Although no one is likely to force you to fix a damaged windshield immediately, there are some good reasons for doing so. The following helps illustrate some of the issues caused by windshield damage.
Is a Cracked Windshield Dangerous?
A damaged windshield has less structural integrity than one in good condition. In the event of an accident, the windshield is more likely to fail and break, which can increase the likelihood of an injury. For example, in many car designs, the front windshield is meant to help to guide the direction of inflation of an airbag so that it inflates toward and not away from you. If the force of the airbag hits an already damaged windshield, it may expand outward through the weakened window instead of inward — thus providing less protection.
Can One Be Fined for Windshield Damage?
In most areas, it is possible to get a ticket for a damaged front windshield. This usually depends on the location and severity of the damage. Generally, damage that is in front of the driver is considered a moving violation because the crack or chip may obstruct the driver's full view of the road. It's unlikely, although not unheard of, to be pulled over specifically due to windshield damage unless it is severe. Instead, obstruction of view fines are usually given out if you are pulled over for another reason.
Will the Damage Become Worse Over Time?
A windshield crack or chip isn't static. It will usually grow over time, but the speed of this growth can vary depending on the location, depth, and shape of the chip, and the weather. Weather fluctuations, such as when nights are freezing and days are sunny, can speed the growth of a crack due to the thermal expansion of the glass. Using the defrost setting in your car can lead to a similar effect. Although small cracks and chips can usually be repaired, larger ones require a full windshield replacement. It makes sense to make repairs before the cracks become too large.
Can Moisture Get Into the Car?
Fortunately, cracks and chips rarely penetrate through thick windshield glass, so moisture isn't likely to leak in through the crack. Cracks near the edges of a windshield can lead to moisture leaks, though, especially if the cracks reach all the way to the edge. This is because the crack has compromised the integrity of the seal that helps hold the window in place. This can be especially problematic when a crack is near the top of the windshield, as moisture may leak and drip down the window. This can obscure the view.
Contact an auto glass service if you have a damaged window that needs to be repaired or replaced.