Everything you need to know about replacing a car or truck windshield
Hi, Matt here. The windshield in your vehicle is not an ordinary piece of glass. Although it allows you to see clearly and avoid obstructions in any type of weather, the windshield is part of the structure of the vehicle. It holds the roof in place and prevents the ceiling from caving inside the cabin in the event of a crash. Many people ask me how long does it take to replace a windshield, and I usually tell them the same thing: it’s not about how long it takes to install the windshield, but it is all about using the right materials and the right knowledge to successfully finish the job.
Are you guilty of driving a vehicle with a cracked or broken windshield? Not only is it illegal to drive around with something that is equivalent to a ticking time bomb, but it is highly dangerous as well.
If your windshield is cracked, make sure to cover the broken window until you can get it replaced.
Low Price = Low Quality?
In this regard, you are absolutely right. There are many ways to save money on car repairs. But when it comes to replacing your front window, choosing the lowest bidder is more of a gamble.
Replacing an average-sized windshield will cost anywhere from $100 to $500. This includes both labor and materials.
But for rare vehicles or certain models with dealer-exclusive parts, replacing the windshield can cost $1,500 or more.
You might think $100 or $500 is too much money to spend on a curved piece of glass. With that in mind, the average car owner will usually go for the low cost option.
But there’s the thing: choosing OEM glass is the best option when replacing the windshield in your vehicle. More than that, finding a reputable shop with trained and factory-certified installers is of utmost importance as well.
I’m not saying you should spend all your savings on the most expensive option, although it is probably best to skip the lowest bidder. It is unwise to place your bets on something that might literally explode in your face at the slightest provocation.
How long does it take to replace a windshield?
Like I said, it’s not a matter of ‘how long’ since replacing the windshield will only waste around 30 minutes to an hour of your time. With the right training and proper equipment, technicians can remove the broken windshield in your vehicle and install a new one in 1 hour or less.
But it’s not that easy. After installing a new windshield, your vehicle should not be driven for at least an hour. In most cases, the adhesives should be allowed to dry for 24 hours before the vehicle is allowed to be driven on the highway.
Keep this in mind in mind before scheduling an appointment with the dealership or glass shop. It might only take an hour to complete the installation process, but you will need to wait at least 1 hour or at most 12 hours before your car is safe to drive. This is particularly important if you only have a single car in your garage.
The glass shop told me it is safe to drive my car immediately after installing the windshield. What gives?
Nonsense. This is the first sign you’re dealing with a non-certified or backyard installer. In my many years of driving and car repair, you need to be wise. If the glass shop says you can drive the car immediately after replacing the windshield, you should turn around and walk away.
Instead of focusing on the price and the time it will take to finish the job, I highly suggest calling at least three shops and ask the following questions instead:
- What glass are you using? Is it OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or is it aftermarket windshield glass? It goes without saying OEM glass has better quality and is designed to fit cleanly without any problems, although it can be a bit more expensive than aftermarket glass.
- What type of adhesive will you be using? OEM glass deserves an OEM-type urethane adhesive that is specifically intended for windshield repair or replacement.
- Can the windshield be repaired? If your windshield is scarred by a rock chip or star crack, it can probably be repaired provided that you act quickly. If the rock chip or crack is repaired within a week after incurring damage, there’s a good chance a skilled technician can make the crack disappear using a special polymer. The polymer is injected into the crack and is smoothened out to produce a ‘like new’ appearance. This method is cheaper than replacing the entire windshield and will only cost around $20 to $30.
- Is there a warranty against leaks and cracks? If you are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new windshield, it is in your best interest to ask for a warranty. Reputable shops will have no problems in giving you a lengthy warranty for the purchase and installation of a new windshield. Be wary of shops that refuse to offer some form of guarantee.
Why is the windshield expensive to replace?
I also mentioned early on the windshield in your vehicle is not an ordinary slab of glass. If it was, then the glass shards will be sharp enough to cut your face into pieces if it breaks.
The windshield on all modern cars is called laminated safety glass. It is composed of two curved sheets of glass with a laminated plastic layer in between each glass for added safety.
The windshield will need to be thick enough to offer maximum protection against harmful road elements. It also needs to be strong enough to offer maximum rigidity. Since the windshield is essentially glued to the frame, it is also an integral part of the safety structure of your vehicle.
The windshield prevents occupants from being ejected or thrown outside the car in the event of an accident. Remember the odds of survival are much less if you are thrown out of a speeding vehicle.
The roof and the windshield on a modern vehicle are also designed as a protective cocoon that prevents injuries in case the vehicle rolls over. The windshield will also have to withstand the tremendous force exerted by the deployment of the front airbags.
If you previously thought the windshield is only designed to prevent wind, rain, and insects from ruining your driving experience, think again.
How to Replace Automobile Windshield
Unless you really know what you’re doing, replacing the windshield in your vehicle is not exactly a DIY job. You can ask me to change the brake pads, adjust the clutch, or even remove dents on plastic bumpers using nothing but hot water and a pair of gloves.
But in my many years of fixing cars, I never tried or attempted replacing a windshield. It’s not the hardest thing in the world to be quite honest, but you need to have proper training, years of experience, and the right tools to complete the job.
Here are the basic steps on how to replace a broken or cracked windshield.
- Remove the old glass. Before installing a new windshield, the old glass must be removed first. It all starts by inspecting the plastic moldings around the windshield. Simply remove the clips to safely and cleanly remove the moldings.
- Separating the old windshield from the pinch welds. The pinch-welds are located on the frame of the windshield. In order to remove the old windshield, it must be cut or severed away from the pinch welds. Use a knife or cold razor for this step.
- Cutting the old urethane adhesive. Use an extended handle razor knife to cut the urethane.
- Remove the windshield. You will need two people for this step. Use one hand to push the windshield gently from inside the vehicle and use the other hand to grab hold of the glass from outside the vehicle.
- Clean the pinch weld and trim off excess urethane. Use a brush or soft microfiber towel to remove dirt on the pinch welds. Even small increments of dirt and dust on the pinch welds might affect the adhesive properties of the urethane on the new windshield. It is also a good idea to trim off the existing urethane on the pinch welds by 3mm or 3/16” using a sharp razor.
- Apply primer and urethane adhesive to the new windshield. Apply a moderate amount of primer on the frit band or black band around the windshield. Apply a fresh layer of urethane on the windshield frame and pinch welds using an electric caulking gun.
- Install the new windshield. It is important to wear gloves when installing a new windshield. The dirt and oil in your hands are enough to severely affect the adhesive properties of the urethane. Allow the urethane to dry for at least 1 hour.
It doesn’t take long to replace a windshield. The entire process will only take an hour. The most important part is to allow the urethane to dry completely so you can drive in utmost safety.