Cracked Windshield: What Happened and What Do You Do?

Let’s talk about that spreading spider web on your windshield

A broken windshield.
Depositphotos

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A cracked windshield is like a cracked iPhone screen. It’s not pretty, not usable, and can lead to some very precarious situations. Caused by all manner of road debris and earth’s fauna, windshield chips and divots are some of the most common maintenance issues you’ll have with your car.

From nuts and bolts to birds and rocks, seemingly everything in the world is out to crack your windshield. Thankfully, in the past three decades, windshield technology and construction have progressed to a point where few injuries are reported due to such impacts. 

As windshield cracks are extremely common, the crack info team at The Drive decided to bring together a guide to everything windshield repair:  e what they’re made out of, what can cause cracks, the various types of windshield cracks, how to fix and repair your windshield, and a laundry list of frequently asked questions to better educate yourself. 

Now, who’s ready to learn the language of glass?

Dang spider windshield cracks.
Depositphotos

Dang spider windshield cracks.

What Is a Windshield Made Out Of?

Though you won’t see the seams, modern car windshields are constructed of three layers. Two pieces of curved glass sandwich a layer of plastic vinyl for protective and structural reasons. This construction ensures that most objects that hit the windshield stop before they enter the cabin. 

Not only does it prevent the window from shattering, it also reduces the possibility of creating large pieces of sharp glass shrapnel entering your fleshy bodies. Most rock chips only damage the first layer of glass, which makes it possible to repair the windshield rather than replace it.

Common Things That Will Crack Your Windshield

There are a host of everyday items and environmental particulates that can crack your windshield. Name a thing that can fall off a truck or get tossed out the window by your toddler.  Think of a pebble hucked at your windshield by the car in front or a large example of Dolichovespula maculata. Yep, all of those can crack your windshield. Here are the most common items that can damage and crack your windshield.

Rock/Stone/Pebble

Rocks, stones, and pebbles are the most common assailants on your windshield. They are consistently picked up by tires and shot out the back of cars at your windshield like John Dillinger’s Tommy gun. They commonly cause minor chips and cracks, though if they’re large and speedy enough, they can go right through all three layers.

Insects

Big bugs, people, big ole bugs. Yes, those flying, jumping, and multi-legged beasts can damage your windshield if hit with enough force. 

Birds

The descendants of dinosaurs are beautiful creatures, majestic as they soar. They can also be 2-30-pound missiles. Low-flying or unaware birds can strike your windshield and shatter or crack the entire piece of glass. It can also be the source of some serious PTSD for your kids as you scrape Big Bird off your windshield.

Road Debris/Litter

Humans are dirty, disgusting, and lazy creatures. They tend to take the easy way out, including how they dispose of their car’s garbage and leftover road work debris. You see a window as a window, others see it as a trash chute. Leftovers get tossed out, litter the road, and can become speeding windshield impalers. 

Nails/Nuts/Bolts

Some of the most common things that crack your car’s glass are nails, screws, washers, nuts, and bolts. Contractors with loose cargo often drop boxes of the offending items which become minefields on the road and can pepper your car’s windshield in rapid-fire succession. Lock your loads, folks, don’t blow ‘em. 

We can't fix this kind of "crack."
Depositphotos

We can't fix this kind of "crack."

Types of Windshield Cracks

What you may be surprised to learn is that there are actually way more types of cracks than, you know, a crack. Cracks, chips, bulls-eyes, stars, and combinations are all different and require slightly different fixing methodology. To better assess your particular crack, here are all the different types of windshield cracks.

Cracks

Cracks actually come in three different varieties. Here’s how they breakdown.

  • Stress: Stress cracks often form not from something impacting the windshield on that particular day, but from repeated impacts and the glass finally failing. These can also occur when your car’s exposed to extreme heat or cold.
  • Edge: As the name implies, these cracks form at the outer edges of the windshield and extend toward the middle of the glass. 
  • Floater: Floater cracks tend to be around two inches or more from the windshield’s edge and can be worsened by extreme heat and cold. 

Chips

Chips occur when debris impacts the windshield and creates a small divot in the glass. Your windshield can sustain multiple chips or “pits,” though you’ll want to repair them speedily so that they don’t develop into cracks. 

Bullseye

Bullseyes are bullseye-shaped chips where a piece of glass resembles a crater with concentric rings emanating out from a central divot.

