A crack or a chip on your windshield can ruin your car’s aesthetics and obscure the driver’s vision. It used to be an easy fix, one third-party repair shops could do in your driveway or in a parking lot in under an hour. Now however, windshields are just as complex as the cars they’re mounted to, with repairs having come to involve technology that could cost insurers thousands to replace.
First is the integration of cameras or other sensors in the windshield, looking out at the road with you. “They’re becoming really common on a wide range of vehicles,” says Aaron Schulenburg, Executive Director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, the trade group for collision repair technicians. “What were once really simple operations now require complex diagnostic and calibration work.”
Sufficient insurance should cover such procedures, but that doesn’t mean your insurance company likes it. “A lot of these technologies have been driven by ... the insurance industry, looking to reduce accident frequency,” says Schulenburg. “Unfortunately, it also can be a challenge because the insurance companies are behind the curve on understanding and underwriting these repair processes.” Yesterday’s $500 windshield replacement can run into thousands of dollars today.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems are behind the big leap in complexity. Many of those systems have key sensors that permanently affixed to the windshield. Multiple companies, like Ford and Stellantis, advise against using aftermarket windshields or reusing windshields when they need to be removed, which means a trip to the dealership to get one replaced.
Windshields aren’t the only part that might run into thousands to repair on modern cars. We reported a few years ago that even a minor hit to the Kia K900's advanced driver assist systems could total the vehicle.