interior car dashboard with sunglasses

There’s no way around it, a cracked windshield is a frustrating experience. If it happens while driving, say from a rock or a piece of debris, it’s startling. If it happens while you’re away from your car then it’s the kind of surprise you don’t want.

You’ll certainly need to get your windshield fixed, but how do you know if it’s safe to drive? How do you know if your windshield can be repaired without needing a full replacement? It’s going to depend on a few key factors so let’s examine what they are, so you’ll know exactly what to do.

How do windshields crack?

Windshield damage comes in all shapes and sizes and is brought on by a variety of forces. If a cracked windshield can be repaired depends on several factors, including the type of damage.

Damage caused by impact, such as when an object like gravel, debris, or rock strikes the glass is typically quite small and can usually be quickly and easily repaired. Other types of cracks like star breaks, bull’s eyes, and half-moon cracks are named after the shape of the windshield damage. These can typically be fixed by a certified technician.1

Non-impact damage to a windshield is the result of changes in temperature, pressure, or faulty installation. Some of the most common cracks include:

Long crack

A long crack is a linear crack that stretches over 15cm. These are commonly caused by extreme hot or cold weather and sudden temperature changes and the windshield will most likely need a full replacement.1

Edge crack

An edge crack starts at the edge of the windshield due to excess pressure on the sides of the windshield and is caused by improper windshield installation.1

Stress crack

Stress cracks are common in older vehicles, the result of usage that puts stress on the glass, causing it to weaken over time. Stress cracks call for an immediate windshield replacement.1

When to replace a cracked windshield

The size and location of a crack or chip will determine if the windshield can be repaired or needs replacement. Chips smaller than a quarter and cracks less than a few inches are usually repairable but if the crack is too deep or too wide it will need replacing. Cracks away from the driver’s side also might be addressed by repairs but if it’s in the driver’s line of sight this could cause distortion and replacement would be necessary. Glassmakers also recommend replacing a windshield with a crack that extends from an edge as these cracks spread quickly and easily. Remember, that the later you go in for repairs, the higher chance that the windshield will need replacing as even minor chips aggravate within days. So, if you notice a crack, take it to an expert immediately for further evaluation.

Can you drive with a cracked windshield?

A cracked windshield is a weakened windshield which means you’re far less protected from the next incident. To know if you can drive with a cracked windshield you have to assess where the damage is. If it is on the driver’s side and obstructs your view, then you should have it repaired immediately. The second indicator that you should not drive with a cracked windshield is if the crack threatens the structural integrity of the car. The glass strengthens the chassis and helps the roof resist being crushed in a rollover or collision.

A small crack won’t significantly impact glass strength which gives you a bit of time to get it repaired (but you won’t want to wait long). However, if the crack spiders across the windshield, if there are multiple cracks, or if the cracks start at the windshield’s edges you need to have it looked at immediately. How long it takes to replace a windshield will vary and you’ll want it done right by a certified technician.2,3

Does insurance cover a cracked windshield?

Insurance may cover a cracked windshield based on your provider and the policy you have. Learn more about how Nationwide handles windshield and glass insurance claims.

Protect your vehicle from the unexpected with auto insurance

Incidents like cracked windshields are just some of the unexpected things that can happen on the road. It is important to be prepared for the unexpected so that when something bad happens you’re covered.

Nationwide makes it easy to get the auto insurance coverage you need. Get a free car insurance quote and discover ways you can save on your policy.

[1] “A Complete Guide to the Different Types of Windshield Cracks,” Delaware Auto Glass, (Accessed December 5, 2022).

[2] “How Safe Is Your Cracked Windshield,” Benjamin Hunting, (Accessed December 5, 2022).

[3] “Is It Dangerous To Drive With A Cracked Windshield,” Tim Harding, (Accessed December 5, 2022).

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