What Should I Do if My Car’s Glass Breaks While Driving?
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What Should I Do if My Car’s Glass Breaks While Driving?

Whether it’s hit by hail, golf balls or road debris, a broken window in your car can be a serious hazard. Here’s what you need to know about handling the situation safely, getting your auto body glass repaired and dealing with insurance issues.

What Happens When Automotive Glass Breaks?

There are two types of glass used in cars and trucks: laminated and tempered.

Laminated glass is made by sandwiching plastic between two panes of glass. This plastic layer acts as a shock absorber, helping the glass resist vibrations and impacts. If one of the panes breaks, the plastic keeps the broken glass from separating from the rest of the pane. This makes it ideal for use in windshields. Some automakers also use laminated glass rear windows to add structural support.

Tempered glass, sometimes called “safety glass,” is made by quickly heating and cooling the pane. This makes the glass cool unevenly, creating tension at the center of the pane and compression near the edges. Once cooled, there’s 10,000 to 20,000 PSI of pressure pulling between the middle and edge of the glass. This makes tempered glass about four times stronger than regular glass. If the glass breaks, the release of this pressure breaks the entire pane into small, rounded pieces. These pieces are less likely to cause injury than the shards left behind by regular glass.

What Do I Do if a Window Breaks while Driving?

The first step when dealing with shattered glass is to avoid panicking. Both types of glass will make a loud bang when they break. Take a moment to collect yourself, then make your way off the road.

Even a small crack can spread across a broken windshield, obscuring your view. You may need to poke your head out of the side window to see where you’re going. If the glass is completely shattered, strike the windshield with the palm of your hand to break away some of the glass. This will give you a small area to look out of. Get off the road as soon as possible.

When tempered glass breaks, the entire pane disintegrates into tiny pieces that will be scattered around the inside of your car. Again, the key is not to panic and safely get off the road to assess the damage.

With glass missing, your car’s interior is exposed to the elements. Rain, snow, and animals can do serious damage, turning what would be a simple auto body glass replacement into a major repair. To seal the interior while you wait for a repair, tape a garbage bag to the inside of the window frame. This keeps glass stuck at the edges of the frame from entering the cabin. Be sure to cover any gaps. To get a good seal, use two layers of tape. Keep in mind that this isn’t a perfect solution. Plastic won’t protect you from flying objects while driving, and it won’t keep out water from a heavy downpour. Don’t drive your car unless you absolutely must, and have it repaired as soon as possible.

Who is Liable for Repairs?

Let’s say you’re next to a golf course or a sports park, and a ball breaks one of your windows. Who’s at fault, and who pays?

– The facility isn’t liable unless it can be proven that this is a regular occurrence, and they haven’t put up barriers to prevent it.
– The person who threw or hit the ball is liable, but it may be difficult to prove who did it. Your best bet is to talk to the people at the facility and see if they can help you figure out whose ball it is.
– There’s a good chance that you won’t be able to find the culprit. In that case, you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket. If you have comprehensive auto insurance, the policy may pay for the damage.

What if tempered glass shatters on its own? This can happen with glass that isn’t tempered correctly, especially for large panes like rear windows and panoramic sunroofs. You may be able to get the manufacturer to pay for a replacement if a recall was issued.

Where Can I Get My Car Fixed after a Window Breaks?

Merton Auto Body does everything body repair-related, including auto body glass repair and replacement. Worried about dealing with your insurance company? We have an estimation center and on-staff appraiser who can handle the paperwork. That means less time getting work approved, and less time waiting to get your car back. We’re just a short drive or tow from Pewaukee, Lisbon, Hartland, and Oconomowoc.


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