When to Repair vs Replace Your Windshield: The Ultimate Guide

Advice | 7 min read
Published: January 6, 2023

Ahhhh the age old conundrum. You’ve got a chip in your windshield and want to know if you can get away with it. Don’t worry - we get it, and we’ve got you!

Your windshield is integral to your vehicle’s safety features, not to mention you have to stare it at every single time you get in the car, so it’s essential to understand when it’s necessary to repair or replace it.

Deciding when to repair and replace your windshield can be tricky, but this guide will help you make the best decision depending on your situation. We’ll cover the common causes of windshield damage, the benefits of windshield repair and vs replacement, and when you should choose one option over the other.

With this ultimate guide, you’ll have the information you need to make an informed decision about windshield repair or replacement!

The Basics: Windshield Damage

Windshield damage is pretty much anything that affects the structural integrity or clarity of your car’s windshield. The most likely forms of windshield damage you’ll see on the road are cracks, chips, scratches, or deep gouges, and can be caused by debris on the road, like rocks, hail, or other objects that come into contact with the windshield. In extreme cases, we’ve seen stories of severe weather conditions such as hail or heavy rain and snow causing severe windshield damage.

Unfortunately, if you find yourself with windshield damage, it can be more than just a hassle. Any significant damage to your windshield can impair your ability to drive safely – hence why in most states it’s actually illegal to drive with a broken windshield, especially if the damage covers the driver’s side. If you notice any damage to your windshield at all, it’s important to identify it, and to have it repaired or replaced as soon as possible for your safety (and in some cases, to save on costs down the road).

If you get to the end of this article and you’re still not sure whether you should repair or replace your windshield – we suggest consulting a professional ASAP. A trained technician can assess the damage on-site and make a recommendation based on their years of experience and knowledge in the industry. Make sure to ask any questions you have and explain your concerns so that they can give you the best advice. Depending on the type and severity of the damage, they may suggest a total replacement or just a simple repair. Either way, it’s always a good idea to follow the expert’s advice to make sure that you and your vehicle stay safe out on the road!

Common Types of Windshield Damage

Bulls-eye Damage

Bulls-eye damage is probably one of the most common types of windshield damage, and it occurs when a projectile, such as a stone or piece of debris, hits your windshield. It leaves behind a round “bulls-eye” shape in the glass. In some cases, this type of damage can be repaired.

Star Damage

Star damage is also relatively common and occurs when several fractures extend from the impact center. Unlike Bulls-eye damage that can simply be repaired, star damage usually requires replacement as it can’t be repaired without leaving visible blemishes. 

Edge Cracks

Edge cracks are caused when the damage starts on the edge of your windshield and spreads inward. You may see these especially frequently on vertical flat glass windshields like Jeeps. Edge cracks may be repairable if small, but if larger than 6 inches, the windshield will most likely need to be replaced.

Combination Damage

Star damage is also relatively common and occurs when several fractures extend from the impact center. Unlike Bulls-eye damage that can simply be repaired, star damage usually requires replacement as it can’t be repaired without leaving visible blemishes. 

Surface Cracks and Chips

Surface cracks and chips are also extremely common. They’re caused by small rocks or debris that hit your windshield and cause shallow cracks or chips in the glass. If these chips or cracks are smaller than 6 inches, they can often be repaired. However, any chip or crack over six inches will likely replace the windshield entirely. 

Remember -  surface cracks and chips should always be repaired sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more susceptible your windshield is to further damage due to the harsh weather conditions. Also, it would be best if you never tried to repair surface cracks and chips yourself. You must get professional help to ensure proper installation and protection against further damage.

