Windshield Repair And Replacement

AAA Auto Repair Article
By AAA Automotive
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Did you know your car’s windshield is a safety device? In addition to its primary role of protecting vehicle occupants from wind, water and debris, a windshield can help reduce crash injuries and could even save your life or that of a passenger. How? In a collision, the windshield prevents most outside objects from penetrating into the vehicle interior. In many cars, the windshield also plays a critical role in front passenger airbag deployment. Finally, the windshield (and rear window) supports the vehicle roof in a rollover to help prevent it from collapsing.
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Windshield damage can compromise driver vision in addition to the safety features described above. This makes it important to check the windshield, and other glass, for problems on a regular basis. If your windshield is cracked or damaged in any way, you should contact your insurance company or an auto glass specialist to arrange for repair or replacement.

Glass Inspection and Cleaning

To keep windshields and other glass clean, use non-ammonia cleaners and soft cotton or microfiber towels that will remove dirt and grime without causing streaks. Ammonia-based cleaners can damage dash and upholstery materials, and window tint films as well.

Here are some tips on what to look for hen performing an auto glass inspection:

  • Check the glass, inside and out, for chips and cracks. Minor “star” or “bullseye” rock chips, and small cracks, may be repairable. Any significant damage calls for windshield replacement.
  • Tiny micro-pits build up on the windshield over time as airborne particles hit the glass at high speeds. These pits reduce vision when illuminated by oncoming headlights, or a rising/setting sun. The only practical fix for a badly pitted windshield is replacement.
  • Inspect the edges of the glass for damage to surrounding bodywork. Any problems that affect the seal of the glass to the body can weaken structural integrity and need repair.
  • Make sure the rubber windshield wiper blades are soft, pliable and clear water from the glass in a single swipe. Brittle blades can break and allow a metal wiper arm to scratch the glass.

Glass Repair

Today, innovative processes and materials make it possible for auto glass specialists to repair many types of windshield damage. Some auto insurance companies will cover glass repairs with no deductible because it costs less than windshield replacement. However, other carriers prefer that damaged windshields be replaced rather than repaired.

The size and location of a chip or crack determine whether it is suitable for repair. Chips smaller than a quarter and cracks less than a few inches long are usually repairable. Some states do not allow glass repairs in areas that are directly in the driver’s line of sight because even small fixes create distortion that can affect visibility and safety. Glass specialists also recommend replacing any windshield that has a crack extending from an edge. These types of cracks tend to spread quickly and easily, making it likely that a repair will be ineffective.

The glass repair process for chips and cracks involves injecting a polymer resin into the damaged area, allowing it to dry, and then smoothing the surface to make the imperfection nearly invisible. The outcome depends on the quality of the tools and resins, and the skill of the technician doing the work. Do-it-yourself glass repair kits are available from many sources, but the job may be better left to an expert. Professional auto glass technicians are equipped with more-sophisticated tools and advanced resins that help ensure a satisfactory repair.

Costs for windshield repairs vary by location, auto glass service provider and damage type. Typical prices range from $60 to $100 for a single chip, and discounts may apply when fixing additional chips on the same windshield. Crack repair prices are similar, although fixing a longer crack may cost $125 or more.


Glass Replacement

When replacing a windshield, use of the proper materials and techniques is critical to vehicle safety. For a job done right, motorists should choose an auto glass business that is a Registered Member Company with the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC) and employs AGSC Certified Technicians. The Independent Glass Association (IGA) and major glass repair chains such as Safelite also have technician training and certification programs. In some parts of the country, AAA Auto Glass® or AAA Approved Auto GlassSM facilities are available and offer member discounts.

Windshield replacement is covered under the comprehensive portion of auto insurance policies, less any applicable deductible. In a few states, insurance companies are required to waive the deductible for windshield replacement. This supports driving safety by allowing motorists to have damaged glass replaced promptly by an auto glass specialist at no cost.

Insurance carriers often use third-party companies to manage windshield replacement claims. These companies will typically recommend qualified installers to vehicle owners. However, owners are not required to accept the referrals, and have the final say on who actually performs the glass repair.

Cost And Other Considerations

For drivers without insurance coverage, windshield replacement costs vary by location, vehicle make and model, and type of glass used. Auto dealers use factory replacement glass, but independent glass installers typically use aftermarket windshields that often come from the factory supplier. In one study of average repair costs in 16 U.S. cities, a replacement windshield for a Honda Accord cost $250 to $300, while one for a BMW X6 ranged from $350 to $450.

Be wary of cut-rate installers with lowball prices. Some use low-quality glass that may not meet all of the original equipment standards. For example, some bargain windshields have optical distortion that can be distracting to a driver. If the reflection of a piece of graph paper held perpendicular to the glass shows significant “ripple,” a better piece of glass is called for.

If your car is equipped with an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) that uses a camera mounted behind the windshield, original equipment replacement glass may be required and the ADAS system must be calibrated after the new glass is installed. Some auto glass installers can perform this important procedure on some cars, but in many cases the vehicle will need to be taken to a dealer for calibration.

After a windshield installation is completed, inspect the work. Make sure the glass is flush with the body and check for proper centering. Where visible, the gap between the glass and the car body should be consistent across the top and down both sides. If a molding is used it should lie flat and even all the way around the glass with no visible bumps or gaps. When driving, there should be no “whistling” or other indications of air leaks around the glass. If you find any problems, contact the installer to have them corrected.

Finding Quality Auto Repair

AAA recommends that you plan ahead for vehicle service by finding an auto repair shop and technician you can trust before you need them. AAA.com/Repair provides information on nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities that have met AAA’s high standards for appearance, technician training and certification, insurance coverage and customer satisfaction. AAA regularly inspects every Approved Auto Repair facility and surveys their customers to ensure ongoing performance. In addition, AAA members receive special benefits that include auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and AAA assistance in resolving repair-related issues.

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