Repairing a Windshield on a Modern Car Can Be an Expensive Mess

Photo: Rogelio V. Solis (AP Images)

As cars are loaded with more and more safety tech, they get more and more expensive to fix. Those systems, though beneficial, are oftentimes very advanced and require more calibrations to get right. Windshields are one part of a car that’s getting quite complicated to repair.

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Advanced driver assistance systems like lane-departure warnings, adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance can have sensors mounted in a windshield, so fixing a crack isn’t always the easy job that it used to be, reports the New York Times.

A camera that hasn’t been recalibrated after a windshield repair, for example, could mean the difference between keeping you between the lines or steering you off a cliff.

“It can be very complicated,” said Mike Calkins of AAA, the automotive group. “With radar and video, typically you need to do a wheel alignment before you do a calibration, because it needs to be pointed straight down the road.” That’s an extra step that wasn’t previously part of a windshield replacement.

Some models may specify that recalibration be done with a full tank of gas (to account for the precise height of the vehicle). Others require recalibration even after such seemingly minor adjustments as changing the wheel sizes on your car, Mr. Calkins said.

Still other vehicles, including cars from Ford, General Motors and Dodge, require what is known as dynamic recalibration, meaning the vehicle has to be test-driven according to very specific parameters.

Some cars, like certain model years from Honda and Mercedes-Benz, require both static and dynamic recalibration, adding an hour or two of testing to a typical repair. That, plus the added cost of the components, has raised the price of repairs after a simple fender bender, according to AAA.

So now, rather than popping over to a windshield repair shop for an hour, getting that glass fixed can easily become an very involved process—not to mention expensive. The Times quotes a cracked or chipped windshield replacement on a car that has ADAS to cost around $1,600.

It recommends that drivers now check their insurance deductible to make sure they are covered for ADAS fixes and know what systems their new cars come with so they can keep up with what’s included when it comes to repairing things.

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For now, a few ADAS features are optional, but I can totally see them becoming standard. That just happened with backup cameras.

You can read the full good (but distressing) New York Times story here.

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Kristen Lee

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.