How Long Can You Drive With a Crack in Your Windshield in Colorado?

Horror can be best described as a shock to the system. Something that makes your skin crawl, eyes shudder, and the minuscule hairs (that you didn’t know you had) stick up on the top of your skin. Whether watching a scary movie at too young of an age, getting dangerously close to a fall, or finding a yellow envelope addressed to you, we’ve all experienced horror in some fashion. One of the most disheartening and terrifying events, causing horror in all that experience it, is finding a crack in your windshield.

Whether you watch debris crack your windshield, find a chip the morning before a commute, or notice a long break after a sunny day, you’ve found damage on your auto glass. Like any auto repair, you are immediately met with an uncertainty on what to do. At one end, you are willing to live with the consequences and drive on, saving the money for repairs. On the other, you want your cherished automobile to be in perfect condition, causing you to dial the nearest auto repair shop.

But how long can you drive with a crack in your windshield? If you find damage on the morning before a road trip, are you safe to worry about it later?

Ultimately, it all depends. As an auto glass repair shop, SLP is here to break it all down for you. Let’s discuss!

Firstly, we are not here to judge or theorize on your reasoning. If you have a damaged windshield and decide to drive on it, that’s your decision and right. As a windshield repair company, we are obligated to try and convince you to get it fixed immediately. That’s business, after all. Consequently, we will keep this situation entirely unbiased.

When you have decided to drive with a crack in your windshield, your first question will probably involve legality. Will you get pulled over for the obstruction? Will you get a ticket.

Overall, there are no specific laws in the state of Colorado saying that it’s illegal to drive with a cracked or damaged windshield. Consequently, there is an adjacent law.

Colorado Revised Statute Section 42-4-227 prohibits driving a motor vehicle with obstructed windows. Furthermore, law C.R.S. 42-4-201 prohibits driving with windshields tinted darker than 27% and broken windshield wipers.

Henceforth, if you have a crack large enough to obstruct your driving view, it’s considered illegal. Food for thought.

On the other hand, it’s entirely circumstantial and subjective. The opinion regarding the intensity of the visual obstruction depends on the viewer. You may disagree with the cop, but it’s ultimately their decision. Therefore, it’s impossible to say what exact length or degree of damage is going to get you pulled over. Just know, if it’s significant, you run the risk of a ticket.

Danger! Danger!

After the anxiety of legality comes the concern for driver safety. If you decide to drive with a crack in your windshield, will you be safe? Will the windshield burst into shards of glass, damaging the passengers and leaving the interior to the blast elements?

Firstly, no. This isn’t an action movie. Driving with a damaged windshield, regardless of the degree, will not lead to a dramatic explosion of glass and resin. If your windshield is completely destroyed, meaning the whole pane is cracked, then it’s obvious that the integrity (and vision) of the windshield is significantly lowered, but it doesn’t mean driving wind will blow shards everywhere.

We discussed the strength of modern windshields in-depth here, but we will paraphrase.

Modern windshields are not only strong but are intricate in design. It is not just a pane of glass. Furthermore, the process involves two pieces of annealed glass and a strip of Polyvinyl Butyral in-between.

If that all sounds like Latin to you, we’ll simplify it. Basically, annealed glass is thermally treated and then cooled, allowing for relief of its internal stress. It’s a softer material. This process causes the annealed glass to break into longer pieces instead of shattering.

Polyvinyl Butyral is a type of laminate that holds the two annealed planes together. This laminate creates a sticky resin between the two. Therefore, if the outside of the windshield cracks, the broken pieces will stick to the middle resin and not fly off, avoiding further damage to surrounding objects. Pretty safe stuff.

This laminate also works to help stave off potential thieves. With the pane not shattering through easily, it’s harder to get into a car by smashing a window. All in all, a thief would have to break through two separate planes of glass to get into the car. Also, the planes are more than likely to stick together even after impact. It’s more of an obstacle, causing a longer breaking-and-entering process.

There’s More Than Meets the Eye

Overall, it’s obvious that a cracked windshield (if severe enough) will impact the safety of driving through lack of vision. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect lesser vision to lesser driving safety.

The concerning thing is more within the structural integrity of the vehicle. Believe it or not, a car’s windshield plays more into safety than just blocking the wind.

Windshields are strong enough to help the structure of the vehicle itself. They actually help stop the roof from caving in on collision. A windshield offers 45% of the structural integrity in a head-on collision and 60% in a rollover accident. This structural integrity helps keep the roof from collapsing and hurting passengers.

Windscreens also help facilitate airbag deployment. Simply put, when an airbag deploys to give you a softer surface to impact, it pushes against the windshield to establish a barrier. If the glass is not strong enough to take the impact of an airbag, the airbag won’t help the passenger much, if at all.

On the contrary, a windscreen is not just for looks and weather. Due to modern technology, windshields have become a crucial part of car safety overall.

So, if your windshield is damaged enough, it is lowering your safety in the unfortunate case of an accident.

Will It Get Worse?

Another concern is that of increasing intensity. If you have a small chip today, will driving on it make it worse? Ultimately, yes.

If you have a small chip or dent, waiting will only expose it to more danger, potentially lengthening the crack. For example, if you have a small chip and don’t repair it during the summer, a significantly hot day will cause the glass to slightly expand. This expansion process may push against the small damage, causing it to intensify. Now, instead of a small chip, you have a full-on crack.

If there is any damage, the integrity of the windshield is lower. While a small bit of debris may have not hurt it before, it’s now weaker. That flying debris may cause that small crack to become a spider web.

This isn’t to say if you drive with a crack in your windshield it’s certain to get worse, for there are too many changing elements at play. It is more susceptible to damage, increasing your chances of further exacerbation.

Smaller Damage Is Cheaper

If you have a small chip or crack, the repair process involves filling in the chip with a transparent resin and cementing the surrounding region in place. When this procedure is completed properly, the windshield is no longer susceptible to additional cracking in the same location. 

Therefore, it’s always more beneficial to get it repaired rather than wait to replace it once things are worse. A resin injection is significantly cheaper than an entirely new windshield. But, we understand that time and money are always in flux. Sometimes these minor repairs are not anywhere near the top of your priority list.

But, if you can get it replaced ASAP, you are better off.

So… What’s the Verdict?

Let’s keep it simple: if the crack in your windshield doesn’t impair your vision, you can technically drive on it. It will reduce your safety during a collision, though. Also, it has the chance of getting worse, causing the repair to be more expensive.

All in all, you are not putting yourself in imminent danger by driving with a damaged windshield (if the damage isn’t significant), but your wallet may thank you. It will always be cheaper to get damaged auto glass repaired sooner.

If you are in need of auto glass repair or replacement in the Denver area, check us out. We always offer top customer service and competitive prices to our neighborhood.