The windshield on your car must always be clear, exempt from scratches, cracks, or any other damages. Not only do these imperfections obstruct visibility, but they can also have a negative impact on its structural integrity. You may have heard about different windshield repair kits, which can restore any glass surfaces to its original condition. Although applicable under certain circumstances, these kits sure have their limitations. As a rule of thumb, these can be a suitable solution for damages up to half an inch in size. If there are any cracks or other damages bigger than that, you will almost certainly have to replace the windshield in your car. In this article, we will explain the structure of any windshield and everything you need to know about windshield replacement.
Why are Windshields so Special?
At first sight, the windshield doesn’t differ much from the rest of the glasses in your car. But although they may look the same, there are several distinct differences between the windshield and other glass surfaces.
Let’s start by examining the requirement it has to fulfill. As obvious as it may seem, the windshield has to ensure a clear and unobstructed line of sight on the road ahead. Cracks or scratches can create distortions and blind spots, which can even lead to an accident in extreme cases. Also, it has to provide protection from wind and road debris by stopping them from entering your car. And, as the windshield is an integral element within the structure of most modern vehicles, it also has to be sturdy.
To meet all these requirements, windshields in all vehicles use a unique structure. When you look at the windshield of your car, it appears to be made from a single piece of glass. Therefore, it will probably surprise you to learn that it’s actually made from three separate layers fused together.
Both the inner and outer layers are like any other automotive glass, providing surface hardness against scratches and UV protection. The middle layer is the one that makes all other things possible. This is a special plastic sheet that is strong enough to withstand different loads and strains. Besides, it is flexible enough to absorb any distortions that may occur while you’re driving along the road. When blended into one composed structure, these layers offer a unique combination of hardness and flexibility. Car manufacturers refer to this as a multi-layer or laminated glass, which sums up the difference between other variants.
Can I Change the Windshield by Myself?
To answer this, we must examine different ways of attaching the windshield to the car. Older cars had a rubber seal that would go all around the glass and connect it to the car. The upside of this solution is that it was cheap to manufacture and doesn’t require any special tools to install. On the downside, any misalignment during the installation process would cause a leak that would reveal itself during heavy rain. Also, the rubber seal may deteriorate with time as a result of exposure to sunlight and other elements. These are some things that urged manufacturers to upgrade the ways of attaching the windshield to their cars.
Almost all cars on the road these days have a glued windshield, meaning there is a layer of adhesive between the glass and car frame. This layer of adhesive combines three roles into one: fixing the windshield in place, sealing it, and ensuring sufficient flexibility. When compared to old-fashioned rubber-sealed versions, glued windshields are easier to install with the right tools and also more durable.
Now let’s get back to whether you can replace the windshield on your car by yourself or not. On older types with a rubber seal, it is more than possible to replace your own windshield with some effort and patience. However, assuming that you drive a car less than 30 years old, it’s very likely that your windshield will be glued in place using urethane. And unfortunately, the replacement of glued windshields requires specialized tools as the urethane will need to be cut to remove the glass. In this case, unless you know what you are doing, and since you are reading this, you probably don’t, so this is perhaps something you should leave to the professionals.
What is the Cost of Replacing a Windshield?
Replacing the windshield by yourself would require a whole range of tools and materials designed just for that purpose, ranging from various knives and power-cutters to purpose-made adhesives and other chemical compounds. Although you can buy most of them at your local auto part store, they will cost more than you would pay for a professional fitment. As car owners need to replace windshields more often than you may think, there are many specialized workshops available. Being focused only on these repairs, these businesses offer quick turnaround times and affordable prices. Some of them even provide a mobile windshield replacement service, meaning you can have your windshield replaced without leaving the driveway or while you are at work.
You should avoid going to an authorized dealer or a body shop, where prices are much higher. Still, there is one more thing to be careful about.
The actual price you might be looking at for windshield replacement depends on several factors. Make and model of your car is the first and most important, as some vehicles have unique and hard-to-get parts. Besides the glass itself, some cars have special moldings and strips required to match the overall design. In addition, special features like rain sensors or forward cameras are something that involves more work during replacement. If your car has any of these, make sure the windshield replacement fee includes their calibration. As a result, you may see prices anywhere from $90 to over $1000 for a windshield replacement. Keep in mind that prices may vary between shops, so get several quotations before choosing one.
As we explained in this article, a windshield is more than just a piece of glass. Besides providing a clear and unobstructed line of sight, it also has to protect the occupants from wind and debris. And being an integral structural part in modern cars places an additional demand on rigidity. To meet all these requirements, manufacturers make windshields out of multi-layer glass. But most importantly, windshields need to be free of any chips and cracks. While it’s possible to repair smaller damages using specialized kits, bigger ones will require a windshield replacement. The cost of this procedure differs a lot, and it depends on the car in hand and the work involved.