Car windshield replacement and repair are not things to take lightly. While you might have seen some vehicles driving around with little scratches, cracks, or chips in their front or back windshield, this isn’t recommended.

Here at FixMyCar, our mobile mechanics always say that even the smallest bit of windshield damage is bad news. A little scratch? This will negatively affect your visibility. Those tiny cracks and chips? This could ultimately ruin the structural integrity of the whole windshield.

The message is clear: when it comes to car windshield repair, don’t keep your head in the sand.

So, to help you learn more about the ins and outs of taking care of your transparent friend, we’ve put together our ultimate guide to car windshield replacement and repair. In this, we’ll touch on these areas:

  • What’s the difference between windshield and window glass?
  • Common causes of car windshield damage (and how to avoid them)
  • How to spot the differences between a repair and a replacement
  • Can you repair a car windshield by yourself?
  • Should you carry out a car windshield replacement?
  • Windshield replacement aftercare tips
  • Bottom line

Let’s get into it.

What’s the difference between windshield and window glass?

Windshields are completely different from the glass found on your car’s windows. Both of them are made of the safety glass required by the OEM (original equipment manufacturer), however, windshields go through an additional process of lamination. This is to protect both the driver and passengers.

In fact, windshields are made up of three separate layers. Both inner and outer layers are made of glass and between them is a sheet of plastic. This allows your front and back windshield to withstand and absorb shocks and distortions you may occur while on the road.

a hand with blue gloves fitting a windshield onto a car

Common causes of car windshield damage (and how to avoid them)

With that level of protection, you’d think car windshields were indestructible, right? Unfortunately not.

Furthermore, car windshield damage is sometimes unavoidable and just rotten luck. It could even occur on your daily commute. It’s as simple as a stray piece of gravel pinging off the road and cracking your windscreen.

That being said, there are some situations where you’re increasing the likelihood of damage occurring. Thankfully, with a few preventative measures, you can lower your chances of windshield damage. Let’s take a look:

  1. Avoid driving on a road with a lot of gravel - As touched on, roads with excessive debris or gravel are hot spots for windscreen damage. So, if you find yourself driving through a construction zone, be sure to maintain your distance from the car in front of you.
  2. Keep your distance when driving behind a construction vehicle - Construction vehicles carry dirt, rocks, and tools, so do yourself a favor and keep your distance if you’re stuck behind one!
  3. Protect your car in hail storms - As it’s from a natural event, hail damage is hard to prevent. That being said, if you live in an area prone to hail storms, check the weather forecast frequently and maybe look into covered parking options. Also, while most insurers cover against hail damage, be sure to check the small print of your insurance provider.
  4. Maintain your windshield wipers - Believe it or not, a windshield’s best friend can also become its worst enemy. Worn-down or damaged windshield wipers aren’t only ineffective, they can also scratch up your windscreen. This can be avoided by ensuring checking your windshield wipers is part of your routine car maintenance.

How to spot the differences between a repair and a replacement

In the unlucky event of damaging your windshield, you then need to make the choice of whether to get it repaired or replaced.

Unfortunately, a lot of repair shops may try and take advantage of you and get you to shell out for an unnecessary windshield replacement. That should be the last resort, though.

This list from glass.com identifies the damages for which you will actually need a new windshield.

  • The glass is tempered glass, not laminated glass.
  • The crack is longer than a dollar bill.
  • The crack or chip is deep enough that it penetrated more than halfway into the windshield.
  • The crack or chip extends to the outside edge of the windshield.

If the damage is less than this, a windshield repair is what’s needed. Furthermore, to prevent being taken advantage of, get a quote from one of our certified mobile mechanics.

Can you repair a car windshield by yourself?

The alternative to going to a dealership or having a mobile mechanic come to you is carrying out a repair or replacement yourself.

Firstly, let’s look at repairs. If you’re pretty handy at carrying out basic car maintenance, then repairing a chip in your windscreen is not going to be too intimidating. In fact, windshield repair kits are relatively inexpensive and can be ordered online. However, before getting your toolbelt on, there are a few things you need to be aware of:

  1. Your vehicle warranty - If you attempt to repair a windshield crack or chip yourself, you may void your car’s warranty. So, be sure to check your terms and conditions before doing so.
  2. If you mess up, it can’t be redone - If the windshield repair kit is not administered completely correctly, you may make the area opaque or cause blemishes. Then, you’ll be on the hook for a windshield replacement (as well as the repair kit)
  3. Cracks or chips near windshield wipers can’t be repaired - In this case, you need to replace your car windshield.
  4. Windshield repair kits only work on tiny chips - Anything more complex than this is best left to a professional.

What’s the takeaway here? Well, if it’s a really small chip or crack and you’re feeling confident, you’ll likely be able to fix it yourself. However, if you’re a car windshield repair novice or the damage is a little more complex, it’s best advised to speak to a certified mobile mechanic.

Should you carry out a car windshield replacement?

While going down the DIY route might seem like the most affordable windshield replacement, it may end up costing you more in the long run.

An older car model - roughly pre Millenium - typically has a rubber seal that goes around the windshield and holds it in place. This is a simple and inexpensive solution and, therefore, windshield replacement only requires basic tools. That being said, you still need a level of skill and experience, as the slightest misalignment would cause a leak.

Newer car models are a different story. They have glued windshields, with a layer of adhesive between the glass and car frame. This holds the glass in place, seals it, and ensures flexibility. While this has made replacement easier than before, they require specialized tools and equipment.

As you can see, windshield replacements on old cars require basic tools but a high level of skill and experience. On the other hand, newer car models require less skill but use specialized tools and components which only mobile mechanics or repair shops have access to.

As a result, we recommend you steer clear of doing a replacement yourself. It’s a demanding and complex job that requires the skills - or equipment - of a professional.

Windshield replacement aftercare tips

By now, you may be at a point where you’re deciding to bite the bullet and get your windshield replaced. Trust us, it’s for the best.

It’s not going to be a long-drawn-out replacement, either. In fact, it often takes less than an hour. So far so good. However, when you have your brand spanking windshield fitting, you want to ensure you follow the correct aftercare procedures to save you from another repair.

So, here are some of the aftercare tips to follow to ensure you take the best care of your car’s new spectacles:

  • Wait to drive your car - The adhesive needs time to form and become fully waterproof. Therefore, it’s best to wait an hour before taking your car out for a spin.
  • Leave a window slightly ajar - This will prevent air pressure, which can cause extra stress on the seal. Do this for the next 48 hours.
  • Avoid the car wash - Automatic or power car washes will damage the moldings around the windshield. Therefore, if you insist on washing your car, only do so by hand. After 48 hours, you can take it to a proper car wash.
  • Don’t remove the retention tape - This may not be the best look, but it’s there for a reason! You guessed it… Leave it on for the next 48 hours.

Follow all these and your new windshield will be on the right track and it will, hopefully, serve you and your vehicle for many years to come.

Bottom line

A damaged windshield isn’t something you can ignore. If it’s a small crack or chip, you may be able to fix it yourself. However, it’s best to contact a professional as soon as possible if it’s anything more.

And, if you are in need of a car windshield repair, why not get in touch with one of our certified mobile mechanics? FixMyCar’s highly skilled mechanics will be able to carry out a windshield repair - all from the comfort of your own driveway. Book a quote today to get started.