, you should get the car safely towed to a repair shop.
If the rear window is broken, you should safely apply a temporary cover just to get you to a place of safety. The vehicle should then be kept stationary until the replacement is fitted.
The Law and Temporary Window Coverings
Be aware that laws differ between states about the legalities of driving with short-term fixes on car windows.
To remain on the right side of the law it is advisable to contact the local police department for their rules and regulations.
It is quick and easy to cover a broken car window, but that doesn't stop it from being very annoying and time-consuming.
Remember, it should only ever be used as a very short-term fix and if it's possible not to use the vehicle until it has been repaired, please don't.
If the window was broken by thieves, this is a very costly reminder to always remove your valuables from the car.