Stars

A star crack occurs when a chip has tiny fissures emanating out in a star pattern. When star cracks occur, they’re some of the easiest chips to fix with glass filler. 

Combination

Combination cracks are, you guessed it, a combination of the aforementioned cracks, fissures, and chips. They often occur after multiple impacts and can weaken the integrity of the glass to a point where replacement is absolutely necessary.

Large

These are the big ones. The San Andreas of windshield cracks. They span the entirety of the windshield and require immediate replacement.

Filling in those smaller cracks.
Depositphotos

Filling in those smaller cracks.

Types of Windshield Crack Fixes

There are two types of windshield crack fixes; fillers and replacements. Their names should be dead-giveaways as to what they’re intended to fix, but let’s talk about them. 

Filler

Fillers are clear glues or resins that are used to treat minor cracks, divots, and fractures. These are used to fix and repair the most common types of cracks. They’re not intended to fix or repair large cracks or holes. These can be done at home, most of the time.

Replacement

Replacing your windshield is required when the crack or hole is so large that it can’t be fixed or repaired with fillers. These are very large, often spanning the entirety of the windshield. Leave this to a professional.

How To Repair Your Windshield

Now that you know what your windshield is made out of, what types of things crack it, the types of cracks, and how to fix it, let’s talk about how to repair your windshield. And luckily for you, The Drive’s team of crack editors have the perfect Garage Guide for Car Windshield Repair. Hit the link and peep the deets if you want to repair your windshield at home. 

How to Fix a Chip in Your Windshield

Sourced from the above Garage Guide, this excerpt explains how to repair a windshield at home. 

  1. Spray window cleaner on a microfiber towel and clean the window. Do not spray cleaner directly on the crack or chip.
  2. Use a poker to pick out any loose glass. A spray of compressed air can further disperse shards of pulverized glass.
  3. In some instances, seen in the video below, it is recommended to use a Dremel tool or small drill bit to access the air bubble, but this is not always necessary. If you choose to proceed with this step, absolutely do not drill into the vinyl layer that is embedded within the windshield.
  4. Arrange and set the bridge, suction cups, stickers, or provided device.
  5. Arrange the resin injector above the chip and press onto the desired section of glass.
  6. Drop in the resin.
  7. Create a vacuum and draw the air out of the chipped glass. If instructed, allow time for this process to take place. 
  8. Using sunlight or a UV light, cure the resin. 
  9. Once the crack is filled, there will likely be a small divot remaining. Roll the extra resin or provided “pit filler” resin into the divot. 
  10. Place a small piece of plastic on top of the resin and make sure there are no air bubbles.
  11. Remove the plastic by pressing horizontally on the corner of the plastic to prevent pulling the resin out.
  12. Use a razor blade to carefully scrape away excess resin.
  13. Pit polish can be used to further improve the cosmetic look of the repair.
Filler going into the crack.
Depositphotos

Filler going into the crack.

FAQs About Windshield Cracks, Repairs, and Replacements

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q: How Much Does it Cost to Repair a Cracked Windshield?

A: The repair cost of a chip or crack will depend on the size, shape, and depth of the crack or chip. Average costs range between $60-$120, though some people have crack repair built into their insurance and won’t have to pay any out of pocket expenses. 

Q: Can a Cracked Windshield Be Repaired?

A: It can! Filler or resin is used to fill in the crack, chip, divot, or combination crack.

Q: How Much Does Safelite Windshield Repair Cost?

A: Safelite says that windshield cracks will cost between $20-$325 depending on the severity of the crack.

Q: How Long Does It Take For Windshield Repair To Cure?

A: Most crack repair resins will cure in about 3-6 hours, though wait a little longer before you go out and drive in the rain or get a car wash.

Q: Will Super Glue Fix a Cracked Windshield?

A: Yes and no. You can use super glue to fill in very small cracks or chips to fix them in the short term, but it’s not a long-term fix. 

Q: Does Clear Nail Polish Stop Cracked Windshield?

A: Like super glue, yes and no. Nail polish can be used as a short-term fix for very small cracks and chips, but you’ll want to get it professionally repaired as soon as possible.

Q: How Do I Keep My Windshield Crack From Getting Worse?

A: Contact a windshield repair outfit and get it filled in or replaced. For very short-term fixes, you can use the aforementioned super glue and clear nail polish.

Q: Should You Put Tape on a Cracked Windshield?

A: No. Tape won’t secure the windshield from getting further cracked and can impair your sightlines, reducing your ability to drive safely.