If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’ve already experienced the following: You’re hurtling down a motorway or dual carriageway and, out of nowhere, the vehicle in front of you pops some debris up from under its wheels and sends it soaring towards your car. There’s nothing you can do but watch as the stone or some other chunk of the UK’s crumbling road surface clips off your windscreen, like a far less deadly reenactment of that scene from Final Destination 2. You wince and cross your fingers, before examining the impact zone – to your horror, there it is… a chip.
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What Is A Windscreen Chip?
Windscreen chips are fairly easy to identify, looking very different from cracks, but at a glance, some may simply appear to be some kind of stubborn dirt or grime that has stuck itself onto the glass.
If you try to wipe away a chip, you’ll be able to feel an indentation in the glass. This is because the debris has literally chipped away at the glass upon impact, taking a small amount off the surface of your thick windscreen.
How Do Windscreens Get Chipped?
A chip appears on your car’s windscreen after a hard piece of debris from the road hits it, typically while you’re travelling at high speeds since the force of the impact is greater. Usually, a stone is flicked up from under the tyres of the vehicle in front of you, causing it to fly towards the unfortunate driver behind them. Upon impact, the glass will usually do its job to protect the occupants of the vehicle, but if a stone hits it at just the wrong angle or speed, it can break off a (usually) small chunk off the windscreen!
It’s not always guaranteed that every impact will cause a chip, with many drivers flinching at the horrible snapping noise that comes with one, before finding that the stone ricocheted away without doing any damage. This is thanks to both the thickness of the glass and the angle of the windscreen. After all, it is also known as a ‘windshield’, but a breeze isn’t the only thing it’s protecting you from.
Is It Safe To Drive With A Chip In My Windscreen?
Driving your car with something as small as a chip in the windscreen might seem like a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and for a while at least, it usually is. However, it’s important to bear in mind that that section of the glass has now lost some of its integrity. This means that not only is it more susceptible to breaking completely if you were to suffer another impact, whether that’s another stone or a full-on crash, but it’s also entirely possible (and likely, in fact) that the chip will develop further and become a crack.
A cracked windscreen is far more serious, so while you’re not exactly putting your life at risk by driving with chipped glass, it’s highly recommended that you address the problem immediately.
How Do I Fix A Chipped Windscreen?
The good news is that fixing a chipped windscreen can be done in under half an hour, with the actual time it takes depending on the experience of the person completing the task. There are kits that are available for home use, but the simplest option is to take your car to a garage or retail chain that provides the service. Their fee probably won’t cost too much more than the kit and other gear you’d need to do the job yourself.
Whether you opt to go it alone or pay somebody else to fix your chipped windscreen, the process will remain virtually the same: The chipped area is cleaned thoroughly using a microfibre cloth (or something similar) to remove any dirt or dust. Then, a special adhesive resin is injected into the chipped area, which solidifies and appears clear, repairing the window almost back to its original, undamaged condition.
What Happens If I Don’t Fix A Chip On The Windscreen?
If you decide to save your money and not get that chipped glass repaired, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be made to pay for it in the near future. Chips will regularly develop into cracks, at which point, there’s no going back and your entire windscreen could need replacing.
Don’t assume that it’s only another stray stone that could cause this to happen, either. Simply driving over uneven road surfaces, like ones littered with potholes, could send enough of a vibration through the glass to cause those tiny little spider-like cracks to extend further up your windscreen, to the point where they’re no longer fixable.
If this does happen, or in some cases even if the chip itself is large, your car could end up failing its next MOT test. A chip or crack that measures 40mm or more will result in a failure, regardless of its position on the windscreen. But, if you get a chip or crack that’s just 10mm in length within ‘Zone A’, the test will also be considered a failure. ‘Zone A’ is the section directly in front of the steering wheel, spanning 290mm across in total. There is also a ‘Zone B’ – the rest of the area covered by the windscreen wipers.
How To Fix A Cracked Windscreen
If you really want to repair a cracked windscreen, your options might actually be limited. Many repair technicians will tell you if your windscreen is beyond saying instead of going ahead with the resin injection if it’s futile. Windscreen replacement is available with a lot of insurance policies, so you might not even need to pay a fee. However, even if your insurance doesn’t cover your glass, shop around before choosing to repair or replace as it’s possible that a repair attempt could cost more than a replacement windshield.
Can I Claim On My Insurance For A Chipped Or Cracked Windscreen?
As we mentioned above, some insurance companies do indeed cover windscreens and offer replacements when needed, though this will typically only be with a comprehensive cover policy. Others will offer it as a paid add-on that you can take out when purchasing a policy, but there will be some companies that offer no windscreen coverage at all. It pays to shop around and pay attention to what you’re getting for your money.
Is It Legal To Drive With A Cracked Windscreen?
Depending on the severity and placement of the crack, you could be deemed to be using your car when it is a dangerous condition. You can be stopped and given a fine, along with points on your licence, if police inspect your car and determine that the crack is obscuring your view.
Worse still, if you were to be involved in an accident, the blame could end up with you if your insurance company and the police think your windscreen’s condition hindered your ability to avoid the crash.
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