When Should You Replace a Cracked Windshield?
When you're driving on the highway and a rock flies up and smashes your windshield, it's probably time to get that sucker replaced. Maybe even if it's just cracked.
But what about the tiny hairline cracks that are barely visible? Do they pose a safety hazard, or can they be ignored? The answer may surprise you: They should be taken care of sooner rather than later.
Most people tend to ignore seemingly innocuous dings in the auto glass until they develop into full-blown chips or cracks because replacing car windows isn't exactly cheap... or easy. Dealerships can charge upwards of $190 for an average windshield replacement. But neglecting these small cracks could have serious consequences down the road.
"Windshield damage that is allowed to spread unchecked can lead to major repairs that are significantly more expensive than early replacement," said Dr. Daniel Fried, an optometrist based in Long Island, New York. "Windshields are composed of two pieces of glass with a rubber sealing strip between them. As the damage spreads across the windshield it makes it harder for the rubber to do its job at keeping water out and creating a good seal."
Water-tight windows mean less distraction due to flimsy windows, which means fewer crashes. Plus, allowing nicks and dings to linger could void your auto insurance coverage if you're ever in an accident. And not just any old accident— don't think for one second that just because there's no visible damage that you're safe.
Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos who likes to drive fast, look at expensive things and combine those two activities as often as possible. He has a nearly empty fuel tank and nowhere particular to be.
"Instead of seeing a small crack in your windshield as a nuisance, it's more important to view it as a warning sign," said the former National Driving Examiner for AAA. "I always recommend getting these types of problems addressed sooner rather than later."
There are definite downsides to replacing windshields before the damage spreads, though. Your car insurance provider will likely require that you pay out-of-pocket if they deem that your coverage doesn't include "acts of God"—which includes rock or pebble damage.
"Auto insurance providers define the situations in which they will pay to replace a windshield," said Lee Hasegawa, claims manager at GEICO Insurance . "If your policy doesn't cover 'acts of God,' you would be responsible for paying for any damage."
"All drivers need to know is that cracking glass should not stay cracked for long ," Fried said. "The best plan of action is to get an inspection from a professional auto glass technician before seeking out a replacement windshield ."
However, it's not always that simple to find a reputable repair shop, since many are now trying to cash in on the cracked-windshield replacement craze.
"It's become increasingly difficult to find good shops since everyone is trying to capitalize on the cracked windshield trend, " said Mark Matousek, head of content at RepairPal, an auto-repair cost guide. "They're calling people up and saying 'Hey, you have a crack in your glass—you should get that replaced.' And if they don't talk them into it or pressure them into paying for service that isn't necessary, then they just send out coupons in the mail."
Here are some tips from our experts on how to avoid being taken advantage of... They recommend asking these questions before getting anything done: What will this cost? Will my insurance cover it? How long will it take? Do I need an appointment?
"Car owners should compare prices on windshield repairs and replacements to find the best value," Bigelow said. "Researching shops in your area is also a good idea; some may offer coupons or discounts for certain services. Getting everything in writing will ensure that you're not surprised with any hidden costs later."
Before you do anything...get it checked out! Find a shop and get an estimate. That's the smart thing to do before you go around replacing everything on your windshield that is even slightly damaged. If they determine that there's too much damage they'll defer to your insurance company for approval then contact you with their findings or go ahead (and take full responsibility) if the claim is approved. Keep in mind though, "acts of God" are not covered by insurance policies like rocks flying up off the road and hitting your windshield..etc.
If you have comprehensive coverage, by all means, get it fixed; but under state law, if you have a "comprehensive deductible" the cost to replace your windshield is on you.
Just make sure...you go with an honest company and know what you're doing when it comes time to pay the bill!
Palm Shores, FL