How to Replace a Windshield
Did you know your car’s windshield is a safety device? In addition to its primary role of protecting vehicle occupants from wind, water and debris, a windshield can help reduce crash injuries and could even save your life or that of a passenger. How? In a collision, the windshield prevents most outside objects from penetrating into the vehicle interior. In many cars, the windshield also plays a critical role in front passenger airbag deployment. Finally, the windshield (and rear window) supports the vehicle roof in a rollover to help prevent it from collapsing.
Windshield damage can compromise driver vision in addition to the safety features described above. This makes it important to check the windshield, and other glass, for problems on a regular basis. If your windshield is cracked or damaged in any way, you should contact your insurance company or an auto glass specialist to arrange for repair or replacement.
Glass Inspection and Cleaning
To keep windshields and other glass clean, use non-ammonia cleaners and soft cotton or microfiber towels that will remove dirt and grime without causing streaks. Ammonia-based cleaners can damage dash and upholstery materials, and window tint films as well.
Here are some tips on what to look for hen performing an auto glass inspection:
- Check the glass, inside and out, for chips and cracks. Minor “star” or “bullseye” rock chips, and small cracks, may be repairable. Any significant damage calls for windshield replacement.
- Tiny micro-pits build up on the windshield over time as airborne particles hit the glass at high speeds. These pits reduce vision when illuminated by oncoming headlights, or a rising/setting sun. The only practical fix for a badly pitted windshield is replacement.
- Inspect the edges of the glass for damage to surrounding bodywork. Any problems that affect the seal of the glass to the body can weaken structural integrity and need repair.
- Make sure the rubber windshield wiper blades are soft, pliable and clear water from the glass in a single swipe. Brittle blades can break and allow a metal wiper arm to scratch the glass.
Today, innovative processes and materials make it possible for auto glass specialists to repair many types of windshield damage. Some auto insurance companies will cover glass repairs with no deductible because it costs less than windshield replacement. However, other carriers prefer that damaged windshields be replaced rather than repaired.
The size and location of a chip or crack determine whether it is suitable for repair. Chips smaller than a quarter and cracks less than a few inches long are usually repairable. Some states do not allow glass repairs in areas that are directly in the driver’s line of sight because even small fixes create distortion that can affect visibility and safety. Glass specialists also recommend replacing any windshield that has a crack extending from an edge. These types of cracks tend to spread quickly and easily, making it likely that a repair will be ineffective.
The glass repair process for chips and cracks involves injecting a polymer resin into the damaged area, allowing it to dry, and then smoothing the surface to make the imperfection nearly invisible. The outcome depends on the quality of the tools and resins, and the skill of the technician doing the work. Do-it-yourself glass repair kits are available from many sources, but the job may be better left to an expert. Professional auto glass technicians are equipped with more-sophisticated tools and advanced resins that help ensure a satisfactory repair.
Costs for windshield repairs vary by location, auto glass service provider and damage type. Typical prices range from $60 to $100 for a single chip, and discounts may apply when fixing additional chips on the same windshield. Crack repair prices are similar, although fixing a longer crack may cost $125 or more.
When replacing a windshield, use of the proper materials and techniques is critical to vehicle safety. For a job done right, motorists should choose an auto glass business that is a Registered Member Company with the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC) and employs AGSC Certified Technicians. The Independent Glass Association (IGA) and major glass repair chains such as Safelite also have technician training and certification programs. In some parts of the country, AAA Auto Glass® or AAA Approved Auto GlassSM facilities are available and offer member discounts.
Windshield replacement is covered under the comprehensive portion of auto insurance policies, less any applicable deductible. In a few states, insurance companies are required to waive the deductible for windshield replacement. This supports driving safety by allowing motorists to have damaged glass replaced promptly by an auto glass specialist at no cost.
Insurance carriers often use third-party companies to manage windshield replacement claims. These companies will typically recommend qualified installers to vehicle owners. However, owners are not required to accept the referrals, and have the final say on who actually performs the glass repair.
Cost And Other Considerations
For drivers without insurance coverage, windshield replacement costs vary by location, vehicle make and model, and type of glass used. Auto dealers use factory replacement glass, but independent glass installers typically use aftermarket windshields that often come from the factory supplier. In one study of average repair costs in 16 U.S. cities, a replacement windshield for a Honda Accord cost $250 to $300, while one for a BMW X6 ranged from $350 to $450.
Be wary of cut-rate installers with lowball prices. Some use low-quality glass that may not meet all of the original equipment standards. For example, some bargain windshields have optical distortion that can be distracting to a driver. If the reflection of a piece of graph paper held perpendicular to the glass shows significant “ripple,” a better piece of glass is called for.
