Can You Drive with a Broken Windshield?

Though your risk depends on the size and location of the damage, it’s never advisable to drive with a broken windshield. Here’s what to know.
Written by Abbey Orzech
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
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In general, it is not recommended to drive with a broken windshield because it can reduce driver visibility, compromise the vehicle’s structural integrity, and lead to insurance claim issues down the line. 
We’ve all been there. A stray rock gets flung up by the semi-truck in front of you on the highway and now you’re left with a crack in your windshield. Ideally, you’d want to get that taken care of right away, but some folks can’t or won’t handle the repair in a timely manner—and this can lead to bigger issues later. 
But how long can you go with a crack or chip in your windshield, and what are your repair options? We’ll cover that and more here with this
car maintenance
guide, so let’s dive in. 
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Is it safe to drive with a broken windshield?

As a basic rule of thumb, it is generally not safe to drive with a broken windshield. While it may depend on the size and location of the damage, a broken windshield can cause more issues than disrupting vision—although that’s a major problem too. 
Whether you’re dealing with just a chip in the windshield or a whole crack, your visibility is likely to be altered. Of course, small chips or cracks along the far passenger side of the windshield aren’t going to impact your vision too much, but even these have the potential to warp or block your view. The break in your windshield will be distracting and could lead to an accident. 
Besides your driving vision, a broken windshield leaves you significantly more at risk of your vehicle caving in if you get into a collision or rollover. The windshield majorly contributes to a vehicle’s structural integrity, and any damage it sustains will weaken that structure. You’re left less protected. 
Additionally, if you have a broken windshield and document it in any way (photo, service record at your oil change appointment, social media complaint), then get into an accident, insurance companies may deny your claim or withhold repair funds if they find evidence of an issue with your vehicle. The damage to your vehicle in the accident could be viewed as foreseeable and preventable—and thus not covered in most insurance claims. 
So generally, you won’t want to drive with a broken windshield because it could alter or block your vision, weaken the vehicle’s structure, and mess up your insurance claim in the event of an accident. 

How long can you go without replacing a broken windshield?

There is no set timeline for safe driving with a broken windshield. However, the urgency at which you’ll need to replace your broken windshield will depend on the severity of the break. 
If you’re dealing with a small chip outside of your field of vision, you can probably go anywhere from a few days to a few months before replacing your windshield. But if your windshield has a sizable crack in any area, it’s recommended that you get a replacement as soon as possible
Anything from added pressure to temperature changes can make your broken windshield worse, so it’s only a matter of time before the break becomes a nuisance. It’s also possible for law enforcement to pull you over and write you a ticket for a cracked windshield since it’s considered distracted and dangerous driving. 

Can you repair windshield cracks and chips?

If the damage to your windshield isn’t too bad, you may prefer to look into repairs rather than a full replacement. And that may work in some cases! 
There are many terms given to the different types of windshield damage, but for clarity’s sake, we’ll stick to the broad umbrellas of crack and chip. A crack is the type of damage that appears in a distinct line across your windshield. A chip, on the other hand, is generally referring to a small area of damage not resembling a line. 
Cracks are usually considered more damaging to the windshield’s structure and your driving vision and typically require a full windshield replacement. However, some windshield repair professionals will work to repair cracks that are less than 14 inches and out of the driver’s view
It is more common for auto glass experts to repair chips in the windshield, but those too have conditions. For a chip to be repaired, it has to be around one inch or less in diameter, out of the driver’s view, and free from dirt and debris. The substance used to fill in cracks and chips won’t bind properly to the existing windshield glass if there is debris present, and it is usually quite difficult to remove debris from the layered glass once it’s there. 
You’ll need to bring your vehicle to an auto glass expert to see if the damage can be repaired. In general, you can expect to pay between $50 to $150 for windshield repair.

How much does a windshield replacement cost?

If the damage to your windshield is more extensive than a repair can handle, you’ll need to pay for windshield replacement. Happily, this replacement cost isn’t outrageous and usually lands somewhere between $200 to $400
The range in price accounts for factors like your location, your vehicle type, the product availability, and who does the replacement. To get the best rate, it’ll be best to compare a few different quotes from various windshield replacement companies and choose the one best fit for your budget. 
While this isn’t the cheapest repair out there and it may seem more convenient to ignore any windshield damage, doing so could just leave you with more and worse problems down the line. 
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