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Windshield Damage: How to Choose Between Repair and Replacement

Image courtesy of David Hilgart on Flickr, hosted under CC BY-SA 2.0.

With a plethora of ways in which a windshield can sustain damage, it’s one of the most common vehicle repairs. We will give you information on what can damage a windshield and the types of damage that can manifest, as well as provide you with advice on how, when and where to repair or replace your windshield. Additionally, we will cover the laws regarding windshield damage, how auto insurers categorize this problem and mention a few states where insurers include comprehensive repairs in their policies.

Types of Windshield Damage

Image courtesy of Joshua Ganderson on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.

The reason why windshields do not cave in or fall apart upon sustaining damage is because they consist of two layers of glass. The majority of windshield damage is the result of objects hitting the outside layer of glass. The objects that most commonly strike windshields are rocks from dump trucks, or rocks that the tires of other vehicles kick up off the road.

The position of the damage on the windshield determines the type of damage. For example, an impact that occurs at least two inches from the edge may cause a chip, floater crack or star break, but an impact closer to the edge is more likely to produce a long crack. Before we continue, let’s review various types of damage and how they form.

  • Bull’s-eye – A bull’s-eye is dark-colored, round and has concentric circles with a clear point of impact. This damage is easy to fix when addressed early on, but waiting makes it more difficult due to dirt and oil buildup. The crack has to be meticulously cleaned so that the repair resin bonds.
  • Chip or ding – This is a small indentation where a piece of the glass is missing from the windshield. It doesn’t go through both glass layers, but it can become a crack if ignored.
  • Combination break – When more than one type of damage occurs, it usually results in a chip with multiple cracks—making it very hard to repair completely.
  • Crack chip – Similar to a combination break, a crack chip is an impact point in the glass with only one crack. It’s usually no bigger than a quarter but can become worse without repair.
  • Edge crack – This crooked or straight line starts somewhere within 2 inches of the edge of the glass. It can spread across the windshield and can penetrate both glass layers. Edge cracks generally require windshield replacement.
  • Floater crack – A floater begins in the center of the windshield and can extend across the entire surface.
  • Half-moon or partial bull’s-eye – This is a half circle resulting from the blunt impact of an object, usually a rock. There is a very slim chance of cracks forming, and this damage is easier to clean and repair than a bull’s-eye.
  • Long crack – Whether a crack is at the edge or center of the windshield, it’s considered long when it exceeds 6 inches. A long crack is nearly impossible to repair.
  • Pit – This is an impact point where some of the glass chips away, which requires removal of tiny pieces of glass before the repair.
  • Star break – A star break involves an impact point with short cracks extending from it to resemble a star. The cracks can spread across the windshield without immediate attention.
  • Stone break – This is a small chip resulting from the impact of a stone or other hard object; it may become a large crack if ignored.
  • Stress crack – This is a crack that generally forms near the edge of the windshield without direct impact from an object. Sudden changes in temperature can cause this, such as blasting the air conditioner or spraying cold water on the windshield in very hot weather as well as putting warm or hot water on the glass in very cold The crack is usually a straight line or has a slight bend.

Repair or Replace? 

Image courtesy of runran on Flickr, hosted under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Image courtesy of runran on Flickr, hosted under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Choosing between repairing and replacing a windshield isn’t always a straightforward process. For example, chips, cracks, and scratches in the glass are usually easy to fix, but before making a decision, there are several things to take into consideration:

  • Type of damage
  • Location of the damage
  • Extent of the damage
  • Whether you can do the repairs yourself
  • What the local law says about the damage

Damage near the edges is often harder to fix. If the damaged part of the windshield is in the line of sight of the driver, it’s better to replace it. Choosing to fix such damage could cause distortions in the glass which is dangerous when in the line of sight. Dirt and dust buildup can also accumulate in the chip or crack when too much time has passed, and the damage could spread. In these situations, it’s better to replace the windshield.

