Handy Guide on Windshield Replacement

A windshield is one of the vehicle’s essential components, yet it is highly vulnerable to damage and breakage during the car’s lifespan. Around 30% of all auto insurance claims in the United States of America are about windshields, and about 14 million windshield replacements happen each year. With the statistics continuously rising, as a vehicle owner, you should have at least some knowledge on windshield replacement so that in the event of unfavorable circumstances related to the windscreen, there’s no need to panic, and you know your options, as well as the necessary steps and measures to take.

A damaged windshield can be pretty stressful, especially with the thought of the impending huge expenses during the replacement. But the stress is more on the replacement process, especially if you have no idea where to get the windshield glass for the replacement and what type of glass to use — either OEM vs. aftermarket windshield. 

There are also several questions you may have in mind, such as: how much does a windshield replacement cost? What are the best windshield replacement companies? Does insurance cover windshield replacement? How much does windshield replacement cost without insurance? Do I also need a rear windshield replacement? With this quick guide, you will answer all the questions about auto window replacement and more. So, let’s dive in.

Choosing Between Windshield Replacement or Repair

There is a massive difference between repairing the windshield and front window replacement. Either way, both are a choice when there’s damage to the glass. But not all damages are repairable. Likewise, not all damages have to end up in a windshield replacement. It can be confusing, but a glass expert can give you the best advice when it comes to these choices. However, there are a few things you can check to help you with your decision.

Size of the Damage

The size of the damage on the windscreen can tell you a lot if you need a car glass replacement or just a repair. As a general rule of thumb, if you can observe three or more hairline cracks on the windshield, it’s a sign you need a replacement. The same choice is advisable if the crack is longer than a dollar bill and the depth is deep enough to go halfway through or more into the windshield. 

Rock chips can be repairable using a windshield repair kit if the diameter of the chip is less than an inch. But if the chip diameter is bigger and more than one inch in diameter, an auto glass replacement is deemed necessary. 

Location

Size is not the only thing that matters, but also the location of the glass damage. Even if the windshield has only one crack and its length is smaller than a dollar bill, a replacement is recommended if it’s located anywhere on the outer edge of the windshield. 

Cracks on the windshield edges will quickly grow in size after constant stress to the wind force during high-speed drivings, compromising the windshield’s structural integrity and posing health risks to the car passengers. Likewise, the same is advisable if the crack or chip is on the driver’s line of sight.

As always, automotive glass experts have the best say when choosing between a replacement or a windshield repair. But sometimes, common sense dictates when you can repair or a total windshield is necessary. With a quick ocular inspection of the damage, you’ll already know what to do without consulting a technician, giving you further savings on consultation fees.

How Long Does Windshield Replacement Take?

A windshield replacement is a quick job if everything is ready and a replacement windshield is available. In general, it should not take more than an hour to replace a windshield with minor cracks and chips. In some cases, it can be as quick as 30 minutes to complete the process. But if the glass is totally shattered, it may take more time considering the necessary cleaning job to get rid of all debris.

The actual time it may take to replace the windshield may take less than an hour. But it is crucial to allocate at least 3 hours or more for the replacement schedule. Once you install the new windshield, it is advisable not to drive the vehicle for about one hour or more to allow enough time for the new windshield to settle down and the adhesive to harden enough to keep the windshield properly secure and in place. You can’t remove the tape, wash the car, or slam the doors for the next 48 hours.

The Windshield Replacement Process 

Windshield replacement should be done by glass experts, considering the complex nature of the job that also requires extreme care and proper handling of highly fragile materials like the windshield. Reckless handling of materials and inaccurate placement could lead to an expensive breakage, which must be avoided at all times. However, if you’re a do-it-yourself enthusiast, no one is stopping you from performing the auto windshield replacement on your own, and below are the few steps to follow. 

Preparing Everything for the Replacement

Before anything else, prepare everything you need for the replacement. This includes getting all the necessary tools and the replacement windshield ready. For the windshield replacement process, below are the following tools to prepare for the job. 

  • Gloves
  • Glass cleaner
  • Cold knife or razor blader
  • Rubber gasket
  • New OEM or an aftermarket windshield
  • Windshield Suction cups
  • Auto glass urethane
  • Nylon brush
  • Portable vacuum cleaner
  • Sandpaper or wire brush
  • Windshield Removal Tool
  • Primer

Additional tools not listed above may be necessary as needed, but the list shows the basic ones. The original windshield rubber gasket is most likely in good working condition, so there is no need to replace it unless necessary. This way, you will save on the extra cost. If you are planning on keeping it, then you better give it a thorough cleaning before anything else.

