It’s surprisingly easy to damage your windscreen. A stray stone flicked up by a passing car could be enough to chip the glass.
But even relatively minor damage could cause severe longer-term problems if left unrepaired as it can quickly turn into a large crack.
By then it might be too late to repair. You might need to replace the windscreen and this is likely to cost hundreds of pounds – not to mention the inconvenience it could cause.
So, here's how you protect your screen – and what you do if it gets damaged.
What is windscreen cover?
This is an add-on to your policy that pays out if your windscreen needs to be repaired or replaced. It might be included as standard in your car insurance or bought separately.
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What causes windscreen cracks and chips?
Even careful drivers can crack their windscreens. The most common reasons for chips and cracks in your windscreen include:
- Road debris hitting the glass. This can happen while you’re driving or even when the car is parked. This could come from a freshly-laid bit of road, or something kicked up by a passing lorry.
- Bad weather. Tree branches or hailstones are particular perils, especially on days where there are strong winds.
- Sudden changes in temperature. Prime examples are using boiling water to defrost the glass or leaving your car in direct sunlight on hot days. These sudden rises and falls in temperature could cause the glass to rapidly expand and contract, causing it to shatter.
- Collisions. Having a prang could also cause your screen to crack.
Can you drive with a cracked windscreen?
It’s never advisable – and might be illegal. Your windscreen is vital to your safety and any damage could potentially harm your vision. Why take the risk?
Legally, whether you can still drive depends on the size of the crack and where it is on the screen.
Windscreens are divided into four zones and each one has a size limit for repairable damage. If the damage exceeds these limits it will need to be replaced.
For example, Zone A is 290mm wide and is centred on the steering wheel. This effectively means the area directly in the driver's line of vision.
Chips on this part can only be a maximum of 10mm in diameter.
However, damage at the farthest side of the screen, away from the driver, can be up to 40mm.
Remember – a cracked windscreen that obscures your view could result in a three penalty points on your licence and a fine.
And if you have an accident then you might find yourself charged with a more serious driving offence if the damage was a contributory factor.
Will my car fail its MOT with a chipped windscreen?
It all depends on the size and location of the chip or crack. If the chip is larger than 10mm in the 'Zone A' mentioned above, an inspector is likely to fail your car's MOT. Outside of Zone A, any chips larger than 40mm might see your car fail its MOT.
So, if it's likely to impact your view of the road while driving, it could be at risk of failing the MOT.
Does my car insurance cover windscreen repairs?
It all depends on your policy. If you have fully comprehensive car insurance then it’s more likely to be included as standard. However, you need to check as this isn’t guaranteed.
Unfortunately, it’s less likely to be part of a third-party, fire and theft policy. In those cases, you’ll need to see if it can be arranged as a bolt-on extra or look for standalone cover.
The good news is that such cover shouldn't cost a fortune. You might be able to get it for around £30.
Does windscreen cover count as a claim?
Some insurers might make an exception for windscreen claims and won’t count them towards your no-claims bonus. However, this depends on the insurer so you need to check with them.
Either way, it’s important you tell the truth about claims when asked at renewal.
Do I have to declare a windscreen claim on my insurance policy?
Yes, when renewing your policy, you will be asked if you have made a claim on your car insurance in the previous year. Failing to disclose it means you risk invalidating your insurance.
How many car windscreen cover claims can I make?
It all depends on the policy and provider. Some companies allow an unlimited number of repairs to be carried out.
Others might set a limit on how much can be claimed each year. Once that limit is reached, further claims for the same type of damage may not be allowed.
If I make a claim, will I have to pay any excess?
You may have to pay an excess – which is the contribution you pay towards the claim – but it depends on the policy.
Some insurers might repair windscreens free of charge, as long as you use their preferred provider. Others could levy fees of around £25.
Similarly, with windscreen replacements, you may be looking at an excess of around £75 in some cases. Check the wording of your policy – or clarify it when you’re comparing quotes.
Why is windscreen cover important?
You might be tempted to ignore a small chip in your windscreen if you think it's not worth the cost of repairing.
But, if left untreated, that chip could turn into a crack that means you need to replace your whole windscreen.
Having windscreen cover in place gives you peace of mind that you could nip any problems in the bud without worrying about additional costs.
How much does it cost to repair a chipped windscreen?
If you haven’t got insurance then a single chip repair is likely to cost you £189.44 including VAT, according to Autoglass*. Windscreen replacement costs might be much more depending on the type of car you have. Heated windscreens could cost more again.
How much does it cost to replace a windscreen?
This depends on the make and model of your car. There is a huge disparity when it comes to windscreen sizes. It could set you back hundreds of pounds if you don’t have the correct insurance in place.
Will my cracked windscreen be repaired or replaced?
This depends on the extent of the damage – and where it is on the screen. For example, if it’s very close to the edge then it might not be possible to repair it.
Tips to prevent a cracked windscreen
Prevention is better than cure, so the longer you can avoid having to repair a chipped windscreen, the better. Here's how you keep your windscreen in tip-top shape:
Keep your distance
The closer you drive to the vehicle in front, the higher the chances of you being in the firing line should they hit some debris in the road.
Be wary of large vehicles
Ensure you keep a decent gap between you and any trucks you are following. Larger wheels might kick up more debris – and unsecured loads could be another danger.
Avoid going past them if possible. Pneumatic drills can cause tiny bits of concrete to fly out in all directions.
Tiny chips in the windscreen – even ones you may not have spotted – could become a full-blown crack by hitting huge holes in the road. You could try to claim for pothole damage from the council, rather than using your insurance company.
Use a screen protector
If your car is parked on the side of the road – or even on your driveway – consider putting a cover over the windscreen. They're likely to cost upwards of £20.
As we mentioned above, avoid sudden temperature changes, such as pouring boiling water on the glass to de-ice it in the winter.
*Prices correct as of October 2021.