There are plenty of things that can lead to a crack in your windshield. It could be a major hail storm or a giant acorn; something completely out of your control, or maybe a minor accident. But once your windshield is cracked, it can potentially be a dangerous predicament. It can depend on the situation if one is to answer the question with accuracy.
You shouldn't drive with a cracked windshield, but depending on the crack, sometimes it's not a big deal. Windshield glass is designed to withstand impact, so a small crack does not necessarily mean you are in danger, but it does mean that the structural integrity of the window is no longer intact. Further, a major crack in the windshield can impact your visibility. When in doubt - get a qualified professional to assess the damage and suggest a fix.
Keep reading to find out all the details about what can cause a windshield to crack and why it could be a safety hazard.
What Can Cause a Windshield Crack?
The nature of glass is very interesting when dealing with these types of issues.
Taking a hit
The cause of the crack can be an obvious outside source. For example, maybe a kid that lives on your block hits a baseball and it nails your windshield; that one is obvious. A car accident is another obvious scenario where your windshield may get cracked.
Probably the most common cause of broken glass is something coming from another vehicle. This usually means one of two things has occurred. Either a car in front of you drives over and object and it shoots out backward toward your car, or some object like a small rock falls out of the back of a big truck.
Nature is one of the most frequent causes of broken glass for the most part. If there is a major hailstorm, you better hope that you have a garage. Otherwise, it is going to be a rough time for your windshield. If you park underneath trees, a large enough acorn can do some pretty serious damage if it falls in the wrong spot.
Massive hail can inflict a lot of damage on your vehicle, and that includes any glass parts. See here how to protect your car from hail damage.
Temperature change is the first potential culprit for a windshield crack that comes out of nowhere. If you live in an area where the weather changes year-round, sometimes rapidly, it can put your windshield at risk. This is because the glass expands slightly and shrinks slightly when things get hot or cold. So, consider you wake up in the morning in the winter and it’s 10 degrees outside. You start your car and crank the heat, now the glass heats up dramatically. It changes from 10 degrees to 75 degrees within minutes, which can cause a crack.
It is possible that there was an error in the installation of your windshield as well. Cars are mass-produced and almost every model meets strict criteria before they can be sold at a dealership. With that being said, there is always a slight margin of error and you might get a vehicle where the windshield was not properly installed. Over time this might become a problem in the form of a crack in your windshield.
Major Change in Air Pressure
It is possible, although rare, that a major change in pressure can cause a crack in the glass. This can be from heavy wind gusts or driving at very fast speeds.
The final possibility is that the glass that the manufacturer received was faulty. This is the rarest instance but it does happen from time to time. This means that the car company is not at fault, but their supplier.
Can You tell if a Windshield is Cracked from the Inside or Outside?
The first thing that you are going to want to do is determine what type of crack you are dealing with. There are several different varieties, for example, if a rock falls out of a truck (mentioned above) and goes flying into your window leaving a big, circular chip in the glass, that is called a Bull’s Eye.
If you take a look at that list of the types of cracks, you are going to find that most of the time you will be dealing with a windshield that is cracked on the outside. It is possible to have a crack from the inside of the glass, but it would be more obvious what the cause was since it would probably happen with you inside the vehicle and from a particular source.
The simplest way to determine whether the glass is cracked on the inside or on the outside is to do the ‘pen test’. This is where you simply take a ball-point pen and run it along the crack. If the pen dips in, then you will be able to determine what side of the glass has been impacted.
There is one notable exception to this: the stress crack. Stress cracks occur, as discussed above when there is something like a drastic change in temperature in the glass. This will cause a crack that is within the glass, so when you do the pen test it will not dip into the crack at all.
Is it Dangerous to Drive with a Cracked Windshield?
This is a question that can be easily answered once you have assessed the extent of the damage to your windshield, at which point you can make a proper judgment call.
Is there a giant crack that takes up 40% of the windshield and distorts the view? Of course, it is dangerous to drive your car under those circumstances! Especially when you consider that cracks in the glass can distort the light coming through as well. If it is a major crack then you will want to get that repaired before going on the road whatsoever.
On the other hand, if you have a small ‘Bull’s Eye’ crack on the top right corner of the windshield, you can probably take your time getting that repaired. It is not going to impact the safety of your vehicle most likely.
It should be noted that, even if you have personally assessed the damage and have determined that it will be okay to drive your vehicle without repairing the crack, that might be illegal. If you click here you will be able to see a comprehensive list of all the laws associated with windshield cracks in each state. Depending on the state, the ticket you get might be more expensive than the repairs would’ve cost in the first place, so be careful.
How Do You Keep a Crack from Expanding?
Something you will want to keep an eye out for is an expanding crack. This can happen to many types of windshield cracks, especially those that are longer and stress cracks. For example, if excessive temperature change leads to a stress crack, the continued temperature change will expand the crack. When that becomes the case, you will want to get that repaired or replaced with haste since the expansion probably will not cease.
Bottom line, if whatever caused the crack persists, expansion is almost inevitable. This can be unfortunate for people living in cold climates who do not have access to a garage. Keeping your car in the garage can be one of the most effective strategies in terms of limiting expansion or a crack in the first place.
There are plenty of mistakes that people make when it comes to defrosting that you will want to avoid. If it is snowing outside and there is ice on your windshield, some people will pour hot water on the windshield in order to melt the ice. That is a bad idea. That’s the kind of dramatic temperature change that will stress glass to its breaking point and beyond. Ice is 30 degrees or less, you don’t need boiling water to melt it. You can use room temperature water to achieve the same effect, for example.
