If your windshield has recently chipped or cracked after striking a wayward piece of gravel, you may be debating what to do next. The one option many auto owners mistakenly choose is to ignore the problem. Whether you're delaying because you're reluctant to pay to have it repaired, or you simply don't feel you have the time to send your vehicle to the shop, your windshield is your head and body's only protection from high-speed flying rocks, twigs, and pieces of semi truck tire. When a crack or chip weakens the integrity of your windshield, a delay in fixing this problem could put you and your passengers in serious danger. Read on to learn more about whether you should repair or replace your windshield glass.
Repairing your windshield
One option many drivers choose is to have their windshield repaired by a professional auto glass installer. This service is relatively inexpensive, and because it doesn't require heavy or complex tools, the auto glass installer is usually able to travel to meet you (rather than requiring you to take your vehicle to a dealership or repair shop). In many cases, you'll even be able to have your vehicle repaired in the parking lot while you're at work.
To perform the repair, the auto glass installer will fill in the chips or cracks with a clear putty that quickly hardens to give the glass its original tensile strength. One of the most important qualities of auto glass repair is its ability to stop the chip or crack from spreading -- even if your windshield continues to experience the occasional thrown rock.
If you'd rather save a bit of money and spend some extra time, you can make this fix yourself using a repair kit that can be purchased at an auto supply store. Before performing the repair, you'll need to carefully clean and dry the chipped or cracked area -- if any dirt or water is in the crack while you perform the repair, it could compromise the integrity of your windshield and quickly render the repair useless. While applying the clear putty, you'll want to protect the area from contamination until it dries. After the putty dries, your vehicle is ready to be driven.
Replacing your windshield
Although replacing your windshield can be a bit more complex than repairing it, this may be your best option if you have a compound crack (more than one line) or several very large chips or holes. In this situation, the structural integrity of the windshield has been compromised so much that even a repair won't restore it to its original strength and quality.
To replace your windshield for the lowest price, you'll generally want to take it directly to a glass shop that uses original equipment glass. However, if your vehicle is fairly new and still under manufacturer warranty, you may be required under the terms of your warranty to take it to your dealership for repair. You may want to quickly look over the terms of your warranty (or call your dealership) just to be sure having your auto glass installed by a glass shop won't void or invalidate your warranty.
When your windshield is replaced, technicians will carefully loosen the adhesive and watertight seal that holds your windshield in place and remove your windshield in one piece. A replacement windshield with the exact same measurements will be placed in the space and a new seal installed. You'll generally have to wait at least one hour (and possibly up to 12 hours) before retrieving and driving your vehicle to ensure that the new seal has fully hardened.
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