Discovering a crack in your vehicle's windshield can be an aggravating experience. Not knowing how dangerous it is or if it will even pass inspection can weigh on a person's mind. If you wonder if a cracked or damaged windshield will cause your vehicle to fail its inspection, we can help you. We researched vehicle inspection standards from multiple professional sources so that you will know for sure if you are ok to move forward with your inspection.
Whether or not a vehicle with a cracked windshield will pass inspection will depend on the state you are getting your inspection in, as well as the size of the crack itself. The inspection guidelines for windshields not only mention cracks in most states but also pits and other damage or obstructions.
Now that we know that whether or not your vehicle will pass depends on what state you're getting your inspection in, we'll take a closer look at the inspection requirements of some of the largest U.S. states by population. You might also be curious about how long a cracked windshield will last or if it's against the law to drive with a cracked windshield. For the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post to see what we've uncovered in our research.
Windshield inspection guidelines in the largest four states
The criteria for your vehicle passing inspection is relatively uniform in states that require them for your tag renewal. Still, there are some differences that motorists experience from state to state. Here, we'll go over those differences regarding your windshield in the four of the most populous states in the U.S.
The state code of California is the sole governing authority for motor vehicle inspections. The laws in this state prohibit a person from driving a vehicle that has an obstructed view from the windshield. While this pertains to stickers, fliers, and other non-transparent obstructions, it also counts cracks.
There is no law saying that a crack by itself is illegal. But if a police officer were to determine that such a crack obstructs a driver's front or rearview, it would be deemed a violation.
In short, so long as the windshield crack is not in a line of view for the driver, then it should pass inspection.
The state of Florida has nearly identical laws when compared to the state of California. While cracked windshields aren't specifically mentioned, the code spells out that any obstruction that impedes a forward or rear view would be in violation.
The Empire State has more rigid requirements for your windshield to pass inspection. In New York, you must not have any forward or rearview obstructed by any non-transparent object. They recommend getting all cracks, pits, and other windshield damage repaired immediately.
Additionally, your windshield will fail inspection if it is broken or has sharp or jagged edges. Any crack over 11 inches in length is a reason to fail, and no cracks are allowed in the path of the wiper blades. Star cracks that are more than three inches in diameter will not pass inspection, no matter where they are on the windshield.
In Texas, you cannot operate a vehicle with an obstructed front or rear view. While cracks aren't specifically mentioned, a crack that crossed the driver's line of sight would undoubtedly be a reason to fail the vehicle inspection.
Is it legal to drive with a cracked windshield?
State by state, the laws for driving with a cracked windshield will vary some. In general, so long as the crack does not interfere with your line of sight as a driver, then you should be ok in most states. However, some states like New York have stricter rules that govern how long any crack can be before it is subject to failing your windshield.
Federal law requires that all drivers have a clear vision of the road. Additionally, the cracks or chips in a windshield are ok, so long as they are not more than 3/4 inch in diameter and are at least 3 inches away from any other cracks.
Is it illegal in Texas to drive without a windshield?
Windshields are vital for highway driving. They prevent bugs, weather, and debris from hitting the driver and passenger and make for a much quieter ride. You'd think that every state would require a windshield on all vehicles with that in mind. But in our research, we found that this wasn't the case in the state of Texas.
Texas state code does not specifically state that your car needs a windshield. But if it has a windshield, the state has some regulations that need to be followed. If you have a windshield, you must have working windshield wipers. These need to be controlled by the driver and must be able to remove any moisture on the exterior surface of the windshield.
These wipers must be free of cracks and tears and need to be able to wipe the glass evenly. The glass itself has to be a safety glass, which is layers of glazed glass with glazing materials sandwiched in between. This is to prevent shattering upon impact.
Does Texas have free windshield replacement?
Getting a windshield replacement can cost upwards of $400, depending on where you are and what model vehicle you drive. As the average insurance deductible is above this amount, you'd be paying out of pocket to replace this vital piece of your car or truck.
The state of Texas does not replace windshields for free. The only way to have a free replacement is if your auto insurance policy has zero deductible.
How long will a cracked windshield last?
The amount of life you can get out of a cracked windshield will depend on several factors. While it's impossible to give an exact timeframe on how much life a cracked windshield has left, you can get a general idea of how dire the situation is based upon the following:
Size of crack
A small crack can be easily fixed. But letting it go too long will only allow for it to get bigger, getting to the point that the only option you have is to replace it. But small cracks will usually take a long time to grow, meaning that it could be months before it becomes a major issue.
Proximity to other cracks
If you have more than one crack, they will lessen the life of your windshield if they are close together. As we noted above, some states will fail a vehicle for inspection if the cracks are closer than three inches to one another. Cracks growing together are a big problem and almost guarantee that you'll need to replace the windshield.
Cracks that grow together mean you only have a few more weeks of useful life out of your windshield.
Type of crack
A single crack is a problem. But a star-shaped crack is even worse. These types of cracks will continue to grow in multiple directions, quickly making your windshield ineffective.
There's no set timeline on how long a crack will take to ruin your windshield. It's important to know that other than obstructing your vision, a windshield that is too cracked can deflate an airbag upon impact, putting you and your passenger in more immediate danger. For these and other important reasons, pay close attention to the condition of your windshield.
If you notice cracks or pits in your windshield, you should remedy them right away. Cracks will slowly take in moisture, and the constant temperature changes will only make these cracks bigger over time. If they get too big or begin to meet with any other cracks or pits, then they can grow even faster and get to the point that they obstruct your view and fail inspection.
Laws will vary from state to state, but federal law requires an unobstructed front and rear view for the driver. But even if you live in a state that allows a cracked windshield to pass inspection, for safety's sake, you should always repair or replace a damaged windshield as soon as possible. This will not only prevent additional damage but will help keep you and your passengers safe.
If you found this post on car windshields to be helpful, we believe you'll enjoy reading the following automotive maintenance posts:
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