Is It Against the Law to Have a Cracked Windshield?
Driving with a cracked windshield is many things: it’s dangerous (it compromises the safety of your car in even a minor accident), it’s frustrating (how did this even happen?), and it’s embarrassing (no one likes a beat-up ride). But is a cracked windshield illegal?
It depends. The crack’s severity and location play a role in determining the legality of the crack. The rules and regulations governing windshields, including damage, permissible tints and objects, etc., vary from state to state.
You should never settle for driving with a cracked windshield — but if you’re temporarily forced into this situation, here’s what you should know.
Virginia Windshield Requirements
In Virginia, you must have a windshield if your vehicle was manufactured after July 1, 1970. In addition, if your vehicle was built after January 1, 1936, your windshield must be made of safety glass. Safety glass significantly reduces the risk that passengers will be ejected in the case of an accident. In turn, this reduces the likelihood that a vehicle accident-related death will occur.
You must also have driver-controlled windshield wipers in good working condition, a defroster that works, and no misplaced stickers.
How Cracked Windshields Affect the Annual Car Inspection
To pass the state inspection in Virginia, no chip, pit, or star-shaped crack can be more than one inch in diameter — that is, if it’s located above the three-inch line at the bottom of the windshield. Cracks cannot move in relation to one another, thus weakening the structure of the whole.
Also, be aware that broken or worn-out windshield wipers are a common cause of inspection failure.
In fact, in Virginia — where inspection requirements are considered to be fairly strict — one in 10 cars fail to meet state standards. To eliminate your vehicle’s chance of state inspection failure, make sure your car is up to standard. Our Virginia Vehicle Inspection Checklist will help you recognize the issues that can cause inspection failure.
Is It Dangerous to Drive With a Cracked Windshield?
Yes! A cracked windshield can be extremely unsafe. The degree of danger posed by your cracked windshield can vary, depending on specific factors, but you should always plan to replace a chipped or cracked windshield.
Let’s look some of the common cracked windshield issues drivers face.
If your windshield crack is large in size, in Virginia, it’s likely that you’ll be out of compliance. It’s illegal to drive with a large, spidering windshield crack. In this case, you’ll want to replace your windshield as soon as possible. On the other hand, if the crack is very small, you may be able to wait a bit longer.
A crack on the driver’s side is more of a problem than one on the passenger side. Does the crack impair your ability to see clearly and drive safely? If so, you’ll want the windshield repaired or replaced pronto. Plus, it’s illegal to drive with a windshield that obscures your view.
Remember back in high school science class when you learned about glass expanding and contracting, depending on the temperature? Keep this in mind when a crack appears on your windshield. Fluctuations in temperature can cause seemingly harmless cracks to spread into a web of related fractures. This is why, for example, you should never defrost your windshield with hot water.
When a windshield crack is 6-12 inches long, repair is a possibility — and it’s wise to repair it promptly. Once the temperature changes or a flying object strikes the crack, your windshield could shatter. Even dirt entering the crack can create enough stress over time to cause significant damage.
The Importance of Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers that function properly are essential, sweeping away whatever obscures your view swiftly and easily. You’ll appreciate this more when you’re dealing with old or worn-out wipers.
Unlike diamonds, windshield wipers are not forever. Over time, the blades degrade. If your windshield wipers are squeaking, chattering, skipping, streaking, smearing, or leaving gaps in moisture, it’s time to replace them.
Ignore the evidence in front of you and you risk the blade shattering and breaking off the wiper arm. Whether made of metal or hard plastic, the wiping action of the arm against the glass can damage the windshield.
To ensure your wipers work, follow Virginia Tire & Auto’s recommendation: replace them every 6-12 months. Also, keep in mind that silicone blades generally last longer than rubber blades, although weather conditions will impact the life of any wiper.
Ensure a Safe Driving Experience
You want to be safe behind the wheel. And, in some cases, a cracked windshield can interfere with this safety.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: attend to windshield cracks promptly. This will help you pass your vehicle inspection, prevent you from getting a ticket, and keep you safe on the road.