Your windshield is your (literal!) window out onto the world as you drive. A windshield that is a dirty, cracked, chipped, or otherwise obscured can be a major safety hazard since it prevents you from clearly seeing what is happening around your car. This is obviously its most important role, but it isn't the only way that it helps to keep you safe. Your windshield is a major safety component of your car, and a damaged windshield can put you and other occupants of your car at serious risk in the event of an accident.
Your Windshield is Structural
Next time you are in your car, take a good look around you. The vast majority of the cabin area in front of you is taken up by your windshield. This is necessary so that you can get a good view of what's around you, but it also means that there is less area for metal structural supports. Your windshield takes up this slack, providing a majority of the forward structural support for the cabin. If your car is involved in an accident, your windshield actually provides the necessary support to prevent the cabin from deforming. This is true even in a rollover, when your windshield contributes to the structural strength that keeps your cabin from caving into the passenger area.
Small Amounts of Damage Can Have Big Effects
You might be thinking – so what? Your windshield is huge, so how much harm can a small crack or chip really do? The answer, unfortunately, is "a lot." Auto glass repairs companies will generally refuse to repair damage that is much larger than a quarter, or damage that is located in more than a handful of locations around the windshield. This is because even damage that appears to be very minor can impact the overall rigidity of the windshield. In an accident, those small chips may be the reason that your entire windshield collapses and falls out.
Damage Can Spread Quickly
While even small amounts of damage can have a serious impact on your safety, those small chips and cracks can very rapidly become more immediate problems. Your glass contracts and expands slightly with changing temperatures, and this can lead to damage rapidly expanding. Many drivers believe that they have weeks or even months to deal with a problem, only to discover that a chip has turned into a major crack overnight. Small chips can often be filled to prevent them from cracking and to reinforce the rigidity of the windshield, but replacement is the only option once they begin to spread.
If your windshield has many chips, cracks, or other forms of damage, then it's time to consider auto glass replacement. Not only will this make it easier for you to avoid accidents by being able to clearly see what's around you, it will also help to protect you if you are unlucky enough to be involved in one.