It May Cost More Than You Think to Replace a Windshield


Quick Facts About Windshield Replacement in 2024

  • What was once a straightforward and inexpensive repair often exceeds $1,000.
  • Advanced tech in newer model cars makes windshield replacement expensive.
  • Aligning cameras and sensors helps ensure advanced safety features work correctly, but the calibration adds to the windshield replacement cost.

A rock cracks the windshield; what do you do? Thinking that a replacement windshield can be installed while the car sits on your driveway for $300 to $500 used to be a common notion. That’s often not the case these days.

If your vehicle comes equipped with rain-sensing wipers and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, be prepared to spend $1,000, maybe more, for a replacement windshield. The high costs would include recalibrating the ADAS and related safety features like forward collision warning and the head-up display.

Read on to find out what you need to know about car windshield replacement, recalibration, if you need to tap your insurance, and more.

Replacing a Car Windshield

On Older Vehicles

Windshield replacement installation is typically much cheaper on an older car than on a newer one. If you’re getting an aftermarket windshield for an average older vehicle with little to no technology add-ons, you can expect to pay at least $300 to $600 when not using insurance. A luxury model typically costs more.

On Newer Cars

Replacing windshields on newer cars is more complex. The ADAS technology that connects to the windshield can substantially increase the repair cost due to things like the recalibration of sensors and more. This also applies to electric cars, which also utilize driver-assist technologies. Replacement costs can exceed $1,000.

Speak with a mechanic to get estimates for a replacement for your year, make, and model of car.

Driver Assists, Head-Up Displays to Blame

Head-up display on 2022 Land Rover Defender

 

Head-up displays, or HUD, and advanced driver-assistance systems are now available in a wide variety of vehicles. Once reserved for luxury cars, HUD, ADAS, and rain-sensing wipers are now offered in vehicles from mainstream automakers like Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, and Kia.

Other ADAS safety features commonly seen today are adaptive headlights, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assistance. Radar positioned on the front of the car detects an object, and a camera located in the grille or behind the windshield identifies the object as a car or pedestrian, for example.

A special replacement windshield must be installed and calibrated for features like HUD, ADAS, and rain-sensing wipers to work properly.

Original-Equipment Glass Recommended

“It is really critical for cars that have ADAS and head-up display that you have a windshield that is either an original equipment part, or one that meets the very strict standards for optical clarity and lack of distortion set by GM, Mercedes, or whoever it happens to be for that vehicle,” said Michael Calkins, manager of technical services in AAA’s engineering and repair department.

“If those standards are not met, the sensors are not going to function properly, and your lane keeping, automatic emergency braking, whatever it happens to be that those cameras support, are not going to be 100% efficient and effective,” Calkins said.

The rain sensor also may not activate if it cannot determine the amount of water on the windshield. It could be a safety issue and cause an accident because the systems did not work as engineered.

Distortion is another issue. It is essential that the body shop or glass company knows the vehicle’s year, make, and model. They may use the vehicle identification number, or VIN, to ensure they install the correct replacement windshield. For example, there are 11 replacement windshields for a 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe, according to Safelite AutoGlass.

Wrong Windshield Spells Trouble

A technician installing a car windshield

 

A head-up display uses a projector in the instrument panel to project a digital transparent image on the vehicle’s windshield in front of the driver. The data is the same information located in the instrument panel. The purpose of HUD is to keep important data clustered together on the windshield in front of the driver’s eyes to reduce the time the driver’s eyes are not on the road. The expected result is fewer accidents. But if the driver can’t read the data or it’s blurry, it could cause an accident.

If a technician installs the wrong replacement windshield in a vehicle with a head-up display, “you would get a ghosted or double image. You will see actual separation. Let’s say the speed of the vehicle is 60 mph. You will see two 6s, you will see a secondary 6 floating above the primary 6,” said Mike Richardson, General Motors’ technical expert for fixed glass and glazing.

Other information HUDs project on the windshield can be turn-by-turn navigation information, speed limit signs, speedometer, cruise setting speed, warning lights such as low fuel, lane-keeping assist information, blind-spot collision warning, and audio information.

Head-Up Display Is a Growing Concern

Although General Motors introduced the first production car with a head-up display in 1988, it’s becoming increasingly popular. Carmakers now offer it as part of an option package or include the feature in a model’s higher trim. To prevent the digital image from ghosting or creating a double image on the windshield, a polyvinyl butyral resin is inserted between the two windshield layers in the rectangular area where the digital information is projected. The transparent vinyl has a wedge pattern that prevents the images reflected on the windshield from ghosting.

