Our cars are tough machines, but even the strongest vehicles are no match for a small object headed straight for your windshield.
If you drive long or far enough, it’s bound to happen. The good news is, many types of windshield cracks and chips can be fixed—without costing you much money.
Here’s what you need to do.
01. Act Fast!
If you want to achieve the best results, you need to make haste. Ideally, you’ll want to repair your windshield within a few hours of the chip forming. This will allow the repair kit to be most effective in removing air and debris from the chip, and you won’t be allowing time for cracks to form and spread across the windshield.
And if you think that chips and cracks aren’t worth the time or effort for repairs, get to rethinking: your windshield provides a significant amount of a vehicle cabin’s structural integrity in a front-end and rollover collision, so making the necessary repairs to chips or cracks is not something to skip out on.
Note: Repairing chips or cracks that are directly in the driver’s line of vision is not recommended. Even the smoothest of windshield repairs will distort the glass and can impair your vision.
02. Identify the Chip or Crack
The ease of repair and overall results will depend on not just the size of the blemish, but also whether or not it’s a chip or a crack.
A chip denotes the point of impact where your windshield was struck—this is the circular formation that appears. A crack is any type of broken line that spreads from the original point of impact.
Your results will depend on three main factors: size, depth, and location. Generally speaking, chips are where you’ll have the most luck. Any chips smaller than a quarter will be easy to repair, and touch-ups to chips up to 3 inches wide should be at least moderately effective.
Cracks are a bit trickier. A crack shorter than 3 inches should be manageable, but you’ll have a tougher time with cracks ranging from 3-14 inches. Any cracks that reach beyond that—especially if they extend to the outer edge of your windshield—will probably be a wash.
Keep in mind that there are different types of chips and cracks: star breaks, bull’s eyes, craters, horseshoes, spider cracks, flowers, gouges, and more. You can find a good overview of the main formation types at Cracked Windshield Laws.
03. Clean Your Windshield
Since your goal here is to return your windshield to its clearest, cleanest state, you’ll want to make sure there’s no dirt or glass debris in the chip area.
Start by using a pushpin, safety pin, or a similar object and gently scraping any glass or dirt out of the chip area. Then you’ll want to clean around the chip area, but make sure you don’t use detergent or a window cleaner—use a microfiber cloth and spray it with alcohol, or even a small amount of lighter fluid or acetone, then clean the area. Make sure you’re pouring the fluid onto the cloth, not directly onto the glass.
You’ll want to make sure your windshield is dry as well as clean before you get started. Use a hair dryer if you need to dry your windshield quickly. Ideally, you’ll want your windshield to be about room temperature.
04. Follow Your Kit’s Directions
Repairing chips and cracks in your windshield isn’t easy enough that household items will do the trick. Luckily, there are a multitude of windshield repair kits on the market, and a good one will generally run you $10-$20.
The most common type of windshield repair kit is only a few pieces. Essentially, it’ll include two main components: an adhesive patch that can be applied to the chip or crack area and a syringe that will both suck the air out of the damaged area and pump adhesive into the chip.
Since the intricacies of these kits will vary, it’s always best to follow the instructions once you pick up your kit. For a quick tutorial on how to use a common windshield repair kit, check out Chris Fix’s “How to Repair a Windshield Chip or Crack” on YouTube.
Keep in mind, results may vary for at-home repairs to your windshield, depending on the size of the blemish and how quickly you’re able to fix it. If it’s too daunting for you to handle on your own, you’ll want to call a glass company to replace and install a new windshield for you.
After all, your windshield is your window to the open road, so treat it well!
Prior to using or installing any of these products always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for compatibility and warranty information.
Always take appropriate safety precautions when working on or operating your vehicle. Take the necessary steps to help prevent injuries; always use protective gear like helmets, safety goggles, and gloves.