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How Fast Should You Replace A Chipped Windshield?

Close up view of damaged windsheild with large spiderweb cracks - chipped windshield

Do You Need To Replace Your Chipped Windshield?

A chipped windshield is not only annoying, but it could be compromising the safety of your vehicle. When a vehicle is designed, the windshield is a critical part of the structural integrity. Pressure on the roof of a vehicle with no glass versus one with glass will have a very different outcome.

That being said, having damaged glass in your vehicle can be a pretty serious thing. In contrast, for the glass to be such a large structural and safety feature, it is very strong and difficult to break.

Is windshield glass different than regular glass?

The glass used in the automotive industry isn’t your standard glass. This would cause windshields to break much too easily. They would shatter from minor impacts and even from a bump in the road or slamming a door. A chipped windshield would mean a broken windshield and replacement every time.

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Vehicle glass needs to be able to help support the roof, resist shattering, hold up against highway speed wind pressure, and soak up the bumps and vibration from driving. How glass does all this while being thin and crystal clear takes some innovation.

For the most part, the automotive industry uses two types of glass: tempered glass and laminated glass. These types of glass for engineered for safety and are the reason a shattered, cracked, or chipped windshield does what it does.

Laminated glass

Laminated glass is primarily what is used for windshields. A layer of vinyl sandwiched between two pieces of glass makes it thicker and stronger. The vinyl core won’t break and shatter like glass; this means that even when broken into small pieces it stays together. In an accident, this is critical to the safety of the passengers.

If you’ve ever seen a vehicle that was in an accident, you’ve probably noticed the bent and twisted windshield still in one piece with most of the glass still attached. It is the vinyl core that allows this to happen.

A chipped windshield is a pretty common thing, whereas chipping side or rear glass is much less likely. Keeping some strength and its shape is a required feature that laminated glass gives windshields. The other glass in the vehicle must also be strong but more easily breakable in emergencies.

Tempered glass

Tempered glass is more commonly used for vehicle glass other than windshields. It isn’t as strong as laminated glass and is made so it can be broken.

It is designed to break under a larger impact but shatters into small pieces with more rounded edges. This has two benefits; it allows for egress from a vehicle in an emergency and lessens the chance of cuts from sharp broken glass.

So, knowing how important the windshield is to your vehicle but also how strong it is, when does it need to be replaced?

From a safety standpoint, if there is anything obstructing your view, regardless of the size or how bad you think it is, you should have the windshield replaced. This can also become an issue from a law enforcement point.

Stone chips

For the most part, small chips from rocks and stones are not a cause for immediate concern and don’t justify a windshield replacement. That being said, at your earliest convenience, you should have the chip checked and repaired so it doesn’t spread. DIY glass repair kits are available and having one in your RV isn’t a bad idea.

Colder temperatures will make this even more important. The heat from your vehicle vents on a cold windshield can cause a small chip or crack to quickly expand. Having a small chip fixed can save you a full replacement should it crack. 

Impact from objects

If your windshield was hit with more of a rock than a stone, you likely have a much larger area damaged. Even if there are no cracks spreading from the damaged area, you probably have compromised the safety of the windshield.

A chip in most cases only damages the exterior layer of glass. If something like a baseball or rock from a passing truck hits your windshield, it can easily break the first layer of glass and penetrate the nylon safety layer. 

Once this happens, your windshield has done its job in not shattering, but it should be repaired. Damage of this size can’t be contained, will likely obstruct your view in some manner, and isn’t just cosmetic. Replacement should happen as soon as possible.

Person in car reacting to damaged windshield - chipped windshield

What about a cracked windshield?

Cracks often start out small and not concerning but can quickly spread and require immediate attention. Sometimes we don’t even notice them happening.

If a crack can be felt both inside and outside the windshield, there is a major strength compromise and replacement should happen as soon as possible. If the crack is only on one of the two layers of glass, this is less alarming.

The issue with cracks is they can be tough to stop. There are fixes that glass shops can do to seal the crack, but it doesn’t guarantee the crack won’t get worse. A professional glass shop should be visited to assess the crack and determine the best course of action.

In general, if the crack is not in your direct view and can be sealed, a full windshield replacement can be put off. If the crack is on both sides of laminated glass, or if it is in a tempered glass windshield, it will need to be replaced.

Cracks that are longer than a few inches and/or are already starting to spread in different directions will also most likely mean a windshield replacement as well.

Unfortunately after so many miles, windshield damage is something that catches us all. While it can be tempting from a time and cost standpoint, avoiding a visit to a glass shop for windshield issues can cost you money in the long run. More importantly, you may be putting yourself and your passengers at risk if you have a compromised windshield.

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.

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