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Is It Safe To Drive With A Cracked Windshield?

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Let’s say that you’re driving along carefree and enjoying your day when you hear a sharp ding against your windshield. You figure it’s nothing serious… and then you reach your destination. There, the first thing you spot is a hairline crack in your windshield glass. Uh-oh. Is it safe to keep driving?

If your windshield has only a minor crack, you can drive your vehicle home safely, but you should prioritize getting the windshield repaired immediately. Leaving a small crack unrepaired and continuing to drive will cause the crack to spread. This is a safety hazard. In some states, it’s also illegal to drive with a windshield crack.

In this article, we’ll tell you the important things you need to know about dealing with a cracked windshield. Although it’s always horrifying to realize this large piece of safety glass is damaged, the good news is that if you handle it correctly, a cracked windshield doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Can A Cracked Windshield Break While Driving?

Whenever you get into your car and head out for a drive, a bevy of different factors could lead to a cracked windshield. Exposing your car to extreme sunlight is one such factor and temperature fluctuations or weather conditions are another. 

Even small rocks or bits of asphalt that are kicked up by other vehicles can break the windshield if the pebble hits weak points in the glass. You know this all too well, as that’s exactly what caused your windshield to crack.

As of now, you just have a small chip and a crack that is very minor. If you didn’t know where to look for it, you wouldn’t even notice it. It’s now definitely on your to-do list to visit an auto glass repair shop, but with such minor damage, you’re pretty sure you don’t have to be in a rush.

You figure that you’ll get to it in the next few weeks when you have some time. Besides, you figure you won’t get a further damage at this point. It’s not like your windshield can continue to break while you’re driving, right?

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what can happen. 

For every dip in the road, every pothole, and every sudden turn or maneuver, the impact of the bumps can put a strain on the already damaged windshield.

What started as a very small, barely noticeable, minor chip can suddenly become a large crack or a spiderweb of cracked glass running along your windshield. Worse yet would be if the windshield shatters!

This is exactly what happened to my mom while she was driving to work one morning.

She went over railroad tracks while facing into direct sunlight, at the exact time a dump truck sped by in the lane next to her. A perfect storm!

A rock hit the edge of the windshield and it instantly shattered. With a million cracks in the glass all reflecting the sunlight, she couldn’t see a thing!

broken windshield 2

With such significant damage, she knew she had to get off the railroad tracks before she was in a car accident or hit by a train, but how when she couldn’t see?

Luckily, she thought quickly and rolled down the driver’s side window. She was able to get over the tracks and onto the shoulder of the road before any auto accidents happened.

What Do You Do If Your Windshield Cracks On The Highway?

Imagine a scenario where a huge commercial truck pulls up in the lane ahead of you on the highway. It changes lanes and kicks up a piece of road debris in its wake. Now you can see several small hairline cracks in the car’s windshield. What should you do? 

Here’s what we recommend.

Pull Over And Assess The Damage

When driving, you need a clear view of the road, especially on a busy multi-lane highway. You can’t pay too much attention to your windshield cracks when driving, but you shouldn’t ignore them either.

It’s a good idea to pull your car over to the shoulder as soon as it’s safe to do so. Get out of the vehicle and inspect the windshield damage. Are the cracks small or do you have a major crack? Is the crack running through your line of vision?

NOTE: As you look at the cracks, please don’t touch your windshield. Putting pressure on the cracks with your fingers can make the cracks spread. Plus, you could cut yourself on the broken pieces of glass! 

Determine If You Can Safely Drive Home

Depending on where the crack happened or how far it’s spread, a driver’s view might be impacted. 

If you can’t see what’s in front of you because of a cracked windshield, then driving is dangerous. That’s true whether you’re on a four-lane highway or driving on a quiet residential road.

In the most severe cases, a cracked windshield can shatter as I mentioned above. If you’re in the car when this happens, you could possibly be hit with shards of glass if the structural integrity of the windshield doesn’t hold up.

