It happens to most of us. At the most inopportune time, there’s a whack on the windshield. You take a closer look and notice a nice-sized chip or crack in the glass.

Not only is it distracting, but you know it’s the beginning of a serious issue with your windshield. That chip may soon turn into a crack that spreads out of control.

At which point, you’ll have to decide whether to repair or replace your windshield.

Not all chips lead to cracks, and not all cracks mean you have to buy a new windshield. But you don’t want to wait too long to test either theory.

Should I repair my chipped windshield or should it replace it? You may be asking yourself this while glaring at a fault in your windshield.

If so, check out this guide to learn more about when to replace or repair a windshield.

A Chip or a Crack: What’s the Difference

Two kinds of damage normally happen to most windshields–chips and cracks. You can repair the majority of them, but there are some that are impossible to fix.

A chip is a small nick in the glass that happens at the point of impact when something hits the windshield. Small pieces fall off the glass in the process. These nicks form in different ways:

  • A Star Chip: tiny cracks form outward from the center of the chip.
  • Flower Chip: the edges of the chip resemble a flower.
  • Bull’s Eye: a circular nick whose center looks like a small bull’s eye.
  • Half a Bull’s Eye: gives the appearance of a half-moon.

A technician can repair most of these chips through a filling process. But that depends on how they enter the surface of the glass. If the chip forms into the glass at a perpendicular or shallow angle, repair is possible.

The same works for cracks.

Cracks are clear lines in the glass that can stretch from under an inch to across the entire windshield. Cracks spread across glass in several ways:

  • Small Edge Crack: inch small type of crack that starts at the edge of a windshield
  • Pit Crack: starts as a tiny gauge that floats two inches from the center.

Similar to chips, cracks may be repairable, but it depends on how they enter and sit in the glass.

What Causes Windshield Faults

Anything can cause a fault in a windshield–vehicle debris, flying pebbles and rocks, and inclement weather.

Pebbles and Rocks

Loose pebbles and rocks come from common roadside construction. Strong winds along with passing cars come through and send particles airborne. Most of the time it’s small fragments of stone broken off larger pieces during construction.

The chips fly free along the road causing damage to oncoming vehicles.

Vehicle Debris

One of the first lessons you learn in driver’s education is to never drive behind large, commercial trucks. They obstruct your view, plus all types of stuff flys off the back of them.

A lot of times, workers don’t secure trash, parts, and cargo on the back vehicles. In turn, things fly off and damage vehicles traveling behind them. Windshields take the brunt of the damage.

Inclement Weather

Although we need the rain, driving in severe weather may cause damage to your vehicle. Strong winds can send things hurtling into your windshield. And a weather element like hail could cause chips and cracks depending on the size of the hail balls.

Whatever the case, these are the common culprits. They cause most chips in cracks in windshields.

Repair Windshield or Replace

When should you repair or replace? This depends on the type of windshield fissure and the factors surrounding it. How big is it? Where is it located in the glass? Is the flaw too deep to mend?

As stated earlier, it’s possible to repair certain chips and cracks, depending on their size.

Advancement in technology allows for modern ways to repair windshields but based on certain criteria.

Size and Shape

If a chip or crack is less than the size of a quarter and no longer than four inches, repair is possible. But this takes a professional opinion.

Once a professional determines repair is possible, they employ the use of resin. Resin is a viscous substance, with a natural or synthetic origin, used to make or repair things.

Window repair specialists inject chips or cracks with resin then use a vacuum to spread it. As soon as the fissure fills, the windshield’s considered repaired.

Depth

For the safety of the driver, the law requires laminated glass on windshields. Laminated glass has several layers–a plastic layer enclosed in two layers of glass.

If the damage permeates all three layers, repair is impossible. You will have to replace the windshield.

Placement

Where the damage happens in the windshield also determines repair or replacement.

Damage that runs along the outer edge of the glass is not good. This typically means there’s more damage to the structure of the glass than it appears.

Trying to repair the damage that reaches the edge will cause more harm. You’ll end up having to replace the glass regardless.

Forego trying to repair damage in the driver’s line of sight. Manipulating glass in this area further warps it, making it difficult for the drive to see the road.

Also, keep in the mind that damage on the inside of a windshield is tough to repair. Chips and cracks in this areas require glass replacement.

Considerations

To repair or replace boils down to whether or not a professional technician can see the damage. There are also some areas that if repair’s attempted, more damage than good may result.

For example, cracks near the rain sensor, multiple cracks, and damage longer than a ruler are indications of replacement. Always enlist the opinion of a professional.

Moving Forward

Knowing when to repair a windshield or replace it often requires more than a glance. Sometimes it’s hard to determine a chip from a crack and if either is repairable.

Use this guide to make general observations about your window then talk it out with an expert.

Request a quote today and have someone speak with you concerning your auto glass needs.

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