So there you are, driving down the highway, minding your own business, when “Bam!” — a rock kicked up by the vehicle in front of you hits your windshield.
The sharp and sudden noise leaves you disoriented at first, wondering what happened. Then you see it: the dime-sized chip right in the middle of your otherwise perfectly clear windshield. Can you repair the chip? Should you replace the entire windshield? Is the windshield still structurally safe?
We’re here to answer these questions and more. Here’s a quick guide to windshield scratches, cracks, and chips and when you can repair versus replace your windshield.
Is It a Scratch, Crack, or Chip?
Today, most windshields are made of laminated safety glass. This kind of glass is actually two sheets of glass with a plastic laminate sandwiched in the middle. Unlike the windows in your house, windshields are engineered to withstand substantial stress and impact (like a car crash). This is why your home’s windows will shatter when hit with a rock, while your windshield will usually only chip or crack.
Windshield damage generally fits into one of three categories: scratches, chips, or cracks. The main difference between scratches, chips, and cracks is the depth of damage done to the glass.
Scratches are usually shallow and affect just the outer layer of the glass. They are often caused by windshield wiper blades that haven’t been replaced. (When the rubber on the windshield wiper wears off, the metal windshield wiper will scrape against the windshield glass, causing a scratch that deepens over time.)
While scratches don’t affect the structural integrity of the windshield, they can be unsightly and can also reflect light from the sun or headlights from oncoming traffic in a way that impairs your vision. This is a safety issue—and for this reason, we recommend repairing your windshield.
Cracks are similar to scratches, but more severe. They generally penetrate at least the outer layer of glass in the windshield, and they can appear anywhere on your windshield—from the edge to smack in the middle. Cracks can be caused by flying debris, a collision, or even extreme temperature changes!
Cracks—because they are more serious than scratches—should be dealt with right away. That’s because cracks can spread quickly, soon obscuring your vision and compromising the integrity of your windshield.
Chips are when tiny pieces of glass “flake off” from your windshield. This type of damage almost always happens after a small piece of debris (like gravel) hits your windshield. Chips come in all shapes and sizes: they can be tiny, or they can be huge and with cracks radiating outward.
A chip might seem like no big deal, but don’t put off repairing it: a chipped windshield is a damaged one, meaning that it is more vulnerable to cracks.
Should You Repair or Replace Your Windshield?
Your windshield is actually one of the most important safety features of your car: not only does it protect you from dirt and debris while driving, it also provides 60 percent of the structural integrity of your car. What does this mean if your windshield is damaged? Your car won’t hold together normally in the case of an accident, which is incredibly dangerous!
It makes sense to get your windshield repaired or replaced as soon as you can. But which is appropriate? There are a few factors that affect your options.
How deep is the damage?
The extra sheet of glass and laminate create options for repairing cracks and chips—but only if just the outer glass is damaged.
The easiest way to figure this out is to gently scrape the surface of the scratch, crack, or chip from both sides of the windshield. If you can feel the damage from the inside, that means it is deep enough to affect the windshield all the way through. In this case, replacement is the only option for ensuring normal windshield safety and protection. If you can’t feel the damage from the inside of the windshield, you might be able to repair it.
What kind of damage is there?
Scratches and chips are the most common types of windshield damage. Luckily, they’re also the easiest windshield issues to fix. Scratches are usually shallow, and chips are generally small. If you catch them soon enough, they won’t result in spreading cracks across your windshield. As long as the damage is to the outer glass only, filling compound will repair the chip so well that you’ll barely be able to see where the repair was made.
How big is the damage?
Small chips and short cracks are often a simple fix. Even those cracks that radiate from a chip in a spider web or bull’s eye pattern can be fixed, especially when they are small. Most of the time, cracks can be repaired with filler compound.
For more extensive damage, however, the better option will likely be replacement. If your windshield has multiple chips or very long cracks, there is more concern that your windshield will fail during an accident. To keep you and your passengers safe, you’ll want to replace your windshield.
In short: the smaller the damage, the more likely it is that your windshield can be repaired. (That’s why we encourage drivers to get their windshields repaired as soon as they see a chip or crack: it could save their windshield!)
Where is the damage located?
It’s not just the depth and size of the damage that matters; the location matters, too.
Cracks that reach the edge of your windshield are more difficult to repair. (That’s because the weakest part of the windshield is the edge.) Also, damage located directly in your field of vision is a safety hazard. In these cases, you might want to consider replacement over repair.
Talk to the Experts
The best way to determine whether your windshield needs repair or replacement is to talk to the professionals. Ask your local glass expert about the best remedy for your windshield scratch, chip, or crack.
The good news is that, in most cases, your windshield can be saved.
For all of your auto glass needs, Jack’s Glass offers superior repair and replacement. We’ll work with your insurer to cover any and all approved costs per your policy. Ask about convenient, on-site mobile windshield repair, too.
If you do a a lot of driving, have a history of windshield chips, or often find yourself in construction zones you may want to take advantage of Jack’s Glass’ Rock Chip Club. Enrolling in the Rock Chip Club means you’re covered for future chip repairs for as long as you own your vehicle, per the terms of the Rock Chip Club agreement. To enroll in the Rock Chip Club, simply ask a Jack’s Glass representative about membership when you’re getting your windshield chip repaired.
Call Us Today
Jack’s Glass has excelled in glass repair, replacement and design for more than 65 years. Jack’s Glass provides repair and replacement for auto glass and custom solutions shower and tub enclosures and many other residential glass items. We also do custom glasswork for businesses, and proudly serve Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky with locations in Elsmere, Covington, Alexandria and Dry Ridge.
Call us today!