Keep these factors in mind as you inspect your cracked windshield. 

If Not, Call A Tow Truck 

If you don’t feel comfortable driving your vehicle while its windshield is in this state, that’s okay. You’re making a safe, smart decision. We recommend hanging out on the highway shoulder and calling a tow truck to transport your vehicle to a mechanic.

You can likely ride back with the tow truck driver. If that’s not an option, you can probably get a ride from a friend or a family member or you can call an Uber or Lyft

How Long Can I Drive With A Crack In My Windshield?

Every time you climb into the driver’s side of your car, the crack in your windshield reminds you that that’s one more thing to add to your never-ending to-do list. Exactly how long can you get away with a cracked windshield?

There’s no one specific time frame. The cracks in your windshield could go days without spreading or it could be weeks and sometimes months. You have no way of knowing how long it will be, which is scary. 

We again must remind you that the risk of your entire windshield shattering while you’re behind the wheel of your vehicle increases if you don’t get the windshield fixed in a timely manner. You could get severely injured from the broken glass as well as total your car.

In addition, while you can patch up a small rock chip in your windshield at home using a repair kit, once the crack has spread more than a couple of inches, you’ve got bigger problems.

You’ll have no choice but to see a mechanic at that point. You might even need a full windshield replacement depending on the size of the crack.

Plus, you’ll spend more money the longer you wait. We talked earlier about windshield repair kits, which cost about $10. To reiterate, you can only use these kits for small chips and cracks. Once the size of the crack is more than several inches in size, you’d have to go to a professional.

Windshield repairs can cost you anywhere from $100 to $400 with labor included. The price of a new windshield is $400 and up. 

Which would you rather spend, $10 or $400? We think the choice is easy.

If you’re by chance still not convinced that you should prioritize windshield repair as soon as the crack happens, here’s something that ought to change your mind. In many parts of the United States, state laws make it illegal to drive with a cracked windshield.

That’s due to windshield obstruction laws. Although the laws don’t revolve exclusively around windshield cracks, in the states that abide by these laws, anything that obstructs a driver’s view through the windshield (and side mirrors) is deemed illegal.

Read about Elderly Driving Laws By State.

More than half the states in the country have a windshield obstruction law of sorts. Although the rules vary by state, if you’re found to have a broken windshield that’s obstructing your vision, you could be issued a citation and even be fined. 

That’s more money you now have to spend, and all because you didn’t get your windshield fixed immediately. 

How Big Of A Crack Can Be Repaired On A Windshield?

Okay, so you finally took your car to a mechanic. You had admittedly driven for a few weeks with a cracked windshield and now the damage is quite severe. 

You’re hoping your mechanic can fix the windshield rather than replace it. At what size is a crack considered too big to be repaired?

The size of the crack must be six inches or under for a mechanic to repair your windshield. Aside from the size of the crack, the position of the crack is also important. For instance, if the crack is in front of any car sensors or cameras, it’s likely best to replace the windshield instead.

Discover the Best Products For Elderly Drivers.

The number of chips or cracks also guides a mechanic’s decision to repair versus replace the windshield.

If you have one crack in your windshield, that’s usually fixable, but if the shield is riddled with three or more cracks, then the glass is too damaged. Repairing it wouldn’t likely prevent the windshield from cracking again.

Depending on your car insurance company and your plan, the cost of windshield repairs is often covered under your insurance. Some replacement services will even come out to you rather than make you visit the mechanic so you don’t have to drive there with a bad windshield or pay to get your car towed.

All this makes it very easy and convenient to address your cracked windshield as soon as the damage happens. Don’t delay!

Bottom Line

Driving with a cracked windshield is not safe since road impacts can cause a small crack to spread. When a vehicle’s windshield sustains enough damage, it can shatter. Before you put yourself in a life-threatening situation like that, buy a windshield repair kit (for small cracks) or contact your mechanic (for bigger cracks). You’ll be glad you did!

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