Cracks and Chips in Your Windshield | Scott's Fort Collins Auto

Cracks and Chips In Your Windshield

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A close-up view of a shattered windshield with a woman in the background talking on the phone to get help for that windshield.

Many cars will sustain a chip, crack or full break in the windshield at some point. This can easily happen when driving past other cars in motion, as rocks and materials on the road can be thrown up by other car wheels. If you’re lucky, you might get a tiny chip from a rock. If you’re unlucky, your entire windshield can break. Chips should not be ignored, as these can grow quickly across your windshield. Use these recommendations for when you have a crack or shattered windshield!


Windshield 101

Your windshield is made of a type of material known as “safety glass”. Regular glass is used for places that are less likely to sustain damage, such as windows for a home. However, car accidents are frequent, and regular glass shatters quite easily, can easily cut, making it dangerous. That is why safety glass—or glass strengthened and tempered with extra heat—was invented


When glass is heated and cooled quickly, the glass becomes stronger. That tempered glass can then take on more compression forces if hit. The glass is also laminated, so when it is hit, it will crumble into much larger, duller pieces. Laminate is a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) that gives it an extra layer or strength and thickness.


Regular glass simply shatters and can shatter into very small pieces. That is why safety glass is also used for cars, cell phones, tablets and other devices that come in direct contact with people’s hands or faces often. However, most people can’t install safety glass by themselves. A good example is a windshield, which needs to—by law—be made of safety glass and be installed by a professional.


A close-up view of a round chip in a windshield.

Types of Damage to Your Windshield

Damage to your windshield can happen in the blink of an eye—literally! You may have experienced a rock hitting your window as you were driving on the freeway. Rocks and other debris on the road can be caught by car tires and can be thrown in any direction. A rock can be thrown from a car in front of you into your windshield or it can travel across many lanes of traffic and hit you. Some makes and models of cars such as semis have thick rubber guards behind tires to prevent this from happening as much as possible to other drivers.


With rocks thrown against a windshield, you may get a slick nick or chip in the windshield. Or, your windshield can get hit hard enough that it shatters without falling apart, or a crack goes all the way across the windshield. Cracks and damage can also happen from simply too much pressure. Never sit on your car’s windshield or place heavy objects on it. Don’t perform tricks like parkour or jumping vehicles with a bike, as any fall onto the windshield can break it. The top reported damages to a windshield include car crashes, road debris hitting the windshield, hail damage, vandalism and too much pressure on the windshield.


When Driving Is Unsafe

Did you know that you may actually be breaking the law if your chips or cracks are too large in your windshield? For most states, the laws require that any cracks and chips are very small and that they don’t impede your ability to see clearly. Your windshield should first be placed by a professional instead of you doing it at your home. Windshields installed incorrectly can sustain damage quickly or can shift with driving. When installed by a professional, by law there should be a sticker somewhere on the windshield showing that it is made of safety glass.


It is very unsafe to drive without a windshield in the car or to drive any vehicle that does not have a windshield. That windshield protects from any debris on the road that could cause death if it goes through the front of the car. Even if the windshield cracks or chips, it saves lives in this way. Never drive with a windshield that is excessively damaged or cracked. You will likely get pulled over by the police if they see this, as it makes it extremely dangerous for you to be on the road and to adequately see other drivers or pedestrians.


Professionals in a auto shop installing a brand new windshield for a car.

Do You Need a Fix or a Replacement?

You will either need rock chips repaired or a full replacement of your windshield depending on the law in your state and the extent of the damage the windshield has. With very tiny chips, rock chips can be repaired without replacing the entire windshield. With small chips, you are only eligible for those quick repairs if the chip is more of a circle. Star or flower-like circles are fine, as well as bullseye and other circular chips. Most of those can be repaired with our professional adhesive that’s applied to the damaged areas.


However, actual cracks, spider cracks and surface damage that hinders vision (even in one small area) may require a full windshield replacement. This is because those types of cracks or chips to your windshield could grow larger with any pressure or force to the windshield. It could also shatter if another rock or other object hit the windshield because the integrity is already compromised. The need for a quick fix or a replacement will vary between patients and how damaged the vehicle is.


You may also need a replacement if any of your cracks go all the way through the windshield. Depending on the state, the law may require a fix if the damage is larger than a half inch in diameter. Others will only require a repair if the damage is larger than 1-1.5 inches. Check your state laws and with a professional auto shop to know what to do once damaged has happened. In many cases, insurance may cover a full windshield replacement. If you want to know what to do about your cracks or chips, call Scott’s Fort Collins Auto at (970) 682-4202 today for a professional assessment!

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