How to Repair a Cracked Windshield

202212-how-to-fix-cracked-windshield illustration by Paul Dolan

Having a chip or crack in your windshield can be annoying, but a bigger concern is that it could spread to become larger, potentially running through your field of vision or even threatening the structural integrity of the windshield itself. Therefore, if a chip or crack appears, it’s a good idea to address the problem as quickly as possible.

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Chips and cracks typically spread due to temperature fluctuations. This can happen in direct sunlight when the car is closed up and the interior gets hot, or in cold weather when the interior heats up or the defroster is used. They can also spread due to driving on rough roads.

While replacing the windshield is the obvious solution, it’s also an expensive one. But it’s possible the windshield can be repaired — either by a professional or by yourself.

Is Repairing a Windshield an Option?

Generally, a windshield can be reasonably repaired if the damage is:

  • Not in the driver’s direct line of sight (repairs aren’t typically flawless)
  • A chip with surrounding cracks that can be covered with a quarter (roughly 1 inch in diameter)
  • Just one or two cracks less than 6 or 8 inches in length, or not more than three chips
  • Not at the edges of the windshield, as this might affect structural rigidity

If a repair seems like a possibility, you might want to call your car insurance agent to see if your policy covers windshield repairs, as some do without any cost to you.

If your policy doesn’t cover the repair, a good place to start is by calling a professional for a quote — even if you’d planned to do it yourself. Why? Because using professional equipment, the repair might only take about 30 minutes and cost around $100 (though it could be more). It may also come with a guarantee, though whether there is one and what it covers should be established up front.

Most areas can be served by more than one repair shop, too, so getting a couple of quotes would be wise, and many make “house calls” and will travel to wherever your car is located. Going this route may be especially attractive if you have a tall vehicle and the repair to be made is in the center of your windshield, as it may be difficult for you to reach when using a repair kit.

The DIY Option

If you decide to go the do-it-yourself route, you can find a variety of kits for less than $20. Some are little more than a tube of something like Super Glue, but those that most closely resemble what a professional would use (and that seem to get the most praise from YouTubers, who often add neat tips that may not be in the instructions) include a syringe to vacuum air out of the chip and/or force resin in, along with a way to hold the syringe against the windshield. A possible advantage to buying the kit in a store is that you can read the instructions first to see how difficult it is and how long it takes, as some steps require a rather long wait time. Note, however, that if you try to fix your windshield yourself and the repair doesn’t come out well, it’s unlikely a professional could make it better; replacement would probably be your best form of recourse.

Repair instructions vary, but generally, you start by scraping loose material from the chip and cleaning the windshield. You then form a seal around the chip with a holder of some sort, attach the syringe to the holder and pull up the syringe’s plunger to vacuum air out of the chip. You may leave the syringe in this position for a bit. Next, remove the syringe, drop some resin into the holder, reattach the syringe to the holder and push down on the plunger to force the resin into the chip. The syringe is again held in position awhile. Then, it’s a matter of removing the syringe and holder, laying on a curing patch and letting the repair set for some time. Finally, you scrape off the residue with a razor and clean the windshield again.

Windshield Replacement

This is what you were trying to avoid, of course — and it’s really not a do-it-yourself proposition.

Whether you ask the shops that initially provided quotes or try to get an estimate online, you’ll likely be questioned not only about the year, make and model of your car, but also its vehicle identification number or what features it has. That’s partly because what’s attached to the inside of the windshield — such as cameras for high-tech safety features — might be difficult to remove and replace.

Worse from a cost perspective are windshields that have internal heaters (which are rare), as the windshield itself can be hugely expensive. Thus, it’s a good idea to know your car’s VIN and what applicable features it has before searching for a quote.

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