How to Repair Your Cracked Windshield

You may be able to fix the crack or chip in your windshield without an expensive trip to the glass shop.

It’s a fine day. The sun is shining, traffic is moving along smartly and you haven’t a care in the world. Whack! Until now, that is. Now there’s a rosebud the size of a quarter smack in the windshield. What’s worse, it’s directly in y our line of sight. It must have been a hypervelocity railgun pellet fired at you by an Imperial Stormtrooper, because you didn’t see it coming or going. And as your heartbeat returns to normal, the awful truth soaks in: You’re going to have to have the windshield replaced. This means dealing with the glass shop, being without your car for a day or two, having a potentially leaky windshield and, worst of all, higher insurance premiums

Alternating cycles of vacuum and pressure will push adhesive into the chip, and evacuate air from the bottom of the chip.

Actually, it’s worse. Some insurance policies won’t even cover chipped glass. Maybe if you just raised or lowered your seat an inch so you didn’t have to look right through the chip…

Before you panic, drive home and get out your magnifying glass. Take a really close look at your new chip. It just might be possible to repair the chip instead of replacing the entire windshield. The technique is to inject an epoxy or acrylic adhesive or filler into the chip.

Even if your chip isn’t in your direct line of sight, it’s a good idea to try and repair it. Water will find its way into the chip, pulled in by surface tension. If the chip goes all the way through the top lamination, any moisture that gets that deep can delaminate the glass from the center membrane. Eventually, the membrane will fog, causing a larger blemish. Water also can freeze in the chip, causing a larger flaw or even a crack. Also, water can carry dirt into the crack–and there’s no way to flush it out.

As you can surmise, it’s best to do the repair as soon as possible, assuming that it’s repairable. Remember that not all chips can be fixed. The best you can hope for is to fill most of the chip. It may still leave a visible flaw. But the improvement on most chips will be dramatic, and at least you’ve sealed the chip from the atmosphere and probably eliminated the possibility of it growing larger or discoloring in the future.

You can’t fix long cracks. So it’s critical that you fill chips before they turn into cracks. Basically, any chip that goes into the surface of the glass perpendicular to the surface or at a shallow angle can be repaired. That includes cone-shaped chips, leaf-shaped chips or almost any chip that hasn’t flaked a big piece of glass off onto the road.

Many chips will be repaired almost completely by adhesive injection kits. But some damage requires complete windshield replacement.

WINDSHIELD REPAIR KITS

Windshield crack repair kits can be found in the auto parts department of many mass merchandisers like Kmart, Sears and Wal-Mart, as well as more traditional auto parts stores like Pep Boys and AutoZone. Failing that, the warehouse-distributor auto parts stores that cater to professional mechanics can supply you.

In the New York area, we found two different types of repair kits and there may be others. Expect to pay around 10 bucks. Procedures differ marginally, but the principle is the same. We fixed a couple of windshields, and the results were excellent.

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