Used to be, if your windshield got even a small chip or crack, you had to replace it, period. But in 1981, a new option was made available to the public, based on previous research done by Dr. Frank Warner, a chemical engineer in Wyoming. The technique worked so well that it caught on, and now it's easy to find windshield repair in Wichita, Kansas, or pretty much anywhere in the country.
But repair isn't always an option. In this article, we'll cover the differences between repairable and non-repairable windshield damage.
Before we get to the interesting stuff, it's worth mentioning that, yes, Kansas state law does required you to repair windshield damage because it can affect passenger safety by reducing the windshield's structural integrity. This is important because your windshield does more than keep dirt of out your eyes; it's also a crucial part of the vehicle's rollover protection system, and weakened glass is more likely to cave in. And even small chips and cracks can reduce driver visibility, especially with oncoming headlights during night driving, another safety issue.
What Types of Windshield Damage can be Repaired?So what kinds of auto glass damage can and cannot be repaired? It depends on several factors.
How Big is the Chip or Crack?This is a more complicated question than you might think because no two windshield chips are the same. Let's start with a general rule of thumb: if you can put a quarter over the damage, you're probably in good shape. But larger areas of damage can often be repaired; it just depends on the type of damage it is. Bulls-eye chips with spider-web cracks a few inches long can sometimes be repaired, but generally speaking, the bigger the damage, the more difficult it is to repair.
Where is the Damage Located?There are really just two problem areas on the windshield, in terms of auto glass repairability. The first is when the damage is at the edge of the glass. Windshield repair is performed by filling the chip with an epoxy resin while containing it in a vacuum from the top of the glass, and it's difficult to maintain a vacuum when part of the damage extends beyond the seal of the chamber. More importantly, a small crack at the edge of the windshield (which is part of the vehicle's roll-over protection system, as mentioned above) compromises its strength much more than a crack nearer the center.
The second location that cannot be repaired is in the driver's direct line of vision. Here's why: the epoxy used in windshield repair comes very close to matching the optical characteristics of auto glass, but it's not exactly the optical quality of glass. The difference is invisible to most people, but regulations forbid repairs in the driver's line of vision because of the potential for very slight distortions that may interfere with visual perception of traffic.
Total Amount of DamageOkay, let's be clear: even a tiny chip can very quickly turn into much bigger damage, whether from temperature changes, stresses on the vehicle frame or unknown reasons (which is why it's important to repair the small stuff before it becomes big stuff). If your windshield has more than three areas of small damage, it may be difficult to return the glass to its former strength. Every situation is different, so this is a judgement call best made by a certified technician.
You Have OptionsThe way windshields are shaped places them under constant stress. Design engineers know this, and the stress actually works to your advantage when a foreign object strikes the outside of the glass, effectively pushing outward against it. But this stress also means that every windshield chip wants to get bigger, even when the vehicle is setting still. Again, the most important thought you should take away from this article is that any windshield damage should be repaired as soon as possible.
If the damage limits your ability to drive safely, you can call a mobile windshield repair shop to come to you. It costs the same as a shop visit, so it makes sense to stay off the road until the problem is fixed. Be sure to deal with a full-service windshield shop that also offers windshield replacement. Then if it turns out your damage is unrepairable, they'll still be able to take care of it. You have plenty of options, so don't take chances with your safety.