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Got a chip on your windscreen? Why you need to get it fixed or replaced as soon as possible

A windshield is an important component of the vehicle’s construction; a chip or a crack on it could compromise your safety. Even a small chip in the wrong position can cause distractions or impair your vision, leading to an accident. This makes it urgent to either repair or replace the windshield at the earliest opportunity. In the course of deciding whether you should repair or replace the auto glass, consider:

  • What is the extent of the damage
  • What is the impact on the visibility of the driver
  • What is the scale, depth, and placement of the chip
  • What’s my contingency plan for vehicle access (e.g. hiring a replacement or sourcing a courtesy car if it needs to be off the road)
A major impact will mean the whole windscreen will need to be cut from the frame and replaced

As already discussed, windshields serve to protect you, and by extension, driving with a defective one can be dangerous. There are two options.

  •  Repair it
  •  Do a full replacement
Ariel Atom manages without a windscreen, but you’re a nutcase if you don’t wear a helmet to protect your head from flying stones and insects

For some smaller cracks and chips, a repair is the cheapest and most feasible, but modern windscreens are complex and can contain sensors, cameras and embedded wires, so it’s not always possible. Also, if the crack is in the direct line-of-sight of the driver, it may not be able to be repaired.

How long does it take to have the windshield repaired?

Repairing the windscreen is the cheapest and fastest. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to have it fixed before you’re back on the road. If you have a suitable car insurance policy, you will not have to pay a cent out of your own pocket. However, if you don’t have a glass insurance cover, it will set you back between $100-200. Regardless, should the chip turns into a crack which is not able to be repaired, you could have to part with over a thousand dollars to have the windscreen replaced if it’s one with embedded technology.

What are the timelines for a complete windshield replacement service?

Fixing a new windshield takes up to half a day: 1.5 hours to replace the screen and around 1-2 hours for the urethane seal to cure to a point where it’s safe to drive (depending on temperature and humidity), as opposed to 15 minutes for a screen repair, which can be done onsite rather than travelling to a windscreen repairer.

How do you get your windscreen repaired?

Mobile windscreen repair companies, such as Smith & Smith – auto windscreen repair provide services that are simple and fast. All you have to do is call to book a mobile appointment and notify your insurer as per their claims policy. Leading automotive glass repair and replacement service providers benefit from the strong relationship those companies enjoy with major insurance companies in New Zealand.

Once you have decided on the appropriate solution for your chipped windshield, then you can identify the right professional auto glass repair company.

In most cases, it’s much cheaper to fix a chip rather than wait for it to develop into a crack. Repairing the chip is also effective and a fraction of the cost of replacing.

If you choose to replace the windshield, you have to be aware of any warranty issues on your vehicle. Using OEM parts helps ensure the replacement glass functions as efficiently as the original windscreen. Simply repairing the windscreen means you are not breaking the factory seal.

Beware of dealerships that want you to replace the windscreen, thinking about the profits. Unlike a total replacement, fixing a chip takes less time, is less complicated, and when done by a professional windshield repair technician yields good results.

Problems with windscreen chips and cracks

Windshield chips can rapidly become cracks

The windscreen provides structural strength to your vehicle and is installed under pressure. As the vehicle drives over bumps, it flexes (the seals primarily absorb the flexing). Vibration from the road surface is transmitted through every component. Wind exerts pressure on it. Other objects, such as stones, hit it and it is affected by heat and cold due to the weather. These factors can cause a chip to become a small crack and eventually a crack that reaches the seal around the end of the windscreen. There’s a limit to how long a crack can be and still be fixed. Longer cracks also provide less protection as the screen gets gradually weaker.

How can you avoid having to deal with a windshield replacement and the associated costs? Preferably, work on the chips as soon as possible.

Windshield chips and cracks obstruct your view

Chips and cracks in the window can cause a blind spot that obscures other road users, increasing accident risk.

A typical windshield comprises two transparent sheets of glass laminated together with a resin. In the event of a collision, the resin acts to retain the glass in place, thus averting the danger of glass fragments hitting your face. Before laminated glass, windscreens smashed easily and could cut the driver.

Once the crack is repaired, the visual diffraction is dramatically reduced.

A windshield chip compromises structural integrity

A laminated screen will usually stop an object going right through (unless it’s heavy), but a chip or crack in the right place can weaken it enough that smaller objects can get through

Any damage to the windscreen affects the overall strength of the vehicle itself as it is designed to help support the vehicle’s roof and A pillars.

Repairing the chip restores the structural integrity of the windscreen

You could be violating traffic laws

A chipped windshield may constitute a traffic offence and hence attract a fine. While your vehicle might have a current warrant of fitness, a large crack may mean it is not technically ‘roadworthy’.

To recap, a damaged windscreen:

  • Provides less structural integrity and protection in the event of an accident
  • Can restrict the driver’s visibility
  • May make the vehicle unroadworthy, leading to the risk of a fine
  • Is cheaper to repair than replace
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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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