Gone are the days when all windshield repairs were as simple as, "If the damage fits underneath a dollar bill, we can fix it."
Remember those ads years ago from Novus Glass? Windshield repair has evolved since then. Some companies can fix cracks longer than a dollar bill, while others limit their repairs to chips the size of a silver dollar.
The best advice today is, if you need windshield repair, call around to the local shops you'd consider for the job and specifically ask what size damage they can repair before replacement becomes your only option.
Some things haven't changed over the years: PEMCO still recommends you choose a glass shop that's certified by the National Glass Association, like
Novus. And most important, once your windshield is damaged, get your car to a glass shop
as soon as possible.
"Fixing it right away is crucial, before contamination gets inside the break," said Paul Syfko, a product expert with Belron, parent company of Safelite AutoGlass. "Chips expand with temperature changes and sharp bumps in the road. The sooner you act, there's a much higher likelihood of getting a good cosmetic repair."
By delaying, dirt can work its way into a windshield chip, making a repair more visible and less durable.
A rock chipped my windshield on the freeway last fall, so I went to Safelite, which did the resin repair that's saved so many drivers from having to replace their auto glass over the years – and also saved them from paying an insurance deductible.
(With PEMCO, a simple glass-chip repair does not require a deductible. We encourage repair rather than glass replacement whenever possible, because repair leaves the windshield – and its factory seal – intact.)
Recently it looked like my repaired chip had spread, so I went back to Safelite, where the technician pushed and poked the glass and pronounced it stable. "Repairs don't make the damage invisible," he said, "but even though you can see the crack, the glass is still holding together."
I said I'd keep my eye on it and bring it back for repair if it gets worse. But I learned something new: Once repaired, a chip can't have resin applied a second time. Replacement, not repair, becomes the only safe option.
"That's Safelite's general policy," Syfko said. Although a re-repair technically might be possible, Safelite chooses not to do that because over time they can't know for certain the exact nature of what's inside the repaired crack, he said.
Syfco added, "With Safelite, damage the size of a dollar bill or less is a candidate for repair, anywhere on the windshield."
I wondered if that matched the practice of the other glass companies recommended by PEMCO.
Cye Kashani, manager of the Redmond Novus shop, told me Novus now uses advanced technology that lets technicians repair windshield cracks "longer than a dollar bill."
Another preferred company, Speedy Glass, says on its corporate website, "We fix more than chips! A crack, whether it's two or 10 inches, can be repaired, safely, with our exclusive technology."
Those nuances illustrate why it's best to call around and learn which companies can repair damage of your size and type. You'll likely learn other factors dictate whether a repair is possible. For example, you might need new glass if you have more than three chips, or if a crack runs to the edge of the windshield, or if the damage falls directly in the driver's line of sight.
Whatever shop you choose, remember to seek repair right away. All it takes is one pothole in the road or a sudden temperature change for your chip to instantly fracture into a big, unrepairable crack.