Auto Glass Replacement vs. Auto Glass Repair Guide

common auto window repair

All automobile glass is “safety glass”, which means it is manufactured to reduce the chance of injury if it breaks or becomes damaged. Due to the way the glass is made in today’s vehicles, when damage does occur, the chances of it being able to be repaired are higher than they used to be. Of course, in some cases of severe damage, you may have to replace auto glass in order to maintain your safety.

In this guide, we’ve put together everything you need to know that will help you determine if you may need auto glass replacement or auto glass repair and what each process entails.

The Difference Between Your Windshield & Other Auto Glass

Even though it is all considered safety glass, depending on its location in your vehicle, there are a couple of differences in the type of glass. This significantly impacts the type of auto glass service that can be done in the event of damage.

Windshields are designed to provide structural support and safety in the event of a crash. To achieve this, the windshield is made of two layers of glass with a thin layer of vinyl between them. These three layers are then laminated together by applying pressure and heat in an autoclave oven. When your vehicle is traveling at high speeds, this construction also makes the windshield strong enough to withstand wind and external stress. 

If a small object strikes your windshield, it only damages the outer glass layer and typically doesn’t go through to the second layer of glass. This means in most cases, professional auto glass repair can adequately fix the damage. If there’s been a major impact to the windshield, the glass may shatter, but it typically will not break apart into a bunch of loose pieces. This is due to the glass adhering to the inner vinyl layer.

Alternately, the rear and side windows consist of a tempered safety glass, made by heating the glass to over 1100°F and then cooling it rapidly. This makes the glass much stronger than regular untempered glass. When hit with a small object, this type of glass can crack or chip similarly to your windshield, which means a repair can often be done in this case. But, if it is hit hard enough, you will definitely need glass replacement, since it will break into many small pieces. Typically, the pieces won’t be any larger than about an inch and they may look similar to rock salt. This is a safety feature that prevents any large jagged pieces that can severely injure passengers.

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How to Determine if Repair or Replacement is Needed

As mentioned above, in most cases of a crack or chip in the glass, a full replacement won’t be necessary. To determine whether the damage can be repaired or will require replacement, your glass will need to be evaluated by a professional at an auto glass shop.

Generally speaking, whether the glass can be effectively repaired is dependent on several factors, including:

Impact on Visibility

If there’s damage made to your windshield that reduces your ability to see clearly, that is a huge safety risk. In some states, it is also illegal to try and drive your vehicle this way. If the crack or other damage is within the driver’s line of vision, auto glass repair usually isn’t recommended.

Size and Depth of the Crack

Even though auto glass repair technology continues to improve, there are still limitations to the size and type of damage that can be effectively repaired. In general, “bullseyes” or chips that are no larger than 1 inch in diameter and cracks as long as 14 inches can safely be fixed, as long as the damage isn’t all the way through the glass.

When it comes to your windshield, if the damage has penetrated through to the vinyl layer or even the inner layer of glass, it will have to be replaced. Also, if the interior layer of glass has been damaged, even if the external layer is unharmed, replacement is usually recommended.

Type of Damage

When something hits your auto glass, there are several different types of damage that can be caused depending on what hit it and how hard. Some can be repaired, while others simply can’t. The types of chips and cracks that can usually be repaired easily (depending on location) are:

  • Star breaks – small, These are short cracks that branch out from the point of impact.
  • Dings or crack chips – These are surface-level missing chunks of glass or cracks that are smaller than an inch.
  • Bulls-eye and partial bulls-eye – These are circular and semicircular chips or cracks caused by a circular object.
  • Pit – This is a small crater-like patch that is formed over time as sand or dust particles hit the glass and wear it down.

Keep in mind that if there are multiple small cracks or chips in the glass, it will be harder to repair and will need to be evaluated by an auto glass technician first.

Location of Impact and Damage

Even if damage made to the glass is small enough to be repaired, it does not mean it should be. The location of the damage will determine if it can be safely repaired or not. For example, if the damage is in the driver’s field of vision it can decrease safety, and even if it is repaired professionally there is a chance it could leave a blotch that will still hinder vision. 

Also, glass that is damaged near the edge will usually need to be replaced. This is because when damage is along or near the edge, the durability of the glass and the firmness of its hold within the seal have been compromised.

Impact on Safety

Having the ability to safely drive your vehicle should be your most important concern. Generally, it is not dangerous to drive for a short distance with a cracked windshield or other auto glass. However, it should be addressed as soon as possible. Glass is weakened once it becomes damaged. This means that if you are involved in a collision, it will no longer be able to provide the intended level of protection to you or your passengers.

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What Happens During an Auto Glass Repair Service?

Having professional glass repair done doesn’t usually take more than about 30 to 40 minutes. At Max Auto Glass, the vacuum pressure repair process is used and follows these steps:

  1. Any trapped air within the damaged area is removed by scraping out the tiny glass particles or drilling a tiny hole through the top layer of glass within the damage.
  2. The technician will securely attach a glass resin injector around the damaged area. 
  3. The injector tool seals the area and cycles between vacuum and pressure to infuse a clear, curable resin into the damage on the outer glass layer. This will restore the structure of the glass and its appearance.
  4. Any excess resin is then removed from the area.
  5. A UV light is used to cure and harden the glass resin, changing it from a liquid to a solid.
  6. The repair area is then cleaned up and polished as necessary, making the repaired area almost invisible and restoring the integrity of the glass.

What Happens During Auto Glass Replacement

If it is determined that your auto glass needs to be replaced, whether it be the front windshield or the back glass, it will generally follow the same process. Usually, the whole process will take roughly an hour to complete.

Here is what happens:

  1. The existing seals and adhesive are removed, as well as any clips, retainers, and fasteners, as necessary. 
  2. The existing windshield is then carefully removed using a specialized device that suctions cups to the glass. 
  3. Any dust, debris, or pieces of broken glass that are in the frame/window channel are cleaned away.
  4. Any rust that may be present on the window channel is sanded and primed. 
  5. The new primer is then applied inside the frame where the edges of the new glass will lay.
  6. New urethane adhesive is applied around the edges of the new glass and left to rest briefly. 
  7. The suction cup device is used to carefully set the new glass into place within the frame. 
  8. The new glass is then secured in place with clips that prevent it from shifting and allows the adhesive to cure properly. It usually takes about three hours for it to cure. 

Trust the Auto Glass Experts in Tucson

Whether you need auto glass repair or replacement, if you have damaged auto glass it should be addressed as soon as possible. This will prevent things from getting worse and ensure that you and your passengers remain safe.

If you’re not sure whether you will need repair or replacement, our auto glass experts here at Max Auto Glass can help. Contact our skilled team and they can help you determine what the best solution is for your damaged glass and we’ll have you back on the road as safely and quickly as possible.

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The Max Auto Glass Difference

  • High-Quality Products
  • Technicians Certified By The Auto Glass Safety Council™
  • Excellent Customer Service
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