Laws in your state and the coverage that your insurer provides are of great importance too. It’s against the law to repair specific types of damage in certain states. We will explain this in greater detail below.

DIY or Professional? How to Repair Various Types of Damage

Image courtesy of rmisko on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.
Image courtesy of rmisko on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.

The different types of windshield damage require various methods of repair. Using a do-it-yourself repair kit is a possible option as long as the damage is minor, but only if you act quickly after the damage occurs. Minor damage includes a chip that is less than 2 inches in diameter, and a crack that is less than 6 inches long.

Professionals generally have better repair tools, and you must utilize one when you need a windshield replacement. Here’s how various types of damage are handled:

  • Scratches are one of the easiest types of damage to repair because they don’t penetrate the glass. However, you still need to fix them as soon as you can because the damage could get worse. Repairs are often possible with a DIY repair kit.
  • Chips are the most common type of damage. They are usually minor, and a DIY kit is often enough to fix them. However, they can become cracks quickly because of environmental factors. If too much dirt and dust accumulate in chips, they may become impossible to repair.
  • Cracks are the most worrisome. It’s important to fix them as soon as possible because they tend to spread very quickly. The closer the cracks are to the middle of the windshield, the easier they are to repair. Stress cracks and those that reach the edge, however, are irreparable and require windshield replacement.

When you seek professional windshield repair or replacement, several factors affect how much it will cost:

  • The scope of work for the professional
  • The difficulty of the replacement
  • The size and complexity of the windshield
  • The age of the car model: Newer models that utilize more sophisticated, advanced technology often costs more to repair or replace
  • Type of windshield: OEM or aftermarket
  • Your location: Not all states have the same prices

What Does the Law Say about Windshield Repair and Replacement? 

Image courtesy of Paul Sableman on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.

Many states require windshield replacement when there is damage that distorts or obstructs the driver’s view, including repairs that cause discoloration within the acute area, which varies in size from state to state. The states that require replacement in such instances include Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

When a vehicle inspector determines that there is impaired visibility while driving, your car will fail the inspection—requiring you to replace the windshield. The reason for this is due to the fact that distorted or obstructed visibility causes the vehicle to become a road hazard.

Regulations, Safety and Quality Standards

In instances where windshield replacement is the only solution, the replacement must comply with certain safety and quality standards. The two most important standards include the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 205 and 212:

  • FMVSS 205 addresses the glazing of the windshield, setting very specific standards for the strength and transparency of the glass.
  • FMVSS 212 addresses the mounting standards, requiring that the glass can withstand a certain amount of damage or force in the event of an accident.

Additionally, there are two types of regulations: Those that involve driving-safe conditions, and those that involve where and how to perform replacements. These regulations differ between states, and some states do not regulate these issues.

For instance, in Florida, you don’t have to pay for windshield replacement if you have comprehensive insurance. You are also free to choose aftermarket parts as long as they are equal in fit, kind, performance, quality and safety to original equipment manufacturer parts.

Insurance Coverage 

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, hosted under CC0.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, hosted under CC0.

Several states offer extensive insurance coverage regarding the repair and replacement of windshields. In Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina, you likely qualify for a free windshield replacement if you have comprehensive coverage. In Arizona, Massachusetts and New York, you can purchase a separate endorsement or waiver with your car insurance so that you don’t have to pay the full deductible when replacing your windshield.

A majority of car insurers waive the deductible for windshield repairs regardless of the state in which you live. This is an alternative in case the damage is minimal and doesn’t obstruct or distort your view of the road when driving.


Image courtesy of State Farm on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.

The windshield is integral to the structural integrity of a vehicle, making it an essential safety feature of your car, and an important aspect to repair or replace in case of any damage. Driving around with a damaged windshield is dangerous, often poses a road hazard, and the laws of many states don’t take kindly to postponing needed repairs.

Have you had to repair or replace your windshield before?

If so, did you do it yourself or go to a professional?

How do the laws in your state require you to handle windshield damage?