Driving With a Cracked Windshield: Is it Safe?

Driving With a Cracked Windshield: Is it Safe?

Spring in West Chester, Pennsylvania means unpredictable weather and severe storms. Hail poses a particular danger for car owners as it can shatter windshields, backlites and other windows. Just last year, car insurance claims related to hail damage increased due to a number of severe storms that hit different areas of the country, including Pennsylvania.

Whether damaged by an accident, rock, hail or something else, a broken windshield is a serious issue and may render a car unsafe to drive.

Can I Drive with a Cracked Windshield?

It’s generally not dangerous to drive with a small crack in the windshield, but damaged glass should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible for two important reasons:

  1. Windshields weakened by damage provide less protection.
  2. Cracked windshields decrease visibility.

Windshields are specially designed to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers even if extreme impact causes them to chip, crack or shatter. They have two layers of glass laminated together. If one layer of glass breaks, the laminate and the inside layer of glass hold the windshield together, keeping pieces of glass from injuring occupants of the car or falling on the road.

This doesn’t mean that you should ignore a damaged windshield, however. Even a small crack signifies that the structural integrity of the glass has been compromised. Just like a helmet, a damaged windshield no longer provides the level of protection intended. Though not an immediate danger, if the crack is large, near or touching the edge of the windshield, the glass may have to be replaced and driving the car is not recommended.

Driving with a broken windshield should also be avoided whenever the damaged glass impairs the vision of the driver. With time, as moisture, dirt and even windshield washer fluid can seep into the glass sandwich layers causing discoloration and further decreasing visibility.

What are Pennsylvania Laws on Cracked Windshields?

Another factor to consider when deciding to drive with a broken windshield, call for onsite repair or have the car towed, are the relative state laws. In Pennsylvania, there are legal restrictions on driving with damaged glass related to the size and type of crack.

To ensure the safety of everyone on the roads, it is illegal to drive with shattered glass or glass that has sharp edges exposed. Drivers cannot operate vehicles if the windshield has any crack or discoloration that obstructs or interferes with their ability to see clearly.

Can Windshield Glass Shatter?

Most small chips can be repaired, independently of the shape, and there are products available to help prevent cracks from spreading. One of the most common problems with cracks in glass, however, is that they tend to spread.

In the case of windshields, chips and cracks create weak points in the glass that will likely spread due to a few factors. Moisture, flex from the body of the vehicle as it goes over bumps and dips in the road, changes in temperature that cause the glass to expand and contract all put stress on the glass. This additional stress causes the glass to shatter and the condition of the windshield will continue to get worse the longer you wait to get it fixed.

It’s important to avoid pressing on a broken windshield from the interior of the car. Because of its concave shape, a crack can severely weaken the structural integrity of the windshield and the glass is likely to continue cracking if pressure is placed on it from the inside.

The good news is that windshields are engineered to hold together. If it shatters, strong adhesives applied to the glass prevent broken pieces from falling into the car or onto the road. Because the windshield is laminated, the glass shouldn’t separate from the frame or collapse into the car.

What Should I Do with a Cracked or Shattered Windshield?

A shattered windshield must be replaced; large cracks or those that continue to spread will also likely require the glass to be substituted entirely. By law in Pennsylvania, replacement windshield glass must be of the same kind and quality, and any repairs should restore vehicle to its original state.

If your windshield has been damaged, contact your trusted car glass repair service to come up with the best solution to get you back on the road.

How Can I Avoid Hail Damage?

The months of May through September are peak season for hail when warmer weather brings thunderstorms, often including high winds and hail. Though it can’t always be avoided, you can help protect your windshield from hail damage by parking in a garage or car port. If severe weather strikes while driving, carefully pull into a gas station or under an overpass for protection until the worst has passed. This is a best practice for safe driving in general as decreased visibility and traction present real challenges during storms.

Call Anthony Volk Glass

If your windshield is damaged – with a chip, small crack, bullseye or spider crack – call Anthony Volk Glass to have the windshield repaired. Average repairs cost about $70, saving you a significant amount when compared to the price of replacing a windshield. If you have any questions about the type of damage to your windshield, be sure to give us a call at (610) 436-9727 or fill out our online quote request. We’ll help determine if it’s possible to repair or if, based on your description, it would be safer to replace the windshield.

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Anthony Volk

Anthony Volk is a third generation auto glass installer born and raised in West Chester, PA. With over 20 years of personal auto glass experience he and his team will bring that experience to you.