The distinctive snap of a rock glancing off the windshield is enough to make any driver hold their breath and wince, searching for any cracks. The windshield is an integral part of the vehicle, in addition to its impact on visibility while you drive, it also helps keep the roof from crumpling in an accident. So, any chip or crack is more than an annoyance, it's a potential safety and structural issue. Fortunately, a lot of windshield damage is easy and inexpensive to take care of, especially if you tackle it early. When and Why to Repair or Replace
It's illegal in most states to drive with a cracked or broken windshield, and each state has its own laws about size, placement and whether the damage affects the driver's view of the road. This guide walks through the state-by-state laws surrounding cracked windshields
Most state laws also give you a deadline for fixing the problem. But regardless of whether you're at risk for a ticket, it's best to fix chips and cracks as soon as possible. Very cold or very hot days, direct sunlight, vibration from slamming car doors, or even hitting potholes can turn a small chip into a crack that quickly spiders across the glass. DIY Repair or Hire an Expert
If you've got a small chip in the glass, it's usually fine to repair it yourself soon after it appears. This will help keep it from spreading into a longer crack that requires a full replacement.
Repair kits usually cost around $10-$15. These kits often include a syringe-like device that uses suction to pull the air out of the chip and fill it with resin. It typically only takes about a half-hour to repair the crack, plus additional time for the resin to cure.
Of course, you can also get the chip repaired by a professional, and it usually takes less than an hour. Typically this costs about $100, but it will also depend on your vehicle, the size of the chip, and where you live. You might even be able to get the repair done for free to avoid a more expensive claim later, depending on your insurance policy and how the damage occurred.
When to Leave Replacement to the Experts
While DIY kits can take care of minor damage, it's best to leave a full replacement to the professionals. Again, as with professional chip repair, the cost of replacing a windshield will depend on your vehicle's year, make, and model, as well as where you live. But you can expect to pay about $250.
The Auto Glass Safety Council recommends asking the repair shop if they're registered with the AGSC, if the materials they use meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, what kind of warranty they offer on the work, and how long it will be after the replacement before your car is safe to drive. The time it takes for the adhesives to set and cure can vary depending on weather, humidity, and elevation.1