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What to Do When You Have a Broken Car Window

broken glass in car

A broken car window may not seem as serious as a damaged windshield. It may not even keep you off the road. But any broken car glass leaves your vehicle susceptible – to both unrelenting Mother Nature and unscrupulous thieves. Therefore, any damaged auto glass should be repaired quickly and properly.

To help guide you through the process, here are all the steps you need to take when you have a broken car window.

Call the Police and Your Insurance Company

There are a number of ways your car window could break, including from road debris, a crash or inclement weather (read: hail). If, however, your car window was broken during the act of a crime, your first call needs to be to the police. Tell the authorities you’d like to file a police report. They may send an officer to you or simply request to describe the incident and damage over the phone.

After the police have been contacted, reach out to your insurance carrier and inform them of what happened as well. It’s crucial that you don’t touch anything – not the vehicle or anything inside – until you’ve spoken to both the police and your insurance company. It’s also good idea to take photos of your car so you have a visual record of the damage.

Clean Up Any Glass and Debris

Once the police and insurance company have the information they need, it’s safe to begin cleaning up the damage. In this case, that means removing the broken glass. Any large fragment can be picked up, carefully, by hand. For the smaller pieces, you’ll need some assistance. A vacuum will be your best tool of choice, whether of the household variety or, ideally, a shop vacuum. Clear up as much of the shattered glass as possible. Be sure to check your heat, AC or defroster, as broken glass can fall into the HVAC system and cause injury if not checked and cleared properly.

A few reminders: Always make sure to keep kids and pets away from the area until the glass is cleared, and remember to empty the vacuum of the broken glass before storing it.

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Cover Your Window

With the glass removed, you now have to deal with what remains of your car window. Regardless of the severity and scope of the damage – whether it’s a crack or a completely shattered window – you should always apply a temporary cover. Open access to your vehicle could tempt potential thieves and provide an entrance for small animals, while also leaving the interior of the car susceptible to damage from snow and rain.

You may see some people use cardboard to cover a broken window. But cardboard is not waterproof, and thus, not a great option. Instead, grab some packing or duct tape as well as a garbage bag or piece of heavy plastic tarp. Cut the bag or tarp to a size that covers the entirety of the damage and use and tape it down to form a waterproof seal. If you want to make sure your car’s paint isn’t affected, pick up vehicle-safe tape at your local auto parts store.

Get Your Car Window Replaced

Your temporary window cover won’t last forever – nor should it have the chance. You should get your broken car window replaced with a new one as soon as you can. Call a trusted and certified auto glass repairer, such as Safelite AutoGlass® to install a new window. A technician will remove the door panel to access any of the window’s remaining glass, clean up any leftover debris and glass from the vehicle, insert a brand new side window, test to ensure the window functions properly, replace the door panel and get you on your way.

The entire car window replacement process can take as little as one hour and leave your vehicle looking and functioning as good as new.

Get more car safety tips. 


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5 Thoughts on “What to Do When You Have a Broken Car Window

  1. Can a 10% discount be given after the fact? I had Safelite put in a new back window in May, did not realize they offered a discount through AAA. Can I get money back on my card even now?

    1. Hi Carol! We’ve looked into this and it does not seem like you can get your discount after the fact. However, the final decision is up to the vendor! Thank you for reading.

  2. Use clear plastic or polyethylene if you cover the broken window, so that your vision is not blocked.

    1. Hi William, whether or not your insurance covers broken windows depends on the level of coverage of your policy and the cause of the break. Your provider will be able to provide that information. Thanks for the question!

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