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Guide to Windshields and Auto Glass Replacement
Auto engines or the quality of the suspension system usually come to mind when the car’s performance is mentioned. In this guide to windshields and auto glass replacement, we’ll show you how important these parts are for the vehicle’s performance and the passengers’ safety.
The windshield is arguably one of the car’s most vulnerable components because it is constantly exposed to environmental factors. A stray pebble or any other small or large object moving at high speed can damage a windshield or auto glass, and it is impossible to prevent these types of accidents.
Even the tiniest chip on your windshield requires immediate attention since it can affect the glass’s structural integrity if left unattended for long enough.
Our guide to windshields and auto glass replacement will take you through different stages of the process and help you choose the right time to install new car windows or windshields.
The Importance of Windshields and Auto Glass
Besides protection against wind, rain, or snow, auto glass and windshields also play an essential role in your car’s safety system. Airbags on the passenger side of the vehicle bounce off the windshield to form a barrier that protects the passenger seat.
Also, the auto glass keeps the roof from giving in under the pressure of the impact when a car rolls over, and in doing so, it makes the vehicle better prepared for accidents. That’s why even the slightest damage to the windshield should be considered a potential hazard.
It is also worth noting that a chip or a crack that obstructs the driver’s view of the road cannot be removed, and the only way to fix this problem is to install a new windshield.
All auto glass parts such as the rear windshield, car windows, vent, and quarter glass are equally crucial for the safety of passengers, and you must act promptly if any of these parts are damaged.
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The Types of Windshield Damage
A car accident can happen if the brake rotors are worn out or if the shocks start to lose their shock absorption capabilities. Sometimes, the factors that can damage a windshield or auto glass are beyond your control as an object that hits them can make a chip or a crack.
The windshield damages are divided into two categories, so if the impact only affected the windshield’s outer layer the damage is classified as a chip. On the other hand, damage that affects all windshield or auto glass layers is called a crack.
Cracks are not necessarily caused by an object that collided with the windshield since other factors can be why the glass cracked. Also, you should check out our guide to the best car oils to find out which motor oil you should add to your car’s engine.
The easiest way to determine which type of chip you’re dealing with is to look at its shape. There are four types of chips you can encounter, so let’s look at their characteristics.
If a tiny piece of glass is missing from the windshield’s outer layer, then you’re looking at the pit. This type of chip doesn’t affect the windshield’s structure, and it is relatively easy to repair.
A relatively large impact hole surrounded by a circular chip pattern is called a bullseye. This chip type usually occurs when a rock or some other object hits the surface of a windshield.
As the name suggests, a combination brake is a mixture of a chip and a crack. Combination cracks occur when an object hits a windshield at high velocity forming a bullseye chip and an arm-shaped crack that spreads outward from the point of impact.
A half-moon chip resembles a bullseye chip as an impact hole characterizes both chips, but their chip patterns are different. The semi-circular chip pattern distinguishes the half-moon chip from a bullseye chip.
The Most Common Reasons for Windshield Cracks
Even though the impact can cause a windshield or an auto glass to crack, other factors can bring the glass to the breaking point. A manufacturing defect can shorten auto glass and windshields’ life expectancy since it allows cracks to develop along the edges.
A sudden temperature change can also be why a windshield cracks, so you should avoid pouring hot water over a windshield when it is cold outside or use cold water to wash an auto glass or a windshield in warm weather conditions.
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Auto Glass and Windshield Cracks
Nearly all types of windshield and auto glass cracks are bad news, as the only way to get rid of them and stop them from spreading is to install a new car window or windshield.
However, knowing how different types of cracks look like will help you access the damage faster and determine if the damage is repairable. So, here are some of the most common types of windshield and auto glass cracks you’ll encounter.
Windshield scratches form over time, as the metal components of wipers leave marks every time you use them. This affects the outer layer of the windshield, but it rarely causes structural damage to the glass.
Removing scratches is relatively easy, as you just have to buffer them until the point you can no longer see them. However, this is only possible while scratches are still shallow, as this task becomes progressively more difficult as the scratches deepen.
That’s why you have to remove windshield scratches as soon as you notice them, since you may not be able to do so if you wait for too long.
Some cracks form a star-shaped pattern around the impact point. Star brakes can’t be fixed and you’ll have to replace a windshield that suffered this type of damage.
Abrupt pressure and temperature changes cause stress cracks and they can occur without an impact. Stress cracks usually manifest as long lines across the surface of a windshield.
