Once a stone hits the vehicle’s windshield. What do you think of immediately? I probably need to get a windshield repair or replacement now! Regardless of how you tackle the situation, it is an unpleasant experience for any car owner.

Even the sound of the stone flick can be challenging to forget for some time. Any new sounds coming from the windshields make you extra alert. Did I get another one? Is it expanding?

When a small stone chip, left unattended, it will eventually grow into a crack that splits further and further across the windshield.

How do you identify when the damage is repairable or when the entire windshield needs a replacement? In this extensive blog post, we aim to answer those windshield repair and replacement questions.

Let’s start by looking at how the windshield is made.

Three layers of auto glass

A windshield consists of three layers: two sheets of regular glass, combined with a middle layer of plastic (PolyVinyl Butyral – PVB). The layer of lamination holds the broken outer panes of glass together. In the event of an accident, that layer protects the occupants from dangerous glass shards.

Usually, when a rock hits the windshield, the damage doesn’t go through all three layers. It makes minor repairs so much easier.

Assess the damage to figure out if you need a windshield replacement or repair

Big crack and damage on a windshield
Example of a severe combo break on an auto windshield

Fortunately, most minor chips and cracks in the windshield are repairable without replacing the entire front windshield. When assessing the degree of damage, it’s important to consider four factors:

  • Type
  • Size
  • Depth
  • Location

Types of windshield chips and cracks

There are many different cracks, depending on what caused the damage and the speed at which it hit. Some are fixable, and others are not. Further down the post, we have illustrated the different types of chips and crack to identify them visually better.

Bullseye 

This circular crack type has a clean center break and usually happens when a round object (e.g., stone) hits the windshield. It is easy to fix bullseye cracks if caught in time, and it typically doesn’t require a complete replacement of the windshield.

Half Moon

This crack is visible as a half bullseye often has a blunt edge and can be easily repaired.

Edge Crack

Cracks on the edge of the windshield are the most common. They start close to the edge and move slowly inwards. The windshield needs a replacement if the damage is alongside the frame or longer than a few inches.

Floater Crack

Floater cracks usually occur in the middle of the windshield, and this windshield crack type will obstruct the driver’s view. These crack lines spread quickly and typically require total windshield replacement.

Star Break

A star break starts with an impact hole with one or two small cracks leading outward. These cracks usually grow and spread rapidly. It is always easier to repair, while the star is small and debris-free.

Combo Break

The combo break is primarily the result of serious damage, such as an accident or a severe impact on the windshield. (e.g., falling rocks and branches). Due to the absolute number of chips and cracks, replacing the windscreen is the more affordable option.

Size – when is it repairable?

Most auto glass technicians will be able to repair stone chips that are less than 1 inch in diameter (or smaller than a coin) and windshield cracks that are no longer than 3 inches in total.

Depth of the damage:

If the chip or crack has managed to get through all three layers of glass, it is likely to be unfixable. Even if it is just a tiny hole, it will be an area of weakness that undermines the strength of the entire windshield.

Location on the windshield:

Anty chips and cracks in the driver’s line of sight require, for the most part, a complete windshield replacement. No matter how good the repair quality eventually is, there may still be some mistiness, discoloration, or unevenness, which can distract the driver’s view in certain conditions. 

Any damage near the edge of the windshield (where it meets the metal frame) is also essential to be intact. Even a minor crack in this area will weaken the overall integrity of the windshield and compromise safety. Just because a part of the crack or chip may be out of sight beneath the frame and impossible to repair safely. Anything closer than 7cm to the edge requires a windshield replacement.

The infographic summarises the difference between a windshield replacement vs. repair.

How do technicians repair car glass?

Any pollution from dust, moisture, or residue will compromise the integrity of the glass. An auto glass specialist cleans the problem area with compressed air. Afterward, they inject the area with resin (this can last the lifetime of your windshield). 

The heated resin matches your car’s particular windshield strength, tint, and light refraction and bonds well with the glass around. As the last step, the technician will polish the glass, and in most cases, you won’t even be able to see the difference.

It’s important to know that specific auto technicalities, like the ones we mentioned below, can influence the possibility of repairs. If you have any of the following windshield features (depending on where the chip or crack is), the windshield may need to be replaced entirely:

Can a windshield repair or replacement wait?

There are numerous critical reasons why you should repair windshield chips and cracks as soon as possible.

One day you might just have a tiny chip, and the next, there’s a long crack along with your windshield. Cracks expand much quicker than you think. Besides your safety, it can also mean the difference between an affordable chip repair and an expensive windshield replacement.

In addition, when dust and moisture settle in the edges of a crack, this will cause further damage to the glass over time.

Not to mention the most crucial aspect: a chipped or cracked windshield is a safety issue. Even tiny imperfections in the windshield compromise the integrity of the glass.

Important points between windshield repair vs. replacement:

  • A windshield replacement is more expensive and takes more time than windshield repair.
  • In most cases, a minor chip and crack take under an hour to repair. A windshield replacement, can in some cases, take a few hours (if an ADAS calibration is needed).
  • Note, the key is to get rid of the crack as soon as possible. The longer you leave it without proper treatment, the higher the chances of the damage spreading and requiring a complete windshield replacement.
  • Windshields are responsible for around 30% of the vehicle’s structural integrity. An incorrectly fitted windshield, or one with too many poor repair jobs, can have dangerous results in the event of an accident.
  • Windshields play a vital role in airbag technology. A weak, damaged, or incorrectly fitted windshield can detach when an airbag deploys. The airbag will then inflate over the dashboard instead of protecting the occupant.
  • In case that you’ve repaired chips on your windshield more than eight times, you’ll need a total windshield replacement.

Do you recognize any of these crack types on your windshield?

We are here to help, and we offer instant quotations online for all vehicles. Visit our US Auto Glass website on the link below, and book a time right away.

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2 Comments

Afton Jackson · May 2, 2022 at 1:27 am

Thank you for talking about the ADAS system and why it would need to be considered when getting a replacement. Reading that part of your article showed me that I have a lot more to consider than just cracks when I figure out what to do with my car windshield. I’ll ask a windshield expert to assist me with this immediately so we can get things replaced and calibrated the right way.

Eli Richardson · May 10, 2022 at 6:37 pm

It really helped when you talked about what we should evaluate if we find a crack in our windshield. Last week, my wife and I went on a road trip, and we just found out that some tiny rocks crashed our windshield. We believe we need to take our car to an auto repair shop, so we’ll look into it now. We appreciate your insight on how windshield cracks are classified and which ones need immediate attention.

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