Most people assume that when they get a chip in their car’s windshield, it’s just bad luck. It may be, but you can take EASY steps to lower the risk of chips and cracks.
Here’s everything you need to know about windshield protection from rocks.
Five Key Facts on Windshield Chips and Cracks
Every driver should be aware of the following:
- According to Safelite Auto Glass, 14% of vehicles require some kind of glass service each year.
- 90% of chips will become cracks within 3 years.
- According to AAA, chips cost $60 – $100 to repair, and finger-length cracks run around $125. Windshield replacement ranges from $250 – $450 for most car models.
- Your windshield is a safety device that provides 45% of a car’s structural strength in a front-end collision and 60% in a rollover.
- Driving with a cracked windshield that obstructs the driver’s view can get you a ticket.
The best way to protect your windshield is to not get hit by a rock in the first place. Sounds obvious, right? They key is to know the risks and not go on “auto pilot” when driving.
Tires. Some tires are more prone to throw up rocks than others. First, 18-wheel trucks have four back tires, versus two, and are twice more likely to throw rocks.
SUVs and pick ups have larger and deeper-grooved, often knobby, tires that can send rocks and debris a long distance.
If you are behind any of these vehicles, increase the distance between you and the car in front of you by several car lengths.
Road Conditions. Roads with loose gravel or other debris are risky no matter what kind of car you are following. Slow down and give as much room as possible.
Risky Vehicles. Gravel and dump trucks are especially problematic as small rocks from the trailer are often dislodged, especially at high speeds. Even if the truck you are following has a tarp, it is best to give them as wide berth as you can.
Windshield Protection Film
I will just say up front that windshield protection film is a mixed bag. Manufacturers like Clearplex offer an advanced polymer film that is applied to windshields.
Claimed benefits include:
- Reduces chips and cracks
- Better run off of rain and snow
- Keeps windshields more intact in accidents
- Blocks UV rays.
What are the downsides? Well, the film is expensive ($75 – $250 professionally installed) and must be replaced relatively frequently, depending on environmental conditions and mileage driven. Once a year seems to be a decent rule of thumb for replacement.
Also, the film can get nicks in it which catch lint when using cloths to clean and shine glass. Lastly, many drivers report windshield wipers leave scratch marks on the film.
All in all, windshield protection film is a polarizing product. I’d say a majority of drivers find it to be more trouble than it’s worth. The people that like it, however, swear by it.
What Should You Do If Your Windshield Gets a Chip?
The first step is to prevent the chip from getting bigger. Don’t wash the damaged area. Simply wipe away any dust and put clear packing tape over the chip.
Next, don’t delay in getting it fixed. Chips WILL become larger cracks over time, especially when the windshield is exposed to rapid temperature changes. For example, turning on the front defroster to remove fog or ice.
For smaller chips, waiting a few days shouldn’t pose too much of a risk. But as we all know, days can too easily become weeks and months. Procrastination can be expensive and even dangerous.
Getting a chip fixed by a professional usually costs between $60 – $100. Comprehensive auto insurance coverage will often help pay the costs. Full windshield replacement insurance is available.
Many people decide to go the DIY route. There are many kits on the market in the $10 – $20 range, and almost all of them operate on the same principles.
These kits work well for about two-thirds of users. Those unhappy with the product seem to have larger “star” shaped cracks; simply didn’t follow the instructions; or use them for unintended purposes (e.g., iPhones).
These products are designed to work on most types of glass chips:
- Half moon crescents
- Spider webs
- Some star shapes (Note: most complaints come from using DIY kits on these types of chips. Please read instructions carefully).
There are hundreds of instructional videos on YouTube and the web. Below is a good one that walks through the process very efficiently.
Windshield protection from rocks is all about learning to drive defensively. Simply making good driving habits second nature will reduce your risk greatly.
If you do get a crack or chip, don’t put it off too long. These small dings are easily fixable for not a lot of money. Also remember that windshields provide up to 45% of your car’s structural integrity in a crash. It is simply not worth compromising.