How to Tell if You Need to Repair or Replace Your Windshield

Knowing when to repair or replace your windshield is vital for ensuring your and your passengers’ safety. Deciding which way to go can be relatively straightforward in some cases.As soon as you notice a chip or crack in your windshield, taking a minute or two to assess the damage could save you a lot of time and money in the long run. In general, repair may be an option if the crack or chip is smaller than the size of a quarter. Generally for anything larger, you may need to replace the entire windshield. You’ll also want to take stock of the location of damage – if it’s right in the driver’s line of sight, you may not want to attempt a repair since even a high quality chip repair often leaves a small blemish in the glass which can be distracting while driving.

If you’re unsure about the chip or crack size, or just want a second opinion, bringing your car to your local glass repair shop is a good idea. At the very least, they’ll give some advice to help you make the right decision based on your specific needs. 

Also, keep in mind that in cases where the damage is severe, repair likely won’t be an option if the damage to your windshield is severe enough. In this case, it’s essential to have the windshield replaced as soon as possible to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers.

Repair vs Replace Cheat Sheet: Things to Consider

If you notice damage to your windshield, there are 4 main aspects to consider:

1. Size & Location

The general rule of thumb is that a repair may be possible if it’s smaller than a quarter and not in the driver’s line of sight.

2. Severity of Damage

Any damage that could limit your ability to see while driving should also be taken care of immediately – usually by a complete replacement of the glass. Waiting for the damage to spread or trying to see around it is a recipe for disaster! Smaller damage (smaller than a quarter) on the passenger’s side is more likely a candidate for repair, either through a DIY kit or by a glass professional.

3. Cost

For most of us, cost is a major factor in our decision making when it comes to repair or replacement for any automotive parts. One major factor that will affect this cost is the type of car you have. Luxury and higher-end cars tend to have significantly more expensive windshields ($2500+) due to the more stringent quality controls from the manufacturer, and increased labor associated with the replacement. But even if you’re not riding a Lambo to work, most new cars have advanced tech behind the windshield that needs special recalibration if the windshield is adjusted in any way, which significantly drives up the cost.

Always make sure that you’re checking for the cost in your city, since labor rates vary across the country which can mean different pricing depending on where you live. Using a tool like this one can help you estimate what you can expect for the replacement so that you can make an informed decision about what to do.

Remember, it’s important to research the cost of replacing or repairing your windshield in your area before deciding. In addition to researching prices, you should consider whether it’s better to repair or replace the windshield

How to Avoid Windshield Damage

Preventing windshield damage is one of the best ways to avoid costly repairs or replacements. Here are a few tips for how to keep your windshield safe and sound.

Windshield Protection Film

In the last 5-10 years, major advancements in materials science has resulted in one of the fastest growing automotive products on the market – windshield protection film. Windshield protection film is pretty much like an automotive grade phone screen protector, and is designed to be the first layer of defense for your windshield while you’re out on the road. 

There are several types of windshield protection film available – all of which are covered in more detail in this article to help you choose which one would work best for your car.

Windshield Maintenance: Keep it Clean!

 Washing your car regularly can help remove debris that might scratch your windshield, such as bird droppings, tree sap, and dirt. If you cannot wash your car as often as you’d like, use a clean cloth and a gentle glass cleaner to wipe down your windshield every few weeks.

Watch the Weather

High winds and hail can cause severe damage to your windshield, so it’s important to check the forecast before going out in your car. If a severe storm is in the forecast, park in a garage or under some shelter if you can!

Check the Roads for Rocks & Debris

Rocks and other debris can easily chip and crack your windshield if you hit them at the wrong angle. To avoid this, always watch for rocks and debris when driving, and steer around them if possible.

Still not sure? Talk to an expert!

When deciding whether you need to repair or replace your windshield, it’s always best to consult a professional. Many of our installers have seen all types of windshield damage in the past, and will be able to give you an idea of how severe the damage is, and what you should do about it. They can also help you protect your windshield and other vehicle surfaces to prevent it from happening again!

Looking for windshield protection? Check out our list of trusted installers all over the world to talk to an expert!

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Check out our map to find our list of certified windshield protection film installers.

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