Removing the Trim

The next step in the windshield replacement process is to remove the old trim or the rubber gasket at the edges, holding the windshield in place, using a razor blade to remove the old gasket, and gently slit the rubber trim in one corner. Afterward, you can use the Windshield Removal Tool to separate the glass safely. It’s also important to note that you should leave a small urethane layer in place when trimming the sides.

After removing the trim, you must also remove all other attachments to the windshield. In some car makes and models, the rearview mirror is attached to the windshield. In these cases, you may have to remove the attachments. Other attachments may include the sensors and cameras for parking assist, lane change assistant, and more.

Removing the Windshield

Once the rubber gasket and all attachments are removed, you should easily lift the windshield out of the frame. But sometimes, you may need suction cups with handles to pull out the windshield from the frame. The suction cups can also help handle the glass with utmost care to avoid breakage and injury.

Clean the Windshield Frame

Once you are done removing the gasket, attachments, and the old damaged windshield, the next step is to clean the area from dirt, debris, and broken glasses. The small debris could interfere with installing the new glass and could potentially create a space for leaks and noise. Use a portable vacuum cleaner for the job to effectively remove dirt and debris on the sides of the frame. Alternatively, you may use a paintbrush to get rid of the dirt and glass debris.

Prepare the Pinch Weld

The pinch weld is the part of the vehicle located at the front or adjacent to the windshield frame, where various metal components are bonded or welded together. It’s called pinch weld because it pinches the windshield edges through welding to secure it. The pinch weld should be cleaned, as well, from debris and dirt to ensure no obstruction during the installation of the new windshield. You should also apply the primer, primarily if any scratches were caused by removing the urethane.

Apply Adhesives or Urethane

Before installing the new replacement windshield, the frame for the windscreen must be applied with urethane, right at the edges of the pinch weld. Urethane bonds the windshield to the frame, acting as glue to keep the glass well secure. Time is crucial during the process since urethane quickly dries out and toughens. So, once you apply the urethane to the pinch weld, this should be immediately followed by installing the windshield before the urethane settles down and begins to dry out.

Install the Replacement Windshield

Once everything is done and ready, the next critical step is installing the new windshield glass. Extreme caution and proper care and handling must be observed to avoid scratches and damage to the new windshield. The whole process should be performed by not just one person but at least two or more. Use suction cups to hold the windshield and position it properly before fitting the glass within the pinch weld.

Afterward, press the windshield firmly into the frame and adjust the rubber gasket accordingly. After the installation, don’t use the vehicle immediately but wait for at least one to two hours to allow the urethane to set it and harden for the best result.

Clean the Area

After installing the windshield, clean the area and wipe off excess adhesives or urethane, especially around the edges. Ideally, use a windshield cleaner and apply the liquid formulation on the glass for a clean and shiny finish. In the meantime, put off cleaning the interior side of the windshield to avoid pushing the glass out and disrupting the hardening process of the glass adhesives or the urethane.

Car Windshield Replacement – DIY or Professional

When it comes to windshield replacement, there’s always a choice between DIY or professional. Which one should you choose? More often than not, the choice is dictated by cost. Many car owners would wonder how much a windshield replacement costs or a windshield replacement fee. The installation cost will add up to the total replacement expenses, and you can significantly save a lot if you can avoid professional installation and go for the DIY option. 

However, if you opt to replace the windshield on your own, you need to have the time to do the process plus the passion for DIY projects. In the digital world, we live in today, there are plenty of resources, and you can easily find videos that show the step-by-step process of the whole installation. Nothing should go wrong if you can adequately follow each step of the procedures.

In any case, there are pros and cons to each option between DIY or professional installation services. So, let’s check them out so you can arrive at a better decision between the two choices.

Pros and Cons of DIY Windshield Installation

A DIY installation is an available choice if the insurance does not cover the replacement of the windshield. Otherwise, you have no choice but to adhere to the insurance coverage stipulations and have the replacement done in accredited shops.

Pros

  • It might be cheaper, although generally, they are around the same price range. Everything you’ll need for a DIY replacement will cost you $100 on the lower end and $400 on the higher. In comparison, the average cost for a professional replacement is around $200-$400. 
  • Flexibility in time, and you can do it anytime as you please without needing an appointment.
  • You will learn new skills.

Cons

  • Needs ample time for the preparation and installation of the glass
  • You should have suitable materials and tools to use for the installation.
  • It would help if you had a partner, and doing it solo may increase the chances of breakage when handling the highly fragile windshield glass.

Pros and Cons of Windshield Installation by Professional Glass Experts

Going for professional services is always the best option. As most people would say, “Leave it to the experts.” After all, it’s their job, and they have the experience advantage, while some of them have undergone proper training. Moreover, experts know the correct pressure to apply to the glass after the windshield is installed. But, despite the many benefits, there are also a few flaws with this option. Too much pressure and the glass could break, while too little and the adhesives may not settle down enough to harden in a tight grip.

