What causes a windshield crack or chip to spread?

It never fails… you start off with a small chip or crack in your windshield, and before you know it, you’ve got a giant mess on your hands!  So, what gives?  What happened to make your windshield damage spread?

Unfortunately, there are lots of things that can make your damage worse, like:

1.  Moisture

Because your windshield is made up of a “glass sandwich” (two pieces of glass with a layer of vinyl in the middle), there is room for moisture to get inside.  Even if you have a tiny crack, a rainstorm or the water you use to wash your car can make its way underneath one layer of glass and get stuck – which can weaken the structural integrity of the entire windshield!  Even worse, if the temperature drops after that moisture gets in, it can freeze, which will cause the moisture to expand and create new cracks!

Just like that, you’ve gone from having an issue that could have been repaired to needing a full-blown replacement.

2.  Dirt

Just like moisture, dirt can make its way into the inner-workings of your windshield.  If that happens, you’ll wind up dealing with a weakened windshield – and once again, you’ll be dealing with a costlier replacement instead of an easy repair!

If you want to play it safe, put a piece of clear tape over the damage until you can get it fixed.  (Just don’t assume that the tape gives you an excuse to delay your repair job.  It doesn’t!)  The tape won’t obstruct your view while you drive, but it will give you some protection against dirt, pollen, and other fine particles that are floating through the air.

3.  Extreme Temperatures

The combination of a scorching summertime heat wave and a powerful air conditioner (or a frigid winter mixed with a strong defroster) can be too much for your windshield to bear.  The difference in temperatures between the inside of your car and the outside can put added pressure on an already-damaged windshield.  When that happens, chips and cracks get bigger.

In fact, even if your car’s heater isn’t involved, cold temperatures can make windshield damage spread.  According to a study done by the Motor Industry Research Association, once the temperature drops below freezing, cracks and chips are 60% more likely to spread.  That’s because windshields get more concave when it’s that cold outside – and even a little bit of added curvature will make cracks and chips spread in a horizontal pattern.

4.  The Sun

It’s powerful enough to burn your skin, and it’s powerful enough to damage your windshield!  That’s because the sun increases the temperature of your windshield.  If it gets hot enough, it can make chips and cracks get bigger.  So, be sure to keep your car parked in the shade (or, even better, in the garage) until you get the damage repaired.

5.  Bumps in the Road

Innocent things that you do every day without giving them a second thought – like driving over a speed bump, jamming on the brakes, or even slamming your car door – can put extra stress on your windshield.  As a result, any existing damage will be more likely to spread.

Will a spreading crack or chip cause your windshield to shatter and shower broken glass all over you?

That’s incredibly unlikely, but you still need to do everything you can to keep the damage from getting worse.  After all, an auto glass replacement is much more expensive and tedious than a repair!

And, remember, even if the crack or chip isn’t in your line of vision right now, it could soon be if the damage spreads.  If it winds up obstructing your view in any way, you’ll likely get a ticket, fail your state’s mandated car inspection, or worse, not be able to see something dangerous that’s headed your way!

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