Chips, Cracks, and Scratches: When to Replace (or Repair!) Your Windshield

3 Minutes Read

The truck driver ahead of you just had to rev the engine, and now you’ve got a nice little chip in your windshield after a rock hit it. Or maybe the crack near your windshield wiper is spreading a little more every time it dips below freezing. Cracks, chips, and scratches mean trouble for your windshield, but when do you need to get it repaired or replaced? Find out so you don’t overspend — or put yourself and others on the road in danger.

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Anatomy of a Windshield

Windshields today are usually made of an inside and outside layer of specialized laminate glass and a middle layer of plastic for added strength. This construction makes windshields much more resilient than glass in your home and easier to repair. Windshield damage that only affects the outside layer is usually easier to repair and less severe than damage that occurs to both layers. However, even if the damage is limited to the outer layer of your windshield, you may still need a full replacement.

How Bad is the Damage?

The location and severity of damage to your windshield determine if it can be repaired or if a replacement is needed. The technology to repair windshields is advancing rapidly and you would be surprised by what kinds of damage can be fixed. It also helps to contact different body shops to find out what their recommendation is for your windshield. A windshield repair or replacement is one of the more specialized types of car repairs and not every shop will be equipped to handle yours.

What Type of Damage is It?

There are several different types of damage that commonly occur to windshields. Some are easier to repair than others, but it will take a skilled technician to tell what your windshield needs. In all likelihood, it fits into one or more of the below categories. Find out how each one looks to get an idea of whether you’ll need a windshield repair or replacement.

Star Break

Star breaks take the form of a hole with several sharp, distinct points radiating from it. It can usually be repaired if it’s smaller than three inches in diameter. Larger breaks or those that affect both windshield panels require a full replacement.

Star break in a car windshield.


A bull’s-eye crack consists of a circular hole and may have concentric rings of breaks around the center. It usually occurs when a large piece of debris strikes a windshield. In cases where the break isn’t contaminated by dirt and is an inch in diameter or smaller, it can be replaced. If it’s larger, the windshield will need to be replaced.

Bulls-eye damage on a windshield.

Partial Bull's-Eye

A partial bull’s-eye break looks similar to a bull’s-eye but is half-moon in appearance. These often occur along the edges of a windshield. They can usually be replaced if they are smaller than three inches in diameter.

Partial bulls-eye damage damage to the corner of a windshield.


A crack is a linear break in a windshield. Cracks often appear due sudden temperature or pressure changes and often begin from the edge of a windshield. For this reason, most cracks have to be replaced, as there simply isn’t room to repair them. However, cracks that appear away from the edges have a better prognosis for repair.

Crack across a windshield.


Chips typically occur when a small piece of the windshield breaks off, leaving behind a pit. So long as there are no additional cracks coming from the chip and it doesn’t affect the plastic liner or the interior layer of glass, a body shop can usually repair it.

Chip on a windshield.


Where is the Damage Located?

The location of the damage is just as important as the severity. In general, damage that is located within the driver’s field of vision cannot be repaired and requires a full windshield replacement. The reason for this is the new material may reduce the driver’s visibility. However, damage that is located closer to the edges of a windshield or on the passenger side are easier to repair.

What Happens if I Don't Repair or Replace My Windshield?

Your windshield is a ticking time bomb if it’s damaged and you don’t get it repaired. The damage will only worsen as it’s exposed to the elements, and if you’re in an accident, its ability to protect you will already be compromised. This can turn into a significant liability issue if you had pre-existing damage to your car but it wasn’t fixed prior to an accident. A qualified body shop can fix or replace a windshield.

Need to Repair or Replace Your Windshield in Flagstaff? We're Here to Help!

You know your windshield won’t fix itself, but you don't want to take your car into just any body shop. At Flagstaff Collision Center, our ASE-certified technicians can inspect your windshield and determine the best course of action. We use factory-grade equipment to deliver the best possible care for your vehicle. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and we can get you back safely on the road!

Michael Whittemore