One minute you’re driving along with a crystal clear windshield and in a flash, you’re hit with something out of nowhere. Cracked windshields are disappointing and unattractive. But the most important question may be, is it safe to drive with a cracked windshield?
Driving with a cracked windshield may be more dangerous than you think. The reasons for this may surprise you.
To learn more about windshield cracks and whether or not it’s safe to keep driving with them, please check out this helpful information.
It helps to know a bit about windshields and how they are built to protect you. Windshields aren’t made of ordinary glass. Ordinary glass shatters into jagged pieces upon impact.
Windshields are constructed from laminated safety glass. Laminated safety glass is composed of three fused layers.
Tempered glass is four times stronger than plain glass. Instead of shattering into sharp, jagged shards when it breaks, this special glass will fracture into smaller pieces that aren’t sharp or dangerous.
Tempered glass is manufactured by super-heating glass and then putting it through a high pressure cooling process. This makes the outer surfaces cool much faster than the center of the glass. The center tries to pull back from the outside surfaces as it cools, causing it to remain in a state of tension.
Because the center is in tension, the outer surfaces of the glass are in a state of compression. It is this compression that gives tempered glass its strength. When reinforced by the polyvinyl butyral layer, laminated safety glass becomes an incredibly strong structure.
Windshields aren’t just for clarity, bugs, or aesthetics. They actually play an essential role in the structural support of a vehicle.
An automobile’s windshield gives strength to its cabin. This is where passengers are located inside the vehicle. In a collision situation, a windshield is extremely important. A windshield can provide almost half the structural integrity of the vehicle’s cabin in a front end collision and more than half in a rollover situation.
Is It Safe to Drive With A Cracked Windshield?
So is it dangerous to drive with a cracked windshield? The short answer is no. Certain cracks may be more of an urgent issue than others. While you can usually still drive with a cracked windshield, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
There are a number of factors you should consider when you’ve got a cracked windshield, and all of these can affect safety.
Size of the Crack
This is big when it comes to deciding how quickly you should fix your windshield cracks. Some states will consider it illegal to drive with a windshield that has long or large, spread out cracks. Such cracks require a full windshield replacement.
If you have a small crack or chip, you can drive for a longer period without significant structural compromise or obstruction of view. The damage must be fixed eventually to prevent spreading.
Location of Crack
The location of the crack is important. Any cracks that are fairly small and located toward the passenger side generally won’t cause an issue initially. These cracks will eventually need to be addressed, but it’s not an urgent issue.
Cracks that obscure the driver’s view are considered unsafe and must be fixed as soon as possible. Even smaller cracks in unfortunate locations can be problematic on the driver’s side.
Amount of Damage
Some cracks and chips can be repaired easily by injecting an acrylic or epoxy filler into the damaged area. This is typically the case for cracks that are less than twelve inches long. If the crack has spider-webbed outward or is much larger, you will need to have your windshield replaced.
A Crack That is Spreading
Because of varying temperatures and normal vibrations and impact, almost all cracks will eventually spread. Also, glass expands and contracts as temperatures change. The weakened area around the crack allows the damage to extend as a result.
Dangers of Driving With a Cracked Windshield
Driving with a cracked windshield can be downright dangerous. It’s important to address any chips or cracks right away to prevent damage or injury.
Because windshields are a crucial part of a vehicle’s structural integrity, any compromise in the glass will be a compromise in the entire cabin. This provides less collision and impact protection for passengers. Your level of protection decreases when your windshield glass is damaged.
Also, windshields can prevent passengers from being ejected in a serious collision. If your windshield is damaged, it may not stay in place as it should.
Ejection in a collision can cause severe injury and death. Large cracks near the edge of the windshield may compromise the area where the windshield sits in the frame. This could result in a windshield that would not remain in place during a wreck.
While it may not stand out as a safety hazard, a crack that affects the driver’s view of the road is a big problem.
Even if the crack isn’t completely obscuring the view, it can affect visibility. Glare from the sun is especially concerning in morning and evening hours with cracks that cross the driver’s field of vision.
Cracks that are left for long periods of time may also collect dirt and moisture that can discolor the windshield. This happens because the moisture or contaminants separate the glass layer from the polyvinyl layer. This can also contribute to lowered visibility.
Address Cracks to Ensure Safety
Is it safe to drive with a cracked windshield? As it turns out, it’s never a good idea. Cracks and chips in windshields must be properly repaired to maintain glass and structural integrity. A structurally sound vehicle is a significantly safer one.