Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fix your windshield for cheap

Several months ago I found myself behind a gravel truck on the freeway, and before I could maneuver out of the way a tiny pebble flipped onto my windshield and gave me a tiny crack.  It was just big enough to be annoying, but not big enough to justify replacing the entire windshield.  For several months I just lived with it, but it bothered me because I’ve heard that it weakens the glass and can cause more serious problems later if you don’t take care of it.

Fortunately I discovered that there are several cheap solutions, all covered by my auto insurance.  Windshields.com will give you a summary of the options in your area, customized to your car make and model.  In my case, there weren’t any locations close enough to bother, but I found that my local Jiffy Lube will do it too, while I wait.

Although the cost is covered by insurance, I was apprehensive about fixing it. Wouldn’t they raise my rates? My insurance company (Amica) said they don’t.  Leaving it unrepaired exposes me to potentially more serious damage later, and besides, the cost to fix it is pretty minimal.

A professional auto glass place will charge everything to insurance, so it’s actually cheaper than Jiffy Lube, which makes me pay $5 as a convenience fee.  But finding an auto glass place and scheduling an appointment is too much hassle, so Jiffy Lube it was.  And it really was fast: they had the glass repaired and I was out of there in 15 minutes.

They don’t actually replace the windshield.  They basically just squirt some special glue into the crack to seal it and prevent further damage.  Although supposedly this makes the glass about as safe as a full replacement, you can still see evidence of a crack, so it’s not a perfect solution.

Here’s how it works: the technician first cleans the hole, by drilling it carefully.  Then he uses a special vise to “pull” the windshield glass in such a way that the crack opens enough to fill it thoroughly with the glue.



The glue is essentially a special transparent resin that seals the glass and prevents further damage.


You can’t use this process for cracks longer than 6 inches, but for marks like mine it seems just perfect.