Compared to engine trouble or a flat tire, a cracked car window may not seem like an urgent issue, but glass repair is important and warrants a visit to a trusted collision shop near you ASAP. Some of the dangers of letting broken glass go unfixed aren’t immediately apparent, so in this article, we’re going to go over a few of the major reasons why it’s important to stay on top of repairs when you have problems with your windshield or windows.
Visibility Issues Are Dangerous
There’s a reason why your car has windows in the first place. You need to be able to see what’s going on around you so that you can react to changes in traffic, see pedestrians, and generally stay aware of your surroundings. When your window gets a crack, it obscures the transparency, making it harder for you to see out of. Also, your eye may be naturally drawn to the crack, even if it’s relatively small, causing a distraction. This is most obviously a problem when the damage is on the driver’s side of your windshield, but other windows can come into play when you’re changing lanes on the freeway or parallel parking.
Driving With a Cracked Windshield Can Get You a Ticket
Because a cracked windshield is so dangerous, there are actually both federal and state laws against driving with one. Federal regulations put out by the U.S. Department of Transportation specify that your windshield should be free of damage in the area directly in front of the steering wheel and in the one-inch border around the sides of the panel, though there are a few specific exceptions, like if the crack is very small (able to be covered by a disc that is ¾ of an inch in diameter). Some states have even stricter guidelines in place. For instance, Pennsylvania doesn’t allow you to have any defects in the center of the driver’s side of the windshield, including chips, cracks, or discoloration.
This means that on top of being dangerous and distracting, driving with a cracked windshield can get you a ticket. So if you’re avoiding getting your windshield replaced because of the expense, think twice. Better to simply pay for maintenance right away than to delay and have to pay a potentially hefty fine as well.
Small Cracks Leave You Open to Further Damage
If a crack isn’t on your windshield and doesn’t seem to be affecting your vision, then you may think that it’s not as big of a deal. But while these cracks don’t present as much of an immediate danger, they do make your car more vulnerable. A small crack is likely to expand over time if left untreated. Changes in temperature cause the glass to expand or contract, which can cause further breakage, and vibrations from the road can exacerbate the issue, as can impact from any pebbles or road debris that you might come across while driving.
When you get a crack on your windshield that’s in the driver’s field of view, the whole windshield needs to be replaced for safety reasons, but small cracks elsewhere can sometimes be repaired instead. So if you get maintenance early on, you might be able to opt for a repair rather than a more costly replacement. Wait too long, and you give the crack a chance to spread until it’s so far gone that replacement is the only option.
Automotive glass is built to be tough, but eventually, if it’s damaged enough, it will shatter. You may think that you can handle the distraction of a crack in your window, but you probably won’t be able to ignore it if your window suddenly shatters as you’re driving. Instead of waiting until you have a major problem on your hands, it’s better to take action as soon as you notice a visible crack.
With Modern Technology, Windshields Need to Be Properly Replaced
Many modern cars have features like head-up displays, which project information directly onto the windshield. There’s a good reason why this feature has been gaining traction in recent years: it allows you to look at your speedometer, navigation directions, warnings, or other info without taking your eyes off the road at all, so you can stay aware of your surroundings while also keeping on top of your route, speed, and other vehicle settings. But because this technology directly interacts with the windshield, it means that if you have it in your car, you need to take extra care when getting your windshield replaced.
On older cars, you could potentially get your windshield replaced with a third-party part and not notice a difference (unless you got stuck with an inferior quality product that didn’t last as long as it should have). However, if you have a head-up display, then it’s crucial that your car is equipped with an original-equipment windshield. With the wrong windshield, your head-up display could become more of a distraction than a helpful piece of equipment, with the display being too blurry to read or even appearing as a double image.
Head-up displays aren’t the only pieces of modern technology that need to be kept in mind when getting a windshield replaced. If you have rain-sensing windshield wipers or advanced driver assistance technologies like adaptive headlights, forward-collision warning, or lane-keep assist, they can also complicate the process of getting your windshield replaced. After the actual part replacement, these systems will need to be recalibrated so that you can be sure that they’re working properly and will kick in when needed to keep you safe on the road. If you have a newer car, make sure you’re going to a certified service center with technicians who are familiar with your particular make and model and will be able to offer you original-equipment manufacturer parts.
Glass Damage May Be an Indicator of Other Issues
One final reason to always take your car to a professional if you notice a crack in a window is that the damage could be indicative of other issues. If the crack was caused by an impact, then it might have thrown something else out of alignment. If it was caused by major shifts in the temperature, then they may have affected your tires as well. If the damage was caused by an accident, you should have your car looked at right away. Getting a multi-point inspection at a certified service center can give you peace of mind if nothing else is wrong or give you the opportunity to swiftly take care of any other issues that might need fixing.
Don’t Wait When It Comes to Glass Repair
As you can see, a crack in a car’s window is more than just an unsightly nuisance: it can be a real danger. Even if it doesn’t look like a big deal to you, it’s always better to play it safe and take your car to a service center as soon as possible. Better to overreact to a small issue than to leave it alone and have to deal with a more major repair down the line. Even a small cosmetic crack can impair your vision and cause a distraction, which is a big danger in and of itself when driving at high speeds on busy freeways.
Since a car’s glass is almost literally invisible, it’s easy to let it slip into the background and not give it too much thought, but a car’s windows are vital to driver visibility and need to be kept in good shape, just like any other component. So be sure to always keep them clean, top off your windshield wiper fluid regularly, and get repairs right away if you notice any damage. It just might save your life.