Does My Damaged Windscreen Need to be Replaced?

Windscreen replacement companies are very keen to tell us that even tiny chips in our auto glass are dangerous, weakening the entire windscreen. We are also told that chips in our windscreens will result in an MOT failure. Whilst there is some truth in this, is not true in every case. You may also believe that any chip in the window wiper arc can’t be repaired. Although this used to be true better equipment and resins now mean most chips and some cracks to your damaged windscreen can be repaired. So before you rush to pay for an expensive replacement pane of glass make sure you have checked two things;

1)     Is the chip dangerous and will I fail an MOT?

2)     Can I repair the chip rather than replace the entire windscreen?

Is The Damage Dangerous?

Chips and cracks weaken your windscreen, side windows and sunroofs. Does this actually matter?  Well yes.

Windscreens are one of the most important safety systems in your car. Not only do they form a physical barrier between you, your passengers and the outside but they form part of the structural integrity of the entire car. With modern car designs using less metal and more glass this is even more true. Glass protection is particularly important in any accident where the car rolls – the windscreen can be responsible for up to 60% of the cars structural strength. Taking that chip in your windscreen a bit more seriously now?

Damaged Windscreen

Will I fail an MOT?

The reason a car fails an MOT for a windscreen chip is because it is deemed dangerous. The MOT determines if a chip is dangerous based on its size and also its position. The rules are pretty strict but they are also very clear so it is easy for you to check if you have an MOT problem. Refer to the official MOT rues for windscreen damage. A chip that is directly in the driver’s field of vision is dangerous because it could obstruct their view so damage which extends more than 1cm in that area will result in failure. For other areas of your windscreen, damage of up to 4cm can be tolerated. PLease note that there is some judgement involved so two different MOT stations might not both agree if a chip should lead to a pass or fail.

Timely Action

If you have damage to the glass on your car you should take action quickly. If you have a crack – repair it before it becomes too large. Large chips are at risk of cracking especially if they are deep or at the edge of the windscreen. Large changes in temperature like freezing conditions or hot water from automatic carwashes can cause a chip to crack and a crack to grow. If you are in the habit of pouring boiling water over a frozen windscreen to de-ice it be careful – this could cause cracks and chips to get bigger.

Chips get bigger over time due to wear and tear particularly if the chip is in the wiper arc. Every time the wiper passes over the chip dirt is rubbed into the crack making it bigger. If you have chip in the wiper arc you should get it repaired quickly to prevent the damage growing.

Can I repair the chip or cracked windscreen?

In many cases chips can be repaired but larger chips may need some specialist skills and equipment. Cracks are usually harder to repair and you are unlikely to be able to get them repaired if they reach the edge of the glass.

Don’t be tempted to fill a crack or chip with with any old rubbish – clear glues can actually cause damage to the screen as they freeze, expand and contract at different rates to glass. Only use products designed for the job. You can buy repair kits online and in auto shops. They cost anything from £5 to around £25.  They do work and they can do a decent job but they require patience and a steady hand. It is possible to make a mess of the job and reduce your visibility even more than the original chip did.

If the chip is large or deep you should not attempt a DIY job. You need an experienced technician to determine if the chip can be repaired safely. Better quality resins will be needed for large chips and these will not come in the standard DIY repair kits. Cleaning the chip fully before the repair is also vital and this is hard to do without specialist equipment and training. As most professional repairs cost £20 – £50 and can be done while you do your weekly shop most of us wouldn’t even consider a DIY job. There are plenty of local and national businesses that offer specialist windscreen repair services and some can even claim the repair cost directly from your insurer.

It makes sense to use to a supplier that does not provide replacement glass – only repair services. These companies will repair the damage if they can as they have no incentive to offer you a more expensive replacement option, just read the story below for confirmation.

“I was originally told by the Windscreen Company my insurer recommended that I needed a new windscreen as the chip I had could not be repaired. I almost agreed to go ahead with a replacement when I noticed Optic Kleer stationed in my local Tesco Car Park. I went over to ask the operator’s opinion of the damage on my screen. Not only did Optic Kleer say he could fix the damage, he said that it would be absolutely no hassle for me as he would deal with everything and bill my Insurer directly with a guaranteed no effect to my No Claims. It did not cost me a penny and what’s more the repair Optic Kleer did was absolutely fantastic!! You couldn’t even see where the damage was! I couldn’t recommend Optic Kleer more highly and will look out for them in future. ”
Alec Price, Bury St. Edmunds

Whilst the cost of replacement screens can be covered by some insurance policies there is often an excess to pay which is normally higher than the cost of professional repair. So, even if a replacement is covered on your policy it’s still worth getting a professional to see if they can perform a repair.

In some cases, it will not be possible to repair windscreen damage.  Cracks and chips that are directly in the line of screen sensors often cannot be repaired even if the damage is quite small. Chips directly in front of the driver are harder to fix because the repaired area will cause dangerous distortion or glare. If a chip or crack is too deep it can’t be repaired because the fundamental structural integrity of the glass has been compromised.

This is a contributed guest post.

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