Windshield Chips: why they happen, when and why to repair

A chip in a windshield occurs when a small rock or other object impacts it, nicking the glass and causing a small damaged spot. This often occurs when the tires of other cars fling debris behind them, and sometimes small rocks can fall out of dump trucks or other similar vehicles. A chip may be a very small spot that is barely noticeable, but most people know instantly when they occur because of the loud popping sound of impact.

Repair chips promptly

Even though the damage seems very minor, it is important to repair the chip as soon as possible. If dirt and debris are embedded into the area of the chip, it will make the repair less effective or even impossible. Weather and even windshield wipers can force dirt into the chip. Even windshield washer fluid, which contains dyes, can discolor the area. When the repair is eventually done, the result will not be as smooth and clean as it could have been. Instead, the area of the repair will have a cloudy or dirty look, because the resin will seal in that debris. For the best chip repair possible, in which the windshield is left very smooth and clear, the repair should be done within a few days after the damage occurs. Left alone, a chip can often burst into a pattern of tiny cracks, or even grow into one long crack. If you did not repair a windshield chip and it grew into a large problem, read our articles about windshield cracks. If the chip is repaired promptly, the car owner can avoid a more costly repair and the original factory seal around the windshield can be left intact. This is especially important to remember when a chip occurs near the outside edge of the windshield. Once the resulting crack gets too close to the edge, it may not be repairable. In some states, a vehicle with a large crack or multiple chips in the windshield may not pass inspection. Then the owner will not be able to register the vehicle, which can cause many additional legal problems.

How windshield chips are repaired

The process to repair a chip is usually quick and simple, and it can be performed by most windshield repair technicians.

  1. First the windshield technician will inspect the windshield to make sure this type of repair is right for the situation. The assessment will involve investigating the size and type of chip, as well as the amount of debris embedded into the damaged area.
  2. Then he will clean the area of the chip so that, hopefully, no moisture or debris is sealed into the repaired spot. If there is significant debris in the chipped spot, the repair will result in a cloudy spot on the windshield. This can be a problem if the chip is in the driver’s line of sight.
  3. The chip is sealed with a special resin material which is then hardened with an ultraviolet light. The resin dries clear and blends with the windshield glass. Any excess resin will be removed so that the windshield’s smooth surface is maintained.

The entire process takes about thirty minutes from start to finish, and the customer is left with a windshield that looks and performs as good as new.

Windshield Repair cost: chips

The cost of this repair is usually covered by comprehensive insurance plans, because insurance companies value the logic of repairing small chips before they become large, expensive problems. For customers without insurance, or whose insurance plans do not cover chip repair, the cost is usually around fifty dollars for the first chip and ten to fifteen dollars for additional chips. Obviously, repairing a chip is preferable to replacing the entire windshield.

What to do when a chip occurs

When a chip occurs, it is best to get it repaired immediately. Sometimes, however, due to scheduling or financial concerns, a driver has to wait a few days or weeks before seeking the repair. In this case there are a few things that can be done to ensure a quality repair can be performed, as well as preventing the chip from growing into a large crack. Only clear packing tape should be placed over the chip to keep out debris. No other type of tape should ever be used. The car should not be washed, if possible, and especially not with very cold water. The driver should be very conscious of internal pressure upon the windshield. Because of the way windshield glass is tempered, pressure from inside the vehicle is much more likely to cause a chip to grow into a crack. Even something as simple as pushing on the chip from the inside can cause it to crack. Never place glue or other adhesives into the chip. There is a popular (and false) internet rumor that advises car owners to mix a solution of water, salt, bug repellant, and rubbing alcohol and attempt their own chip repair. This should never be done, as it is ineffective and can actually make a real chip repair ineffective due to the debris that will result in the chip. A chip also cannot be buffed out with scratch repair kits, because of the depth of the damage. See a few more dos and don’ts to prevent cracks and chips from growing. Have the chip assessed and repaired before a major weather change, so that large temperature fluctuations do not cause the chip to grow into a crack.

How to avoid windshield chips

Chips can be avoided by maintaining a safe distance from dump trucks or other similar vehicles which haul dirt and debris. Observing a proper space cushion behind other cars can also help drivers to avoid rocks and objects which are flung into the air by tires. However, sometimes this damage is unavoidable. When it happens, placing clear packing tape over the chip will keep debris and water out of the damaged area, making it more likely that the windshield can be repaired. Occasionally, chips to a windshield can occur during hailstorms. For this reason, paying attention to weather reports can prevent damage. Parking the vehicle in a garage when bad weather is expected will lessen the odds of needing costly repairs. Parents of small children may also wish to set strict rules about activities like playing ball or throwing rocks nearby when the vehicle is parked outside.