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A cracked windshield is always an unexpected bother that’s going to interfere with your routine. When your windshield has sensors, you can expect it to be a bit more involved than simply replacing the glass. Why is it such a hassle when you crack a windshield with sensors? Here’s a rundown of what windshield sensors do, and a few of the issues when they need to be replaced. 

Windshields with sensors are common

Today’s smart cars have features that could only be imagined a few years ago, and many of these rely on sensors placed on the outside of the vehicle, exterior mirrors, and windshield. If you have a newer vehicle, it’s very likely your windshield has sensors. You’ll know if your vehicle has sensors in the glass if you have certain features in your vehicle. 

Rain sensors are one of the first windshield innovations, and they detect when condensation hits the glass and automatically turns on the windshield wipers. Automatic headlight sensors that detect light levels are located at the bottom of the windshield, just below the defogger.

There are also heated windshields that melt off snow and ice. Some modern windshields even have layers of noise reduction built-in and solar windshield glass.

Advanced driver assistance systems, known as ADAS, usually have sensors inside the windshield. ADAS can include safety features like lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and collision avoidance features.

Although not all vehicles have ADAS, the NHTA has mandated that all vehicles manufactured in 2020 and beyond include forward collision warning systems and autonomous braking. This means in the future, basically, all windshields will have sensors. 

Replacing windshields with sensors is more involved

When your windshield containing sensors and ADAS systems gets cracked, it is not as simple as just replacing the glass. All the sensors need to be recalibrated and integrated back into the vehicle, and the angle of the windshield glass needs to be exact. It gets even more complicated because many auto manufacturers could have 20 or more possible windshield configurations for each make and model. 

When ADAS systems are involved, the calibration must be incredibly precise. If they are off by a millimeter, the whole detection system is thrown off and the driver’s safety would be in jeopardy. Driver-assistance systems sometimes need static recalibration, which is performed with custom targeting equipment and lasers.

The work is done in special garages with the proper lighting and enough open space to use the lasers. Other models need dynamic calibration, in which technicians need to take the vehicle for an extensive test drive as part of the repair process. 

Windshield repair costs are higher

If you crack a windshield with sensors, be prepared for a higher replacement cost than a regular windshield. Calibrating each sensor is the most time-consuming aspect of replacing these types of windshields. Not only does it take longer, but windshield technicians have to be certified and use specific tools. 

The car’s entire computer system will also likely need to be recalibrated. Heads-Up displays that project dashboard information onto the windshield will need to be readjusted, and dashboard cameras need to be realigned. 

You can make the experience less of a hassle. Have a record of all your vehicle’s features on hand, know whether or not the manufacturer requires OEM glass for replacement, and know whether they need windshield replacement at a dealership.

These preperations will make the process easier. Although there isn’t a lot you can do to prevent a cracked windshield, when it happens you can expect a few hassles. It’s worth it to get all the safety and technology benefits of these high-tech windshields.