Your windshield might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of car maintenance. It can easily be taken for granted – not eliciting much concern until there’s already a problem.
This shouldn’t be the case. After all, your windshield does a lot more than simply protect you from the outside elements. It provides up to 30% of a vehicle’s structural strength. In a crash or rollover, the glass supports the roof, helps the airbags deploy and prevents passengers from being thrown from the vehicle. If a chip or a crack weakens your windshield, you’re compromising your safety.
But how do windshields become weakened and what can be done about it? Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways windshields get damaged – and their solutions.
The rubber component of windshield wipers wear down over time, exposing your windshield to the blade’s plastic. This hard surface constantly rubbing against your windshield can cause scratching and other damage. If you notice that your blades aren’t cleaning your windshield as effectively, they probably need to be replaced.
Dirt might seem harmless and unable to cause much damage to a hard windshield. But even small amounts of dirt, dust and grime can cause window damage. They can get caught in your wipers or cleaning materials and cause scratches.
Dirt can also leave your windshield vulnerable to more serious damage. When debris hits a flat, clean window, the force of the impact is distributed. This makes it less likely for a crack to form. However, if it hits an uneven surface, it can cause cracking.
Getting ice off a car is usually a pain we try to complete as quickly as possible. However, improperly de-icing can be extremely damaging to car windows. Using a plastic scraper on your windshield will slowly degrade the glass surface. If you have to repeat this several times per year, it could cause a serious problem.
Remove snow and ice from your windshield carefully and without a hard scraper. Make sure to include to use your vehicle’s defroster, which will help clear the ice without using additional tools.
Cleaning your windshield incorrectly can be just as bad as not cleaning it at all. Cleaning materials such as sponges and towels can catch small rocks and other debris that will scratch up the windshield as you clean.
Meanwhile, substances like glass cleaners and detergents are too harsh for the surface of your windshield. They can cause streaks, film buildup and damage to the tint.
Like many materials, glass contracts in cold temperatures. This can destabilize a windshield’s structural integrity. According to a study by the Motor Industry Research Association, windshield chips are 60% more likely to crack in temperatures under 32 degrees and 80% more likely when temperatures drop below 14 degrees.
Conversely, extreme heat can be just as damaging to windshield glass. Warm weather causes the glass to expand and destabilize, leading chips to spread into vertical cracks. The same MIRA study suggested heat distorts the shape of the glass, which can lead to cracking by itself.
Another concern is the effect drastic shifts in temperatures can have on windshields. These sudden and extreme fluctuations, such as using strong air conditioning in hot temperatures or pouring boiling water on a snow-covered windshield, can cause glass to crack without warning.
Wear and Tear
Unfortunately, some damage to your windshield is inevitable no matter how much effort you put into protecting it. Simply driving your car and exposing it to the elements causes wear and tear that can weaken the strength of the glass. Additionally, driving over a speed bump, pothole or other uneven terrain can cause a windshield to crack. The jarring force radiates through the car and puts additional pressure on the edges of any glass chips, leading to a crack.
Keep It Clean
It’s important to keep your windshield as clean as possible. Dirt and debris can cause scratches that can lead to even larger problems.
If you’re cleaning your vehicle yourself, use designated auto glass cleaners along with a microfiber cloth. These super-soft towels are made with millions of microfiber strands that won’t damage your windshield’s surface. They also won’t leave behind any lint. Make sure to rotate the cloth so you’re always using a clean surface.
Debris will have more of an impact on your windshield the faster you drive. Make sure you’re always driving at a safe speed.
Speaking of debris, most of the dirt and rocks that hit your car will come from the vehicle in front of you. Make sure to keep a safe distance from other cars, particularly when driving on dirt, sand or dust-laden roads.
Check Your Windshield
Make it a habit to regularly inspect your windshield. If you see any chips, cracks, scratches or other damage, get it checked out right away, no matter how small. These seemingly insignificant problems can quickly turn into major damage that will cost significantly more to repair.
Additionally, if you notice your windshield blades are wearing down, get new ones. Wipers should be replaced about every six months.
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