Windshield: Repair or Replace?

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April 15, 2016

So your windshield got hit by a rock and now it's developed a chip or – even worse – a crack. Even if it's just a chip now, it could soon spread, eventually spanning the entire length of your windshield. So what do you do? Is it time for a full replacement, or should you consider fixing your windshield? Autotrader shares some advice.

Fixing Your Windshield: The Basics

In years past, getting a chip in your windshield meant silently hoping that the chip didn't turn into a crack, which would require full windshield replacement – at a high cost. Often, it was only a matter of time before the chip spread, no matter how careful you were or how much you crossed your fingers that you wouldn't need to replace your windshield.
But that's no longer the case. Modern technology has come a long way, and that includes the realm of windshield repair, as most chips can now be filled and repaired to the point where you wouldn't be able to tell that they ever existed in the first place.
Of course, there are limitations. Most windshield repair businesses say that a chip larger than a nickel (or a crack larger than 3 inches in length) is no longer repairable, and will require the full replacement of the windshield. It's also worth noting that chips in the middle of the windshield are a lot less concerning than chips on the side, which are more likely to spread quickly.
Also be aware that some facilities may not repair a chip that appears directly in the driver's line of vision. Because the repair process leaves minor distortions in the glass, some shops prefer to replace the windshield rather than compromise the driver's vision.
Still, if you spot a chip on your windshield, we suggest bringing your vehicle to a well-reviewed windshield repairer in your area before it turns into a costly crack.

The Costs: Repair and Replacement

Exactly how much will it cost to repair – or replace – your windshield? A full windshield replacement can be expensive, with the service costing around $500 for many typical compact and midsize cars, and $1,000 or more for certain luxury models, especially if your vehicle features a heated windshield. As usual, independent shops tend to charge less than dealerships, as dealers use more expensive automaker parts.
By comparison, replacing a windshield chip is very cheap. Most windshield repair firms charge less than $100 per chip, with some charging closer to $50 or $60 – a huge discount compared to replacing your vehicle's entire windshield.
Better yet, if you have comprehensive insurance, you might be able to get your windshield repaired for free. Many insurance companies would rather repair a chip than pay to replace a windshield – so they're often willing to waive your deductible and pay for your entire repair if you find a chip in your windshield. If your chip is already too far-gone to repair, your comprehensive insurance policy will cover a new windshield, but you'll have to pay your deductible.
Our take: If you spot a chip in your windshield, get it fixed before it comes a serious crack, which will be more expensive to you and your insurer.

How Does Windshield Repair Work?

Windshield repair involves injection of a special resin into the damaged area using a tool that attaches directly to the glass. Once injected, this resin is then cured and polished to restore the clarity and strength to the glass.
When a chip or crack occurs, it often spreads into the windshield's inner layer of plastic, which is sandwiched between two layers of glass. In some instances, a drill is used to make a clean passageway to the plastic, where the resin is injected to repair the damage.
Think of a windshield repair as first-aid that prevents the damage from getting worse. In some cases, it may look nearly perfect, while in others, it could still appear slightly blemished. But in either case, a proper repair prevents damage from spreading.
And since every chip is unique, some will respond more effectively to repair than others. A repaired windshield will never look as perfectly clear as a brand new one.

Getting the Work Done

When it comes to repairing or replacing your windshield, you have a number of possible options. It all depends on your specific needs.
  • Automotive glass specialist. These facilities specialize in the repair and replacement of automotive glass. This includes not only windshields, but also side and rear windows. Most usually attempt to repair a windshield before recommending replacement.
  • Windshield repair facility. These independent and nationally franchised shops usually specialize in windshield repairs only. They fix chips and cracks, but do not install new windshields.
  • New car dealer. Your local dealer can replace your windshield with an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) windshield. Many dealers sub-contract to mobile glass services, who come to the dealership and replace windshields on-site. Sometimes non-OEM windshields are also available through dealers.
  • Mobile glass repair and replacement service. Rather than go somewhere to have work performed on your car, these services come to you and repair or replace your windshield wherever your car is located-at home, or even at work.
  • General glass service. In addition to replacing automotive glass, these facilities also handle sales and installation of commercial and residential glass.
Source: Autotrader
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