However, not every vehicle requires a special windshield for its head-up display. Some models, including the Mini and Ford Escape, use a small pop-up screen on top of the instrument panel that folds down when not in use. The information is displayed on the screen, not on the windshield.

Ask your local service center if your car requires a special windshield replacement.

Rain-Sensing Wipers, Driver Assists Require Special Treatment

The rain sensor on a windshield

 

Rain-sensing wipers and ADAS are becoming more common. Vehicles equipped with ADAS and rain-sensing wipers require more work than popping out the broken windshield and installing a replacement. The next step is a thrust wheel alignment to ensure the rear wheels are lined up directly behind the front wheels and not a few degrees off. If misaligned, the driver assistance features may not activate when needed.

Recalibration Is Key

Finally, ADAS needs to be recalibrated. There are two types of ADAS: Most German and Asian brands use a static target system, and domestic brands generally use a dynamic system. There also are a few brands that use both.

Vehicles with a static system can get complicated to recalibrate and require a building with a large amount of level, unobstructed space where targets can be positioned. In addition, recalibrating the system to recognize targets can take up to 3 hours.

Dynamic ADAS is less complicated. A special tool is connected to the vehicle’s OBD2 port under the instrument panel to start recalibration. After that, the vehicle is taken on the road and driven at specific speeds to relearn such things as road markings and obstacles. The process can take 30 minutes to an hour.

Does Insurance Cover Windshield Damage?

A technician fixing a cracked windshield

 

In some cases, your insurance policy will cover repairs to a cracked windshield with no or a low deductible. However, it depends on which type of insurance coverage you carry. Comprehensive insurance will likely cover any windshield damage that does not come from an accident — such as falling debris, a rock hitting your car on the highway, or even hitting a deer.

Collision insurance should cover the damage if the windshield gets cracked or destroyed during a car accident.

Beware of Window Glass Scams

Start your claim process by contacting your insurance company. Avoid dealing with potentially fraudulent auto glass companies approaching you in a parking lot, car wash, or home. An unscrupulous company might try to get you to sign an assignment of benefits (AOB) form, giving them the right to file an insurance claim on your behalf, make the repairs, and collect the insurance payment.

Fraudulent companies may inflate an insurance claim while completing the minimal repair and collect the insurance payment for itself. Instead of helping scammers, call your agent when you notice a windshield chip or crack.

Fix Windshield Damage Promptly

Take your car to the auto glass shop when you notice damage, even if your insurance policy doesn’t cover windshield repair or replacement. A quick repair can be inexpensive, help you with safe driving, and keep you within the law.

What Happens if I Don’t Repair a Cracked Windshield?

Windscreen replacement might be unnecessary if there’s minimal damage to the glass. Chips and small cracks that don’t interfere with sensors or cameras can be repaired. However, when a cracked windshield goes untreated for too long, the crack will spread, causing even more damage. What was once a simple repair could now require a total windshield replacement, which costs exponentially more.

Is it Safe to Drive With a Cracked Windshield?

Safe driving requires a clear view of the road and surroundings. A damaged windshield can obscure or distort your line of sight, preventing you from seeing oncoming traffic, bicyclists, pedestrians, or hazardous debris on the road. Cracked or chipped glass can block sensors and cameras, making the car’s advanced driver assistance systems malfunction.

Is it Illegal to Drive With a Cracked Windshield?

Consult your attorney for legal advice. What we can tell you here is that the U.S. Department of Transportation has regulations about windshields on commercial vehicles. One item says two cracks cannot intersect. Another paragraph says damaged areas must be smaller than 3/4-inch in diameter and may not be closer than 3 inches from similar damage. State laws about windshields on passenger cars vary. Some require the area directly above the steering wheel to have no damage. Other states, such as Georgia, say it’s illegal to drive with a windshield that has a starburst or spider web-style crack larger than 3 inches by 3 inches — roughly the size of a dollar bill folded in half.

Making the Right Choice

Selecting a replacement windshield can get complicated. Check with a service and repair center to determine what windshield is needed. At the same time, check if your windshield requires recalibration for HUD, ADAS, and rain-sensing wipers or if a bare-bones windshield works.

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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

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