On the other hand, in the summer months, if your car has been baking in the sun all day and then you get in and immediately crack the AC all the way down, that can cause the same issues. The best thing to do at the end of the day is to try not to allow your car to become too cold or too hot very often if you can manage that.
Is it Safe to Drive with a Crack in your Windshield?
Yes, but not in all cases. As mentioned above, it is going to end up being a judgment call. Are you able to see through the window? You should be alright if the answer to that is yes, so long as the crack is not excessive. If you are concerned about the glass shattering in the middle of your drive out of nowhere, you will not need to worry about that. Unless the glass is already shattered to a degree, in which case the answer to the first question would be ‘no’ and you would not want to be driving anyway.
Can You Get Pulled Over for a Cracked Windshield?
The laws vary from state to state and there is a comprehensive rundown of the laws and how they are applied here.
To summarize, it is similar to the criteria of whether or not it is safe to drive your vehicle with a cracked windshield. Most officers are going to be concerned with safety. If you have a 10-inch stress crack across the driver’s side of the windshield, you can expect to be pulled over. It is not a definite thing since there is discretion on the part of the police, but there is a good chance.
Technically, in most states, the police are going to be able to pull you over if there is a crack anywhere in the ‘viewing area’ which is considered anything that the wipers cover. So even if it is on the passenger side, a police officer could give you a hard time about it. It does not mean that they will.
What it comes down to is this: you probably will not get pulled over for anything short of a fairly large crack on the driver’s side of the windshield. However, if a police officer wants to give you a hard time, they can pull you over for almost any windshield crack.
Can a Dealer Sell a Car with a Chipped Windshield?
Interestingly, the answer to this question is yes. It is legal for a car dealership to sell a vehicle with a chipped or cracked windshield.
Naturally, it is illegal to not disclose that information to the person purchasing the car. But as long as they are aware of the damage, there is nothing illegal about it.
Now, as to whether it is a good business practice is an entirely different issue. Selling cars with cracked windshields is probably not going to provide any dealership with a stellar reputation.
Are Broken Windshields Covered by Insurance?
If you have a comprehensive insurance policy then you are almost certainly covered in the event of a cracked windshield. If that is the case then you will want to get out ahead of the issue as soon as possible. Cracks tend to grow over time, but if you get to them early enough you will only need to repair them and not completely replace the windshield.
Depending on what your situation is, it might make more sense to pay for repairs out of pocket. If the whole windshield needs to be replaced, chances are the deductible is less expensive than the replacement of the window. However, small repairs will probably be cheaper out of pocket than through insurance.
There are certain states where insurance companies are not allowed to charge a deductible in the event of a cracked windshield. If you happen to be in one of those states, using insurance probably makes the most sense.
As for raised rates, if you crack the windshield in a car accident that was your fault or neither person’s fault, you can expect your rates to go up. However, if it was not your fault you can probably expect your rates to stay the same.
Does AAA Cover Cracked Windshields?
AAA Auto Glass will be able to replace your cracked windshield as they offer that service.
They will need to go through your insurance so without it being covered by insurance you will not be able to access it.
Does a Cracked Windshield Affect Trade-in Value?
A cracked windshield is almost certainly going to affect the trade-in value.
If you bring your car trade it in with a cracked windshield, what is most likely to happen is that the dealer will simply replace the windshield and take that right off the top of your trade-in money.
Can you Fix a Cracked Windshield or Must it be Replaced?
Glass can be fixed but not in all cases.
If you have a small crack, you might be in luck. You can repair it before it spreads. However, if the crack is in front of the driver’s view, you cannot get that fixed. It will cause the view to be distorted, which is dangerous.
Does Clear Nail Polish fix a Cracked Windshield?
How Big of a Crack can Safelite Fix?
Safelite can usually fix a crack if it is 6 inches or less. They can also usually fix more than one crack on a windshield, but no more than three.
How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Crack in Your Windshield?
If you want to do it yourself, most of the gels available online that will fill in the crack are anywhere between about $6 and $15.
If you are having a service like Safelite take care of it, they will give you a quote on a specific price but you can expect to pay between about $50 and $70.
Can You Still see a Crack in the Windshield after Repair?
Yes. The purpose of the repair is to keep the crack from expanding. It is not to completely hide the existence of a crack.
This is the same reason why if you get a serious crack in your line of vision, you need to get the windshield replaced entirely.
How Much is a New Windshield?
It depends on the car. Most passenger vehicles will cost anywhere from about $150 to about $300. Luxury cars can be quite a bit more.
Do Car Dealerships Replace Windshields?
Yes. This does not mean going to the dealership is the best place to go to get your windshield repaired or replaced.
Most dealerships have mechanics with expertise regarding the car’s engine and accessories. However, these are not often glass experts. Going with a company like Safelite might be the better option, not to mention it might be less expensive.
How do You Temporarily Fix a Broken Window?
You will need to get your hands on one of the compounds that you can apply to the crack in the windshield. As mentioned, this will ensure that the crack does not expand, which is the most important thing.
How Do You Tape a Cracked Car Window?
You need to make sure you use clear packing tape and not duct tape; duct tape is not intended for use on windows. There is a comprehensive explanation of how to tape a cracked car window available here.
How Do You Cover a Busted Car Window?
Make sure you have thick gloves on so you aren’t injured. The best temporary cover is going to be a heavy-duty trash bag. There are alternatives, but this will be the easiest to get. More information can be found here.
If the crack is even moderately serious and it is on the driver’s side, it’s a wrap for that windshield you will need a new one.
Repairing a windshield is possible for certain cracks, but understand that the crack will still be there, it just won’t expand.