Why replace a cracked windshield immediately?
May 8, 2008 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Please help me decide whether a cracked auto windshield ought to be replaced quickly, and not simply endured.

I have a 2000 Honda Accord whose windshield I've replaced twice because of cracks from pebbles spit up by trucks on the highway.
The latest pebble pit took six months to strerch from side to side across the top quarter of the windshield. (Impact crater near center.)

I have the money to replace it, but I'm dawdling. Part of me hesitates because I had a new winshield for less than a month between cracks last time. The cracked windshield currently in the car has withstood a couple of half-inch pebble assaults, so it's not super-fragile.

How far, or how long, have you driven with a cracked windshield without incident? Or, what happened to your cracked windshield that made you wish you'd swapped it out sooner?

Please contribute experiences or insights to help me decide whether I'm being a stingy fool.
posted by sacre_bleu to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Supposedly you can repair them as well. And it's supposed to be a lot cheaper.
posted by rooftop secrets at 3:06 PM on May 8, 2008


The only thing that made me replace my cracked windshield was an upcoming inspection, but I drove with the crack for a few months. I've had a car with a cracked windshield that sat for years, but that's different from actually driving it. I still suspect, because windshields are designed to resist shattering (example), that you could drive like that forever without issue.
posted by knave at 3:06 PM on May 8, 2008


Why would you replace for a small crack? Why not just do one of those $50 polymer bonding things? I got 2 tiny nicks from a gravel truck, and rather than wait for it to spread & have to be replaced, I just spent $60 having both filled with clear polymer & smoothed. Took 30 minutes and you can't even tell there was ever a crack, even if you look at it really close. That was 3 years ago and the cracks never spread after that, nor - as I said - are they visible.
posted by luriete at 3:12 PM on May 8, 2008


I bought my car with a cracked windshield about... 8 years ago? Never fixed it.

The crack in question runs vertically from base to about half-way up the windshield, on the passenger's side. It doesn't look very scary and in 8 years it's grown maybe 1.5" in length (I marked its position with sharpie when I got the car, just for fun.) My car and I have had many adventures together, including driving in a hurricane (don't ask) and having (~120lb) bodies laying on the windshield.

Yours runs all the way across, which would make me a bit more wary. Perhaps you could consider not replacing it, wearing safety goggles, and writing a blog about your ongoing game of chicken with your windshield.
posted by reebear at 3:17 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Have you contacted your car insurance provider? Cracked windshields are often covered, with no deductible, as a "safety feature". IE, they will fix it for free. It depends on your policy, of course.
posted by muddgirl at 3:24 PM on May 8, 2008


the windshield on my wrangler has been cracked vertically from top to bottom, in the dead middle of the windshield for at least 4 years. it has never been problematic or seemed like a safety issue.
posted by gnutron at 3:30 PM on May 8, 2008


Both of our cars went years with cracks worse than yours -- I don't think you have any safety issues to worry about, unless it will be a problem for your inspection.

For future reference, most glass shops will do a quick, cheap fix for those road gravel dings. That will prevent the cracks from forming in the first place, if you catch it soon enough.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 3:40 PM on May 8, 2008


My insurance company provided the polymer fix for free on my car. They came out to the house and did it in the driveway.
posted by COD at 3:43 PM on May 8, 2008


We just had to replace our windshield. Apparently it's actually illegal to drive with a cracked windshield in MD because of visibility issues. We waited about 7 months for it to spread all the way across (it was not reparable in the first place), crossing our fingers that we wouldn't get stopped and fined, and then had it done.

Our insurance policy did NOT cover it - we have a $500 deductible and the windshield cost only about $200 incl. installation.

The guy who came out to fix it - most places will drive to your place of work and fix it there, and it only takes like 30 minutes - said it's not a real safety hazard, because there are actually three layers to a windshield. Like clear, strong plastic sandwiched between two sheets of glass, or vice versa, I forget. In any case, he demonstrated to me that it is usually only the very outer layer that cracks, so there's no real safety issues at all.

