Is it Dangerous to Drive With a Cracked Windshield?

Is it dangerous to drive with a cracked windshield? We’ve all been there; a rock hits it, causing a small crack. Over time, it spiderwebs out of control, spreading further and further across the windshield. Finally, after far too long, you call someone to get it replaced. Before seeking proper maintenance, you just drove and ignored the cracks as well as possible. Does driving with a broken windshield compromise safety?

Should you drive with a cracked windshield?

Is it dangerous to drive with a cracked windshield? When should you replace a windshield vs fixing it?
Cracked windshield that already spread | Harold Hoch/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

According to Anthony Volk Glass, in general, driving with small cracks in a windshield is not dangerous. However, as the crack spreads, it’s essential to get it replaced as soon as possible. There are two reasons large cracks and damaged windshields are dangerous.

Firstly, a cracked windshield is a weakened one. You’re far less protected from the next flying object once you’ve been hit by a rock, causing a crack. Whether that’s an animal crossing the road, falling gravel from a truck, or something else, it can be perilous. Once cracked, the integrity of the windshield is compromised. Moreover, hitting a deer could easily result in the glass shattering all over the driver and passengers. In addition, the deer would end up in your lap, which is very dangerous.

Secondly, decreased visibility of any kind while driving is a bad thing. Cracked windshields may only reduce visibility in small spaces, but that’ll increase. You never know when something will be perfectly aligned with a crack or blind spot, causing a crash.

Why won’t a cracked windshield protect the driver and passengers?

A man points out the crack in his car's windshield. Is it dangerous to drive this way?
A man points out the crack in his car’s windshield | John Wilcox/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Windshields are made with two layers of glass laminated together. They’re designed this way for an excellent reason. If something causes one layer to crack or break, the laminate and inner layer of glass keep the windshield together. As a result, in the event of broken glass, it won’t enter the vehicle or shatter all over the road. Once that first layer is broken, the second layer is exposed. That means nothing is standing between a big rock and the people inside.

Can a windshield shatter?

Once a windshield has a few cracks or chips, the entire structure is weakened. Moisture, bumps and dips in the road, and temperature changes worsen the damage. Factors like these cause the glass to expand and contract, stressing the weakened glass. If owners let the damage go too long, it can eventually shatter. Fortunately, the windshield is designed to keep the glass from falling into the car. Most modern vehicles use strong adhesives on the glass combined with lamination, which allows the glass to stay inside the frame.

When do you need to replace your windshield instead of fixing it?

In the case of a shattered windshield, owners must replace it as soon as possible. Most U.S. states have laws against driving without a proper windshield. Additionally, the windshield must be of the same kind and quality as the original version of the vehicle. If your windshield has been damaged, it’s best to call an expert as soon as possible.

In many cases, people get small chips from a flying rock. Most of the time, more minor chips like these can be repaired. It’s as easy as calling a company like Safelite, which will drive to your location and fix the windshield quickly. However, a larger break (usually more extensive than a dollar bill) will almost always require a complete windshield replacement. Unfortunately, breaks that big instantly weaken the windshield too much, so it’s dangerous to attempt fixing it instead of replacing it.

It can be dangerous to drive with a cracked windshield: Fix it ASAP

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In conclusion, fixing a small windshield chip as soon as possible can save you money. A small windshield repair is far less expensive than a total replacement. While it isn’t immediately dangerous to drive with a cracked windshield, it worsens over time. Driving with a cracked windshield gets more dangerous with every bump hit and every temperature fluctuation.

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