A cracked windshield can be both a startling and frustrating experience. How many times have you heard a rock or other piece of road debris collide loudly with your windshield, only to see a large chip or crack appear immediately afterward? There’s no question that you’ll have to get it fixed, but when is it safe to keep driving with a crack and when do you need to pull over and call a tow — or head to the garage immediately?
Location, Location, Location
There are two main indicators that it’s no longer safe to drive with your cracked windshield. The first has to do with the position of the crack itself. Specifically, if the crack is located directly in your field of vision and is blocking the view of the road ahead, then it’s not something you can put off repairing. Being able to react quickly to changing conditions ahead of you is essential to driving safely. This is especially true at night or during a rain or snow storm, as a large crack can obscure details that could cause an accident.
The second indicator that it isn’t safe to drive is when the crack threatens structural integrity. It’s not immediately obvious, but a car’s windshield plays an important role in the structural integrity of the entire vehicle. The glass strengthens the chassis and helps the roof resist being crushed in a rollover or other type of collision.
A small crack in a windshield isn’t enough to significantly impact the strength of the glass. If it’s located in an out-of-the-way spot — such as at the bottom or top — then you can keep driving until you have time to get it repaired. If the crack starts to spider its way across the entire windshield, however, then it becomes a much bigger concern. The same is true if there are multiple cracks or if the cracks are at the very edges of the windshield, where it meets the metal frame holding it in place.
If you are involved in an accident with this kind of compromised glass in place, you could end up injured when the vehicle is unable to protect you as it was designed to.
Repair or Replace?
There are a number of products available on the market that allow you to repair your own cracked windshield or fill a chip. Most of the time, damage to the glass is light enough for these repairs to be successful, and a quick repair can prevent a crack from spreading. A large crack, however, calls for either professional repair or a replacement piece of glass to guarantee your safety.
A crack on your windshield can be a nuisance to take care of, but knowing when to pull over and consult an expert could save you from more trouble down the road.
For more information on cracked windshield safety, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.