If your car is equipped with an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) that uses a camera mounted behind the windshield, original equipment replacement glass may be required and the ADAS system must be calibrated after the new glass is installed. Some auto glass installers can perform this important procedure on some cars, but in many cases the vehicle will need to be taken to a dealer for calibration.
After a windshield installation is completed, inspect the work. Make sure the glass is flush with the body and check for proper centering. Where visible, the gap between the glass and the car body should be consistent across the top and down both sides. If a molding is used it should lie flat and even all the way around the glass with no visible bumps or gaps. When driving, there should be no “whistling” or other indications of air leaks around the glass. If you find any problems, contact the installer to have them corrected.
Easy Way To Replace Windhield
Your windshield is one of your vehicle’s most important safety features. When it becomes cracked or damaged, repair should be a priority. However, if the chip or crack can’t be repaired, the windshield must be replaced.
- Remove the rearview mirror, plastic covers, wipers and the rubber gasket.
- Cut the urethane seal with a cold knife.
- Remove the windshield.
- Remove excess urethane with a razor blade and clean the bonding area.
- Apply the urethane primer.
- Run a bead of urethane around the perimeter.
- Reinstall the windshield.
- Allow the urethane to cure.
- Reinstall any hardware you removed and replace the rubber gasket.
Most insurance companies will cover the costs of windshield repair. Ask your insurance company if this service is covered. Many people take their cars to professionals for windshield replacement, yet some want to do it themselves. Windshield replacement is an ambitious DIY project. However, many enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction that comes with completing the job. Below, you’ll find step-by-step instructions.
How to Replace a Windshield
Windshield replacement can throw off sensors and cameras that advance driver assistance systems (ADAS) use. If your vehicle uses any ADAS such as: lane departure warnings, blind spot assist or collision avoidance, it’s imperative that you have these recalibrated by a professional after DIY installation.
Due to the variance between each car manufacture, it’s best to have the service manual for your car. Use the tips below as a guide, along with your service manual, for safe and proper windshield replacement.
Windshield Replacement Tools & Materials
The cost of tools and materials needed to do this project yourself may be more than professional installation. Make sure to do the math and consider your time. Plan to spend about two hours doing this repair yourself.
- Cold knife
- Glass cleaner
- Rubber windshield gasket
- Urethane primer
- Razor blade scraper
- Two suction-cup window holders
- Auto glass urethane
- Stiff nylon brush
- Caulk gun (electric or air powered preferred)
- Painters tape
- Wire brush/sandpaper
- Hand tools
- Utility knife
Begin by sourcing a replacement windshield. Your local Glass Doctor may be able to help you find a replacement. Otherwise, your local car dealer or auto parts store should be able to help you find a replacement. Avoid headaches by purchasing an OEM replacement. Once you’ve found a replacement, continue with the instructions below:
How to Replace a Windshield in 15 Steps
- Use hand tools to remove the rearview mirror and any hardware attached to the old windshield.
- Remove the wiper blades, windshield gasket and plastic molding around the windshield perimeter.
- Separate the windshield from the pinch weld with a cold knife or razor.
- Use a cold knife to cut the urethane seal around the perimeter of the windshield.
- Remove the old windshield. Be careful not to damage the paint or bonding surface.
Now you should have an empty windshield frame. Use a razor blade scraper to remove as much of the old urethane as possible. Be careful not to scratch the paint or the bonding surface. Don’t worry if you can’t remove all the old urethane, a thin layer helps the new urethane form a stronger bond. Remove any rust spots with sandpaper or a wire brush to prevent it from spreading. Clean up the bonding surface with a stiff nylon brush to remove any loose particles. Vacuum any debris around the area and clean up your work area before continuing.
- Use glass cleaner to clean the new windshield perimeter where the urethane will contact it.
- Apply a urethane primer to the old urethane and perimeter of the windshield.
- Not all urethanes require this step, so be sure to follow the instructions specific for your product.
- Lay a continuous and even bead of urethane around the perimeter of the windshield frame.
- An electric or air powered caulk gun makes this job a lot easier. If you only have a hand powered caulk gun, place the urethane in a bowl of warm water for one hour before applying.
- Fill any gaps in the urethane bead before you continue.
- Install the windshield as soon as possible to prevent the urethane from curing before installation.
- Use suction cup window holders to lower the new windshield into place, ask a friend to help.
- Position the windshield in the correct spot.
- Use tape to hold the windshield in place and prevent it from sliding around while the urethane cures.
- Allow the urethane to cure for the allotted time specified by the manufacturer.
- Reinstall the windshield wipers, gasket, plastic molding, rearview mirror and any hardware you removed.
- If necessary, take the car to a dealer to have the ADAS recalibrated.