What's the Straight Dope on Replacement Car Glass?

I need the Straight Dope on Replacement Car Glass. First time in 40 years of driving that I have to replace a windshield.

Thanks for your knowledge and advice in advance!

  1. Are there differences in quality between the Econo places and the Dealers Body Shop? Or is windshield glass identical regardless of where it’s sold?

  2. Installation - Is there anything they can screw up? Does it matter how experienced the person is? Only thing I can think of is water leaks. Anything else I should watch out for?

  3. Does Size matter? Is a windshield for a tiny Nissan cheaper than my big ole Ford Econoline van?

  4. Bottom line — should I take the cheapest estimate and run with it?

Time to replace my Ford Econoline E150 Windshield. A rock darn near tore right through it. I got a spiral fracture almost six inches across in the lower drivers side corner. I checked at my local GlassPro dealer and they said $168. That seems too cheap for such a big piece of safety glass. :confused: Are they selling something so thin a bird dropping will break it?

I am sure there is cheap replacement auto glass in many parts of the country. In Massachusetts, it is covered by comprehensive auto insurance by law and there are lots of competing companies that will come to your home or work to replace a broken windshield. They all use approved replacements that look identical to the original and the cost billable to the insurance company is about $300 - $400. I have had it done a few times and the techs all seemed to know what they were doing and had specialty equipment to heat treat the seals for a proper fit even in the winter outdoors. It takes about 30 - 60 minutes to do the job all inclusive.

$168 seems low. The first thing you may want to check is to see if your insurance will cover it for you as well. There is no penalty or surcharge for getting a perfect replacement here. That may be the case for you. If they won’t, a few hundred dollars would be the expected bill for a qualified tech with exact factory quality glass. All vehicles are different and they just stock the ones that are in high demand and custom order the others.

After market windshields are just fine. The price range varies widely, but the windshield itself isn’t that expensive. It’s not that difficult to install most windshields, but the job can be screwed up. Any company in the windshield business is likely to do just as good of a job as a dealer, perhaps better since dealers don’t install windshields all that often.

Let’s say that you have a car that produced in a foreign country. Your windshield needs to be replaced and you take it to the dealer. In all likelihood, they are not going to replace the windshield with something that was shipped overseas from the original supplier. They are going to call up the local auto glass supplier (who you or your insurance company would have called in the first place) and they will replace the windshield. There are standards for the quality and clarity of the glass so any reputable glass repair shop will give you what is equivalent to the OEM’s windshield. It might not have Toyota, or Nissan, or BMW etched on it but it will be just as good.

Taking it back to the dealer will only cost you more money, not get you a superior piece of glass.

Thanks. I’ll check around for the best price.

I thought one piece of Windshield glass would be just like another. But, wanted to double check.

Unless you’ve got an oddball model that was never sold here, or where the manufacturer left the US market, there are normally replacements in inventory here in the US.

When I got a rock chip in my BMW windshield, the dealer ordered the glass from BMW and it arrived at the dealership the next day. The day after, I brought the car in and the windshield was replaced. In the particular case of my dealer, they don’t want to have their techs do the work themselves, so they subcontract the installation out to a local auto glass installer, who goes to the dealership to change windshields. And yes, the replacement does have the BMW logo and part number on it.

I have had many windshields replaces, for a while once a year. Because some options embedded in the glass only the factory glass is available for one car. So the OEM stuff breaks just as readily as aftermarket stuff apparently. Each time it cracked was from a object strike except one thermal crack (hot defroster below and slushy ice falling from a tree from above - yes that can do it too)

The quality of the work was fine always. Never a leak or a finishing issue, most from safelite which is nationwide. They will actually come to your home or work to replace the glass which takes about a hour… The bill was covered by insurance.

Dealer service manager here. We sell factory glass. With fixed glass I sublet the install to a professional glass installer. Moving glass we do in house.

That’s about the right price. I had my GMC Sierra windshield replace for about the same and the glass is fine.

Glass can be different. Cheap glass can have some waviness look to it from certain angles. Generally, you never notice anything while driving. You would only notice it while outside looking at various angles in various lighting situations.

Installation is important. Leaks are not a big issue with the seals they use today if your window area is not rusted. Otherwise, they should warn you of potential problems. The bigger issue is to get the glass in the proper resting position so there is no stress on the edges. Stress produces cracks. If the company replaces lots of glass, the installation should go smoothly. And your vehicle is not a difficult installation.

There are only a handful of automotive glass manufacturers in the world. The vast majority of cars on the road today have glass from either Saint Gobain - Securit or Pilkington.

A windscreen might look like just a sheet of glass, but actually it is a very high-tech piece of equipment.

The most damage is done by fitters that do not properly clean and prime the area where they have removed the previous bead of adhesive. Any untreated scratches and cuts around here will become a shortcut to rust, leading to the integrity of the vehicle being compromised. I have seen many vehicles not fit for replacing the screen without the need for bodywork, or at least a rust treatment\conversion process. Also, before taking your car in, have a good look at the moldings around your glass, their condition, flush-fit to the glass, firmness, style etc… These are either replaced, or reused with the new glass. Check all again afterwards. Also, consider changing the wiper blades at the same time, and it’s always better to take the car to a workshop, rather than have it done on your site, there’s just more hands, experience, tools, resources at the workshop.

I needed a new windshield on a 2005 Subaru Forrester a while back. Dealer said they’d do it for their cost as we’d recently purchased the vehicle from them. Quoted $500. Called SafeLite and had it done in the parking lot at work for less than $275.

Call around. :smiley:

Just had a windshield replaced at my home on a 2004 Miata for $135 cash. Seems chep, looks good.

The only issue I’ve ever had with cheap auto glass (and I go through a lot of windshields here in the Rockies!) is this cheapo rear window on an SUV I had. It looked and fit fine, but it turns out it’s almost impossible to see through when wearing polarized sunglasses. Very annoying!

That really depends. the body shop might do that if the paying insurance company insists on “quality replacement” parts (e.g. used or aftermarket) but getting glass through the service/parts dept is going to be OEM glass. Where it comes from is immaterial.

on the two cars I’ve been in (before and after) the windshield was replaced, the replacement (non-OEM) glass had visible waviness in it that the OEM did not.

My information came from a service manager when I took an almost new car back for a windshield replacement. He said there was little point in shipping windshields from the factory overseas just so the glass has the logo of the make of the car. Maybe some dealers do it but I would like to compare the price of the repair.

There are strict standards for auto glass. Here: http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/fmvss_specs.htm

I’ve had several windshields replaced since the standards were implemented and never noticed a difference. The standards were implemented because there was a lot of bad glass being sold on the after market.

I got an instant quote at Safelite’s web site. $165. That’s in the same price range as my other quote from GlassPro. Optionally, another $25 to fix it in my driveway.

I was expecting $600 or more. Everything is so high priced these days. I’m not complaining. $165 is just fine thank you very much. :wink:

Even though that price is almost certainly below your deductible, check with your insurance company. They often cover the cost of replacing windshields, because of the importance to safety of having good glass.

Yes, comprehensive insurance often covers the full cost of glass and installation with no deductible and no risk to your premiums. It is worth asking about because it would be dumb to pay for something you are already covered for.

I’ll check my state farm policy. Thanks!