Any crack that is longer than 6 inches is characterized as a long crack. In case, you can’t cover the crack with a dollar bill, you’re dealing with a long crack and you must replace the windshield as soon as possible since this type of crack affects the windshield’s structural integrity.
Most cracks start as edge cracks since they form within 2 inches from the windshield’s edge and then spread towards its inner regions.
A chip crack is the tiniest type of crack because you can cover it with a coin. Their diameter is approximately 0.9-inches.
In case a crack formed in the middle of a windshield with no visible traces of damage near the edges, then you’re probably dealing with a floater crack.
How to Know When to Replace a Windshield or Auto Glass
As a general rule of thumb, cracked windshields have to be replaced as soon as possible because their structural integrity is compromised and the cracks will only get longer and deeper. Our guide to car painting and detailing will help you keep other parts of your car’s exterior in excellent condition.
The only exception is a scratched windshield or auto glass since you buffing the scratches can restore their original look. Whether or not you can repair a chipped windshield depends on the type of chip.
So, if only the windshield’s outer layer is affected, there is a chance that you won’t have to get a new windshield. However, if the chip pattern formed during the impact is obstructing the driver’s view of the road, removing the old windshield is necessary.
Also, you should consult a professional while assessing the damage and trying to determine if it is possible to repair the windshield. Check out our guide to find the best exhaust if you think your car’s exhaust system might be faulty.
Windshield Replacement Procedure
Installing a new windshield is a task best left to professionals since even a minor mistake can result in damage further down the line and ultimately increase your costs. Besides, this process can’t be completed without the tools that allow you to remove an old windshield and install a new one.
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Taking off the damaged windshield
The process starts with removing wipers, moldings, and clips so that the windshield’s edges can be accessed. Some car models have continuous molding while others feature several molding segments that have to be removed independently.
Once the necessary preparations are made, the technician has to choose the method they will use to separate the windshield from the metal frame.
Most windshields are held in place by urethane so the easiest way to separate them from the metal frame is to cut through urethane using a razor or a urethane knife that is designed specifically for this purpose. A windshield can be removed from the outside, or from the car’s interior.
In most cases, the windshield is removed from the outside, although it may break easily if this method is used. The metal frame needs to be cleaned and all traces of rust have to be removed once the damaged windshield is detached from it.
Installing a new windshield
A caulking gun is used to spread the urethane over the surface of the metal frame, and then a putty knife is utilized to create an even layer of the adhesive throughout the pinch weld. Afterward, moldings are attached to the frame before a new windshield is placed on it.
Additional moldings are added during the finishing stages of the windshield installation process and they are held in place by the retention tape.
What to do After Replacing a Windshield?
The urethane used to fasten the windshield to the pinch weld usually needs around 24 hours to dry properly, so you shouldn’t use your vehicle during that time. Ideally, you won’t be using your car for two to three days and you’ll allow adhesive to create a strong bond between the glass and the metal frame.
Leave the window open to minimize the air pressure in the vehicle, since high air pressure can put stress on a freshly installed windshield.
It is also advisable to open and shut the car’s door gently to avoid putting unnecessary stress on the windshield. Don’t wash your car with a power washer while you’re waiting for the adhesive to cure as it may push the windshield out of position.
You shouldn’t remove the retention tape either, as it might cause the moldings to become loose. Ask the professional who installed the windshield for a detailed set of instructions on how you should treat your car in the days following a windshield replacement.
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Windshield and Auto Glass Repair Options
Chips that have diameters shorter than 6 inches are repairable if they only affected the windshield’s outer layer. It is vital to repair a chip as soon as you spot it because it will start to expand over time and you’ll no longer be able to prevent it from spreading.
You should also keep in mind that in most cases the chip will remain visible after you restore the integrity of a windshield or auto glass. You shouldn’t go through this process on your own if you haven’t used a windshield and auto glass repair kit before.
Besides, you’ll need a kit that contains raisins, applicators, curing strips, and adhesives to repair a chip on your windshield or car window, so you should choose a kit that contains all these tools and accessories.
It will take time until you figure out how to use these tools, so be patient and don’t start repairing the chip until you’re fully comfortable with what you’re doing. You have to clean the chipped surface before applying the raisin to it in order to avoid trapping dust and dirt particles in the chip.
Be very careful while injecting the raisin to the damaged surface because the chip might spread under pressure. In addition, the quality of the raisin you inject into a chip will determine for how long your windshield is going to remain safe to use.
