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Chips and Cracks: Is It Time to Replace My Windshield?

You’re cruising down the highway at 120 kilometres an hour, feeling a cold breeze rushing in through your open window. Suddenly – crack! A small rock flies from the truck in front of you and hits your windshield, leaving a small chip mark.

What to do? Should you take your car in for a repair? If you leave the chip for too long, will it spread, causing the necessity of replacing your windshield entirely?

Modern Windshields: An Amazing Invention

Fortunately, as soon as that rock hits your windshield, your windshield is already equipped to protect you. But it wasn’t always this way. The first windshields were only window glass, and in the event of a crash, the glass would often shatter and cut the driver. This led engineers to develop more crash-resistant windshields.

Today, windshields are made of three layers of glass. The inner layer, called the lamination, holds together the outer layers. With this design, your windshield won’t fall apart and cut you with glass. So, be grateful that windshields crack, rather than breaking entirely.

Types of Chips and Cracks

So, your windshield has a nasty chip or crack? Knowing the type of crack can help you assess its danger and know how to fix it.

  • Chip: when a small piece of glass comes off the windshield
  • Crack Chip: a crack as large as a quarter, with an impact point
  • Bull’s Eye: a large, circular chip
  • Half Moon: similar to a Bull’s Eye, but not circular
  • Star break: a chip that has cracks extending from the impact point
  • Edge crack: a crack that starts at the edge of the windshield or within about 5 centimeters (2 inches) beyond the edge
  • Long crack: a crack over 15 cm (6 in) long
  • Stress crack: A crack that is caused by stress to the car rather than a hit to the windshield. Causes include:
    – You blasted your AC in an overheated car
    – You blasted your heat in a freezing car
    – You scraped or melted ice off the windshield using hot water
    To prevent this type of crack, avoid exposing your windshield to extreme temperatures.

Which of these chips and cracks require attention? Well, all of them. Due to weather, moisture, dirt, and even day-to-day driving, a tiny chip or crack might spread over time and cause severe damage to your windshield. Smaller chips can be repaired by an auto technician. But larger chips and cracks, especially long cracks, may require a windshield replacement.

When It’s Time to Repair

If your chip or crack is smaller than a quarter, a technician will probably be able to fix it. The repair process takes about 30 minutes. Here’s how it goes:

  1. If the crack or chip has damaged the inner glass layer, the technician enlarges the crack with a drill to deepen the hole, so the treatment can reach the inner layer
  2. He or she removes all dust and debris with a small vacuum
  3. Using an injector, the technician injects a resin into the chip or crack
  4. He or she cures and polishes the resin using UV light; the crack is now unable to spread

You can also fix small chips yourself using a DIY kit, but this doesn’t guarantee results. Taking your car to a repair place is the best course of action.

When It’s Time to Replace

Some chips and cracks require more than a simple repair. If the chip is bigger than 5 centimeters (2 inches) across or the crack is 0.30 metres (one foot) long, you’ll probably need a new windshield.

There are two main windshield options:

  • OEM: the same as your original windshield; manufactured for your car’s regulations.
  • Aftermarket: a less expensive option because it is not manufactured under contract to an auto company; similar to an OEM windshield, but may have slightly different thickness, durability, or colour. Occasionally causes problems like leaking or noise.

Check to see what your insurance will cover and decide what you are willing to pay.

When you come in for a windshield replacement, you’ll probably experience up to two hours of wait time. In about an hour, the auto technician will do the following:

  1. Cover the area around the windshield
  2. Cut and remove the windshield, seals, and glues
  3. Spread a primer on the windshield frame
  4. Place an adhesive sealer on the new windshield’s edges
  5. Fit and bond the windshield to the frame

Now, you’ll want to wait another hour for the adhesives to fully set before you hit the road.

Final Thoughts

When you choose an auto technician to repair or replace your windshield, make sure you choose someone who is experience in installing windshields. A second-rate windshield repair could make driving unsafe. After all, the windshield protects you from being thrown from the car in an accident, and it also keeps rocks and debris from hitting you while you’re driving. Thus, you’ll want to make sure your windshield has been expertly replaced.

If you see a chip or crack in your windshield, don’t wait for it to spread. Go to an auto service centre as soon as possible.

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