What to Do With That Cracked or Chipped Windshield

Most drivers have experienced a chipped or cracked windshield. It may not look serious at first. It may look small, something you can put off for another day. Make no mistake – a chipped or cracked windshield is a safety risk.

“The windshield is an important part of the unibody design of a car,” says Navin Chatooria, president of Ideal Auto Glass. “It helps to hold together the structure. If there is an accident and the car flips, and there is a crack in the windshield, the structure of the vehicle is weaker.”

Safety laws regarding windshields

Then there is the law. Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Transport Canada writes and enforces the rules around windshields for cars manufactured for sale or imported into Canada.

Transport Canada spokesperson Annie Joannette says it is the job of the provinces and territories to enforce those rules. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, for example, a severely chipped or cracked windshield can result in an $85 fine. If the damage is extreme, a police officer can even order the removal of a car from the road.

The bottom line is windshields take a beating. That’s especially true on Canadian roads, and in harsh Canadian weather conditions. I recall a time when I was driving from Toronto to Montreal in the middle of February. Montreal was experiencing a cold front with temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius. When I pulled back into Toronto, I noticed a diagonal crack along the right side of my windshield.

Don’t ignore the problem as it will only get bigger

By doing nothing, that chip or crack will get worse. Every time you drive over a bump or pothole, or slam the car door or trunk, or drive in cold weather, the chip or crack will be aggravated and it will get larger in size.

The question then is whether you should get the damaged windshield repaired or replaced? And should you do it yourself? Many auto shops sell do-it-yourself repair kits. Canadian Tire sells them for $16.99. That is an option if you are looking at repairing a small chip. There are also instructional videos online. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully if you do it yourself.

However, there are many factors at play when deciding the best course of action. The chip could be in a place that weakens the overall windshield. It is always best to have a professional assess the damage.

“Chips and cracks can undermine your safety and that of your passengers in the event of an accident,” says Stéphane Ouimet, national process manager of project deployment at Belron Canada Inc., the parent company of Speedy Glass®. “A chip or crack smaller than a $1 coin can typically be easily repaired. However, a small windshield chip can quickly turn into a crack. In fact, cracks start off as chips in 90% of cases.”

In the case of a larger crack, Ouimet says the windshield should be inspected by a professional and likely replaced immediately to make sure it continues to support the structure of the vehicle. Perhaps more importantly, the windshield will need to be replaced if the chip is in the driver’s line of vision, the damage is near the edge of the windshield, there are three cracks or more, or the windshield is old and covered with tiny divots.

Windshield repair – a few key steps

According to Ouimet, if it is a repair scenario, here are the basic steps:

  • Verify the windshield temperature – it needs to be between 0 and 29 degrees Celsius;
  • Clean the glass surface and impact point to make sure it is free from any contamination such as moisture, dirt or mould;
  • Inject the crack with high-quality resin;
  • Cure resin with UV light; and
  • Polish the impact point until the surface shines.

Whatever you decide to do, don not wait. As soon as you see a chip or crack on the windshield, get it dealt with.

Chatooria says you will save a lot of money if you get the chip repaired before it turns into something worse. His company, Ideal Auto Glass, charges around $80 to repair a small chip, whereas the cost to replace a windshield is between $1,500 and $1,700.