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The Best Windshield and Auto Glass Repair Kits
After establishing that attempting to repair a windshield or auto glass is worth a shot, you’ll have to gather the right equipment for the job. You should bear in mind that this process can get difficult even if you have all the gear you need to complete it.
You can expect to spend anywhere between $10 and $300 on a windshield and auto glass repair kit, depending on the model you choose and the number of components it contains. We’ve shortlisted some of the best windshield and auto glass repair kit options, so let’s take a look at what they offer.
3M Windshield Repair Kit
Stopping the spread of the chip in its tracks, won’t be too difficult if you have the 3M windshield repair kit. You can use the raisin that comes with this kit to repair minor pits, half-moon, or bullseye chips by simply applying it to the affected area.
There’s no need to heat the raisin or use any special tools to apply it as all the tools you’ll need to inject the raisin into the chip are already included in the kit. The raisin’s formula enables it to dry quickly after it is applied, so you’ll be able to continue using your car shortly after.
However, the 3M windshield only stops the chip from spreading and it isn’t very effective if it is applied a few days after the accident. You’ll get the best results if you apply the raisin that comes with this kit moments after your windshield got damaged.
Clearshield Windshield and Auto Glass Repair Kit
A professional windshield and auto glass repair kit, like the Clearshild Starter Kit, supplies you with the tools and materials you need to perform 200 repairs. The capabilities of this kit exceed the demands of most car owners as you can use it to repair chips that spread over a relatively large area of the windshield.
The kit comes with a hard plastic case that contains a metal bridge, an applicator that features 8 internal and 4 external rings that can be used to inject a pit sealer, tight seal, or raisin. The kit also includes a hundred curing squares, an ultraviolet light, ten razor blades, and twenty drill bits.
Using the windshield and auto glass repair tools from this kit can be an overwhelming task if you don’t have the required skills and knowledge. What’s more, this Clearshield kit costs nearly $300, so it might not be the most budget-friendly option you have at your disposal.
ATG Windshield – Fix Full Repair Kit
Having an affordable windshield and auto glass repair kit such as the ATG Windshield Fix Repair Kit in your car will enable you to deal with chips and shallow cracks immediately after an accident happens.
This kit contains 16 pieces, including a powerful raisin that restores the windshield’s internal structure, as well as an injector and sealing rings that help create a vacuum around the chip and get rid of all the dirt that may have been stuck inside the damaged area.
It takes less than an hour for the raisin to dry and you can use the scraper that is included in the kit to remove all access raisin. The affected area of the windshield will be smooth once the repair process is completed successfully and the chip will be barely visible.
You should use the ATG Fix Repair Kit under direct sunlight or artificial light in order to have a clear overview of the entire windshield reparation process.
Frequently Asked Questions about Windshield and Auto Glass Replacement
Answer: In most cases, pits or bullseye chips occur after gravel or a pebble hits the windshield. The chip will likely spread and eventually turn into a crack if you continue driving after the accident, because of the pressure the air will apply to it while the vehicle is moving.
Answer: It takes between 30 and 60 minutes to install a new windshield. However, you shouldn’t drive your car for a day or two to make sure that the adhesive has created a strong bond between the metal frame and the glass.
Answer: The easiest way to check if the crack or a chip reached the lower layers of your windshield is to put your finger at the spot at which the chip or crack occurred from the car’s interior. The surface will be uneven if the damage already reached the inner layers of the windshield.
Answer: Usually, chips shorter than six inches can be repaired, if they affected the windshield’s outer layer. So, the depth of a chip also determines whether a windshield can be restored to its previous state since a deep chip or crack can’t be fixed.
Final thoughts: When is the Right Time to Start the Windshield and Auto Glass Replacement Process?
Accidents happen all the time, and the best you can do is to be prepared for them. Even a seemingly inconsequential accident like gravel hitting a windshield can have far-reaching consequences if the issue is not addressed quickly.
Having a windshield and auto glass repair kit like the 3M windshield repair kit or the ATG Windshield Fix Repair Kit will enable you to stop the chip from spreading, but it isn’t always possible to stop the car immediately after the accident.
If a chip turns into a crack there isn’t much you can do, other than replacing the windshield. Although this process can be completed in less than an hour, you shouldn’t attempt to go through it alone.
Was our guide to windshields and auto glass replacement useful? Let us know in the comments or continue reading our guide to the best car tools and accessories.