Pros

  • Stress-free replacement — leave it to the experts.
  • Clean and professional finish
  • They have the more advanced equipment and the right tools for the job.

Cons

  • You need to have an appointment for the replacement, and sometimes it may take time to get a schedule, further delaying the process.
  • It could be more expensive if not covered by insurance.

Cost is a critical decision factor between the two options. If cost is not an issue, by all means, let the experts do the professional replacement of the windshield. But if you love working on DIY projects during weekends, a windshield replacement presents an excellent opportunity for another DIY task you can look forward to.

Average Cost of Windshield Replacement

Different car brands and models have different prices for OEM and aftermarket replacement windshields. There are expensive ones, while you can also find an affordable windshield replacement. But obviously, there’s no free windshield replacement unless the insurance covers everything without a deductible fee for premium policies. So, if you are asking if, is windshield replacement covered by insurance? It’s a yes for some policies and no for others. Read the fine prints of your insurance policy to know the actual coverage so you can prepare ahead of time. 

If there’s no windshield insurance coverage, then be ready to make the necessary investment. Typically, a windshield replacement may start anywhere from $100 up to more than a thousand dollars. For sedans, the price range starts at $200 to $500. But for more luxurious or collectible vehicles, the windshield replacement can jump to around a thousand dollars. 

When it comes to cost, there are expensive alternatives and cheap windshield replacement offers. An OEM replacement is usually expensive, considering that you’re getting practically the same glass quality from the same windshield manufacturer that supplies the carmaker. On the other hand, aftermarket windshields provide a cheaper way to replace your broken automotive glasses without crashing the bank.       

Will My Insurance Cover Windshield Replacement?

Does car insurance cover windshield replacement? It’s a common question when it comes to the replacement of shattered windshields. With regards to this issue, there are generally two types of insurance coverage for the windshield. Let’s have a quick walkthrough of these two major types of coverage.

Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage will shoulder the responsibility of all damages unrelated to a collision with another car. This includes theft, weather damage, glass damage, fire, flying/falling-object damage, and vandalism. If you want to have a fail-safe for collisions, then you will need to purchase Collision Coverage. Comprehensive and Collision are bundled together most of the time, so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Now, most of the time, your insurance will cover a windshield replacement or even repair, minus a deductible. But there have been instances where people have realized a bit too late that their policies don’t cover certain types of windshield damage, so you should double-check that. 

Typically, comprehensive coverage will require a deductible fee anywhere from a hundred dollars to a thousand for premium windshields. But in some states, some regulations mandate insurance companies not to apply deductibles on claims for safety glasses like the windshield, including the back windshield replacement. So, it is advisable to check the applicable regulations in your local area concerning insurance claims on windshield replacement.

Full Glass Coverage

In some states, insurance companies offer full glass coverage for the windshield, either as part of the comprehensive policy or as additional coverage. But usually, this is provided as additional coverage that requires additional payment on top of the standard premium. The good thing about full glass coverage is there’s no deductible fee, and a windshield replacement won’t cost you anything. 

Although there are regulations for no deductibles on safety glasses like the windshield in some states, a full glass coverage is best in areas without such state regulations. You are protected from unexpected expenses during windshield damages for a small amount of additional investment on full glass coverage.

Finding Windshield Replacement Near Me

There’s always an aftermarket windshield specialist around you, and you can search for them in your local directory. Sometimes, they are advertised on various ad platforms along with contact details. 

But if you opt for OEM windshield replacement, you have to do more research. Popular brands or suppliers of OEM automotive glasses are AP Tech, Saint-Gobain Sekurit (SGS), Carlite, Mopar, Pilkington, and PPG. For aftermarket glass specialists, Safelite, Glass Doctor, and Auto Glass are among the popular names that pop out.

Conclusion

Windshield problems are part of car ownership, and shattered glasses are common occurrences. While the potential costs are pretty expensive, the windshield replacement should be no-frills if you’re covered by comprehensive insurance or full glass coverage. Without insurance, there are choices to make. You can either go for an OEM or aftermarket windshield. 

The best route would be to go for OEM replacement for added assurance on quality. But if you’re short on budget, there’s always the aftermarket solution, offering the chance for a cheap windshield replacement.

Once you have come up with a decision, the next choice to make is to either use the professional services of glass experts to replace the windshield or choose the DIY option. Either way, it’s your choice. What matters most is you have a new durable and reliable windshield without causing too much stress on your part while having the peace of mind of restoring your car’s structural integrity and safety measures.

Windshield Replacement