It can make your heart sink – walking out to your car in the morning and finding a vandal has busted out a side window, or driving down the highway and hearing the tell-tale smack of gravel followed by the appearance of a crack or chip. In both cases it's best to get the damage repaired promptly, if you can. Here is how to decide if the repair can wait and how to best protect your car until then.
How to Access the Damage
Before calling for a window repair appointment, you can assess the damage to see if you can postpone it until you have more time. Go over the following list to see what applies to your situation.
Check the placement of the crack or chip. If it isn't in the direct field of vision, you can usually drive the vehicle safely. You may want to check local laws, though, to make sure that operating a vehicle with a chip or crack isn't against local rules.
Measure the crack or chip. Especially long or large ones can ruin the integrity of the glass, making the vehicle unsafe to drive. If the crack completely bisects the window or is more than a few inches long, get the windshield replaced.
Know your parking options. Before driving the car to work or on errands, think about your parking options. If it's summer and hot out, you want to park in the shade since high heat can cause cracks to expand.
Don't blast the window defroster on a cold morning, since the rapid fluctuation in temperature can cause more cracking. Instead, turn the defrost on low and warm everything up gradually.
Thing about security. If an entire window is shattered, consider the security of your car. Even with it covered, you don't want to park in a large work or store parking lot where your car can be subjected to thieves or vandals. If you don't have a place with secured parking, don't drive.
What You Can Do
Your options are limited while you wait for a repair. If you will continue driving the car, place a piece of clear tape over the crack or chip. This will keep dirt out of it, which makes it both easier to repair and can help prevent it from growing.
If you have a shattered window, you first need to clean up the damage. Use a shop vacuum to clean up as much glass as possible from inside of the car. You don't want to be surprised by sitting on a shard. If the idea of driving with an open window doesn't suit you because of weather or the length of your commute, you can tape a piece of heavy-duty clear plastic over the window. Cut it slightly larger than the missing window and then tape it in place securely with heavy-duty tape. Try to keep the tape confined to the trim around the window, since the adhesive on the tape may damage the paint if it comes in contact.
Your final goal is to get it repaired as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are options. An emergency glass technician like Around The Clock Glass Service can meet you at your work, for example, and perform the repair while you are in the office. These mobile technicians are your best option if you are too busy to make it in for a repair. They can also perform the repair at home if your car isn't safe to drive. Generally, they will fill in small cracks or chips, making them invisible, or they will bring a replacement windshield for larger cracks or for a shattered windshield. Both repairs can be done by mobile emergency techs.