In the course of owning a car, a thousand things may happen that force you to make a choice: get it fixed, or let it go. If you live in a state with a mild climate for instance, you may not feel it necessary to run to the mechanic when your air conditioning goes out. A cracked windshield, unfortunately, leaves you with no such choice. By law, a broken windshield must be fixed. That is not to say you do not have a choice, however. Repair technology has grown more advanced, giving many drivers the option of choosing smaller repairs over full windshield replacement.
Three factors play into whether or not you are eligible for windshield repair or auto glass replacement: the size of the crack, where it’s located on the glass, and how badly the windshield was cracked or chipped. Windshield repair shops are usually able to fix a chip smaller than a quarter and a crack less than three inches in length. Larger damage will likely necessitate auto glass replacement. This is not always the case, however. Some shops will be able to fix cracks up to a foot in length, so if a shop tells you that windshield replacement is needed, it could pay to get a second opinion.
Location is another factor a shop will examine when determining whether to repair or replace windshield glass. A crack along the outer edges of a windshield is more often than not an indication that replacement will be necessary. These tend to spread across the glass more quickly than a centrally located crack, meaning they can threaten the structural integrity of the windshield. While outer edge cracks can still be fixed if caught early, most shops are going to recommend a full replacement. Many shops are likewise hesitant to repair cracks located in the driver’s line of sight, as even a thorough repair job can leave minor distortions in the glass, hindering vision.
Minor cracks and chips are much better candidates for repair. A stray golf ball smacks into your windshield, a small rock pops off the highway when you’re driving to work, etc. This type of impact usually leaves only a small amount of damage behind, presenting a viable candidate for modern repair techniques. On the other hand, if your windshield was severely damaged in a crash, suffered cracks in more than one location, or was struck by a large object, replacement may be the only solution.
Unlike many automotive repair expenses, windshield repair and replacement costs are fairly standard around the country. A small chip can cost as little as $50 to repair and most shops will repair additional chips for only around $10 per additional blemish. Cracks run at about the same rates, though those longer than 3 inches could run higher due to the need for specialized treatment. Expect to on average to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $70-$100 per crack.
Replacement, on the other hand, can get expensive. With replacement, it is the type of vehicle that plays a big role in determining how much it winds up costing you. Dealerships are usually more expensive due to the fact that they use OEM windshields. Smaller independent shops and mobile windshield replacement companies are often able to cut customers a break because they use aftermarket glass. If you need your windshield replaced, it is always a good idea to check with your auto insurance agent to see if they cover the cost of replacement.
Making the Choice
Whether you think you need windshield replacement or can get by with a smaller repair, the most important thing is to act quickly. The longer you leave a crack or chip unfixed, the more dangerous it becomes. Should moisture get through the crack, it can damage the vinyl layer in the safety glass and weaken the entire windshield. Talk to a trusted auto glass specialist in your area and see if repair is the best choice.