Crack in my windshield…is it safe to drive?

One of our cars has about a foot long crack right in the middle of the front windshield. It has been there a while and doesn’t appear to be growing. From an aesthetic viewpoint it doesn’t bother me, but my question concerns safety. Would you recommend replacing it for safety reasons? Is there a chance that while driving down the interstate one day the crack could cause the whole windshield to shatter in on us? Thanks.
-Submitted by Jeff R. via Facebook

Cracked Windshield

Jeff, this is a very common concern. There are times when a crack in your windshield isn’t in view while driving or it just doesn’t bother you to look at it. And I, along with many others, do not want to spend money to replace something that doesn’t bother me in the first place. However, there are times in which a crack in your windshield can cause a significant safety risk to both you and your family.

The Simple Answer
As usual the simple answer is that it depends. You will begin to learn that this is almost always the simple answer as glass (especially when laminated) does not always follow any set rules. Glass is unpredictable in that one rock chip may not spread for 10 years while another rock chip may be a 2 foot long crack 30 minutes later. Oh, and I promise that I am not purposely saying that it depends so that you will be forced to read the in-depth answer. However, I do realize that I would probably stop reading at this point if I had already gotten a short answer. It’s a catch 22 and for once it works in my favor!

The In-Depth Answer
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. If your windshield is severely cracked (even more so than the picture above), it will not shatter or cave in on you randomly. The only reason that your windshield should ever cave in or completely shatter is upon extreme impact (a brick or very large rock) or during a wreck. So all of you who are riding around with a crack in your windshield now have one less thing about which to worry. However , this is only one concern you should have when it comes to a crack in your windshield. If you saw that coming, give yourself a point. I would give you a cookie, but it would be stale by the time it got to you.

Take a moment to watch this video and then come back:

You have just seen the primary safety function of a windshield – the passenger’s airbag. I wanted you to watch the video for two reasons: 1) To understand that your windshield plays a vital role in your passenger’s safety and 2) This video is a great demonstration of how much damage an airbag can cause to your windshield. By now you are probably saying “Great, but why are you telling me this right now?”

Look at how much damage that airbag caused to the windshield. The video demonstrates that an airbag uses the windshield as a backstop in order to deploy correctly. Now imagine that your windshield was already cracked in the area that the airbag uses for its backstop. Are you beginning to see that safety concern? If the passenger airbag deployed against a windshield that was already cracked, the windshield could very easily “give” or break to the point that the airbag actually breaks through the glass entirely. If this were to happen, the airbag would deploy straight up and through the windshield instead of deploying in toward the passenger. This would leave the passenger with no airbag and potentially no windshield in front of them to act as a barrier. Is there any way of knowing whether or not your airbag will deploy correctly if you have a crack on the passenger’s side of the windshield? Unfortunately, no…and it is certainly not worth the wait to find out.

Having already explained all of that, the next part will be short. Another function of your windshield is to keep the roof of your vehicle from caving in during a rollover. It varies per vehicle, but some car manufacturers report that up to 60% of your roof’s structural integrity relies on your windshield during a rollover. If your windshield is already cracked, your windshield could potentially lose its effectiveness during a rollover. However, if you are in an accident that results in a rollover, your windshield will most likely have already been cracked by the time that your vehicle is rolled.

More Simple Answers

Can my windshield shatter because it is cracked? Not likely

Is it safe to drive with a crack in my windshield? It is not recommended that you ever drive your vehicle if there is a crack that is in your view while driving. Even if the damage is repairable (minor rock chip), if the damage is in the driver’s direct line of view, insurance companies require replacement.  If the crack is on the passenger’s side of the windshield, I would strongly recommend replacing the windshield as soon as possible due to the safety concerns mentioned earlier. If the crack is on the driver’s side of the windshield, you will need to determine whether or not the crack effects your driving negatively in any way (blind spots, catches your eye, annoying, etc). If it does, then I would recommend replacing it.

Do all passenger airbags use the windshield as a backstop? No. Some deploy outward just like the driver’s side and some deploy up then out using the windshield as a backstop. Though not true 100% of the time, your airbag is going to deploy in the direction that its panel is facing. This panel is indicated by the letters “SRS.”

If you have learned something, spread the word. You can find us on Facebook through the link below. You can also get an auto glass quote from our website

1521 1st Ave S
Birmingham, AL 35233


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