The sound of a rock hitting your windshield is one of the most gut-wrenching noises. A big crack or large area of damage to your windshield necessitates a replacement, but a little chip in the glass can be more irritating than anything else.
So what should you do?
Don't panic. Get all of your expletives out of your system and take a breath. And then evaluate the damage. The sooner you assess the damage and take care of the situation, the better you'll be in the long run.
Examine the Damage
A chip is very different than a crack and you should quickly examine what kind of problem you're dealing with. According to Popular Mechanics, you should look closely with a magnifying glass to determine the extent of the damage. Star-shaped cracks and long, squiggly lines can't be filled in and will likely just get worse over time until you replace the whole windshield. However, pitted chips and imperfections that are small, but deep and circular in nature can likely be filled using a variety of techniques. While you'll notice the chip, it likely won't get larger or weaken the integrity of the glass any further.
First, there are adhesives and chemicals injected with a syringe-type device you can buy from an auto parts store starting from less than $20. More elaborate systems might actually be easier to use in the long run, but tend to cost more. In any case, follow instructions closely. You'll need to take your time and make sure you've prepped your windshield carefully.
Another option for those who have little patience (or are all thumbs when it comes to DIY fixes) is to have your windshield professionally repaired. Companies like Safelite specialize in this, as demonstrated in their video:
Professionals arguably follow the same general procedures as the take-home fix kits, but you'll have a guarantee of some sort that the work was done properly.
Repair or Replace Quickly
Chips only get worse with time. Temperature variations cause chips to turn into cracks – and you can't get a crack repaired. Driving with a compromised windshield can also be a safety hazard. Windshields are integral parts of roof strength on a car, and a weakened one won't be able to keep your car together as well.
If you're leasing your car or even about to sell it, chances are you're going to have to replace your entire windshield even if the damage is confined to just a chip. But if you own the car, it may be worth it to spend a few dollars to stop the chip from becoming a crack rather than incurring the expense of at least several hundred dollars on a new windshield.
Ultimately, a chip in your windshield is a frustrating problem. If you're obsessive about the look of your car, it's even worse. But it's not necessarily a horrible, expensive situation to be in if you do your research and handle it in a timely manner.
(Photo by rmisko via Flickr)