If I were you I'd check whether you're legally ok to drive with a cracked windshield, and then if you are, wait as long as possible to replace it.
posted by GardenGal at 3:51 PM on May 8, 2008


FYI - In many jurisdictions, it's actually illegal to drive with a cracked windshield. I doubt it's enforced much, but if you are concerned about the end-cost, you might want to factor in a potential moving violation fine before you decide to get it fixed. Dont speed in a state not listed on your license plate. Just an excuse for some trooper to fill his quota of fines for the month - and they do have quotas, I assure you.

Dings and small cracks in windshields are a way of life where I live. My personal philosophy is just get it fixed. Insurance usually covers it.
posted by elendil71 at 3:59 PM on May 8, 2008


I used to have a beat to hell Civic that was always parked on the street here in Chicago. I even got non-moving violation tickets because of a cracked windshield. IL does not mandate visual vehicle inspections, but it's still a violation. When my friend got the car to North Carolina, he had to replace it to pass their inspection testing.
posted by ninjew at 4:15 PM on May 8, 2008


Might want to look at where you are getting your windshields replaced- some places use cheaper materials and bad install techniques that lead to replacements more often.

One thing to consider is that the windshield is actually a structural member of the car. Keeps the roof from wiggling around. If the windshield isn't installed right, these stresses will weaken it.
posted by gjc at 4:43 PM on May 8, 2008


my truck has a vertical crack, top to bottom, and a horizontal crack, driver to passenger, and has had both of them for at least five years. They both stopped running when they reached the edge of the windshield. it passes state inspection in Texas every year.

I don't plan on replacing the windshield until it falls in on top of me.
posted by busboy789 at 4:44 PM on May 8, 2008


Thank you all for your responses so far.

A bit more information:

It's not a little crack, and is too late to glue. The impact site is about 4 inches from the top, near the center of the glass. A three-foot crack reached out to the left, and ran to the top border almost all the way to the driver's (left) side.

It has passed inspection once in New York State this way. The mechanic said that unless you could feel it, that is, unless the glass was cratered or dislodged at the crack, it would pass.

I had one of the glass companies replace it in my parking lot last time. Thanks for the reminder that I need to check on what my auto insurance deductibles are.

I am interested in the fact that so far, no one has contributed a tale of in-motion windshield failure. Does that safety glass stuff work that well?
posted by sacre_bleu at 4:45 PM on May 8, 2008


6 Years with a top to bottom crack from a pebble (spread over time), no incidents.
posted by huxley at 5:36 PM on May 8, 2008


"Does that safety glass stuff work that well?"

I kinda has to, doesn't it?
posted by toomuchpete at 6:01 PM on May 8, 2008


Living in Arkansas and knowing a bunch of people who really don't care about such things (and have very lax law enforcement regarding cracked windshields) I've seen cars (and more often trucks) go 10 years or more with severely cracked windshields. Like "I'm surprised the windshield isn't shattered" cracked. Not one single solitary crack.

I'd get them replaced eventually, because I like to be able to see out my windshield, but it's apparently not an actual safety issue beyond that, from what I've seen.
posted by wierdo at 6:36 PM on May 8, 2008


Anything that makes your eyes focus on the windshield rather than the road will increase driver fatigue. I leave cracks and chips until there is a problem on the windshield directly in front of me. Can't answer as to whether or not it is safe, but if the inner layer is cracked I'd get it replaced.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:01 PM on May 8, 2008


For what it's worth - in Pennsylvania, a vehicle will not pass inspection if the crack extends into the driver's side visibility area.

Here in Kentucky, I've seen vehicles driven with half of the windshield collapsed into the car.
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:35 PM on May 8, 2008


Many sites (even though they are generally autoglass shop sites) stress that windshield integrity is a safety issue. For example, a cracked windshield may may fail in a collision resulting in improper deployment of an airbag. It certainly appears that windhield cracks are more than a cosmetic issue

It is vitally important for all motorists to maintain a defect free windscreen. Your windscreen plays a vital role in safety, accounting for up to 30% of your vehicle’s structural strength. Damage lowers the strength of the windscreen and can reduce the effectiveness of passenger airbags which rely on the support of the windscreen to deploy correctly. A windscreen defect may also result in your vehicle failing its MoT test.

posted by Neiltupper at 8:13 PM on May 8, 2008


I bought my car with a cracked windshield about... 8 years ago? Never fixed it.

Same here. Then again my car is a junker and I would pay more for a new windshield than the car costs.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:44 PM on May 8, 2008


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