How to Install a Windshield
You might find it difficult to keep your eyes opened and on the road if you drove your car around without a windshield. This large piece of laminated glass can protect you from the rushing wind, flying debris, and foul weather that would otherwise hit your face as you drive. However, it isn't immune from cracks and scratches due to accidents or even just everyday driving. That's why you'll need to install a replacement as soon as you can. Doing so will only take about an hour, but working with glass can be tricky. So, get a friend to help and don't forget to protect your eyes and hands.
Required skill level: Expert
Replacement windshield gasket (optional)
Rubber gloves and safety goggles
Preparing your vehicle
You will need to remove all the items attached to the old one before you can begin with the actual installation, so use a screwdriver to take off your rear-view mirror and windshield wipers. Then, you'll need to cover up any vents near your windshield so that broken glass doesn't fall inside them. Layer on the thick pieces of masking tape to make sure nothing gets inside.
Getting your gasket ready
Inspect the gasket around your windshield for any damage. If it's still intact, carefully make a slit in one corner with a knife before sliding in a screwdriver to separate the gasket from the glass. In this way, you can still reuse this gasket with your new windshield. However, if your gasket is too cracked, just use the knife to remove the entire gasket to dispose of it.
Whether you're using a new gasket or reusing the old one, remove the sealant from it. Then, leave your replacement piece out in the sun to make it more flexible before proceeding to the next step.
Removing the old windshield
Get your friend to gently push on the glass from the inside of you vehicle. Catch the glass as it comes out and lift it off the frame together. Then, wipe off any rust from your windshield's frame and clean up your dashboard to prepare for the next step.
Installing the windshield
Place the replacement gasket around your new windshield and add some sealant to the bottom half of the channel. Then, rub petroleum jelly along the outer rubber groove, making sure to coat the top and bottom center.
Afterwards, carefully lift and lower the windshield onto your frame. Press it slowly to make sure that the gasket fits tightly before wiping away any excess sealant or jelly.
Comparing the Windshields of Flex-a-Lite and J&L
Finding a replacement windshield can be difficult because you need to consider a lot of things when buying such a fragile product. To help you with this decision, we're comparing the products from two brands that sell windshields: J&L International and Flex-a-lite.
We aren't cheapskates and we understand the concept of getting what we pay for. Yet, we also believe there are quality products that are out there for folks like us who need them to fit into our budget. So, we set out to look for a windshield that's priced at around 500 USD or lower.
We searched online and found that the Flex-a-lite windshields can be bought at various price points. Its cheapest can fit our budget at the 250-500 USD price range. But, it also has some products that exceed our limit. It even has a few sets of six that are priced beyond 1,000 USD. In the meantime, we saw that the J&L windshield has been priced at less than 50 USD. We were surprised at this amount as well, but in terms of this criterion alone, it stands out as an obvious winner.
Being able to find a product that's suitable for our car is essential. We can understand that models that are rare or have been out of production for years might have a more difficult search. Yet, we still want to be able to look for most the parts we need and to find it within someone's catalog.
We were saddened to see that the J&L brand only stocks one product, but we do like the fact that it can fit an old-fashioned Volkswagen Beetle. We did perk up considerably when we saw that Flex-a-lite offers 36 different items for a variety of vehicles.
Because the product we're buying is obviously quite fragile, we want to be able to receive some reassurance and support from the companies who made them. We're certainly glad to see that both brands are offering limited warranties for their windshields. Still, J&L manages to offer a warranty with two years of coverage instead of just a one-year coverage (like Flex-a-lite).
Fit and installation
An easy installation and a perfect fit go hand-in-hand, since a lot of replacement headaches come from products that don't fit with a vehicles's other components. With Flex-a-lite, we've found that the windshield we ordered was able to fit directly onto our car's opening. The whole process was easy, even if we did need to do some drilling. Meanwhile, we also managed install the J&L windshield on an old Volkswagen and it was a direct fit.
WINNER:Flex-a-lite and J&L
Appearance, quality, and performance
We need windshields that are clear seems to be the case for both products. We're also glad to see that J&L's product has been made according to the DOT's specifications. But, we appreciate how Flex-a-lite's windshields are made from a durable and scratch-resistant polymer. It gives us the confidence that we'll be able to use the windshield for a long time.
We're surprised by how close this comparison has become. Yet in the end, Flex-a-lite's wider product range and better quality have edged out J&L's pricing and warranty lead. So, we recommend Flex-a-lite windshields for your car.
The Correct Way to Install a New Windshield
Installing a new windshield can be quite expensive if you ask a professional mechanic to do it for you. If you're on a tight budget but you wish to replace the damaged windshield of your car right away, all you need to do is follow the instructions below.
Difficulty level: Difficult
What you'll need:
- Putty knife
- Replacement windshield
- Screwdrivers (Flathead and Phillips)
- Rubber mallet
- Windshield sealant
- An assistant
- Piece of cloth
Step 1: Using a screwdriver, remove the windshield wipers. Since the other part of the windshield wipers isn't touching the windshield, there's no need to remove it.
Step 2: Unfasten the clips that hold the windshield molding onto the windshield. Using a flathead screwdriver, pry up the molding from the window.
Step 3: Using either a putty knife or razor, cut the sealant that holds the windshield in place. Do this very carefully because the windshield can get broken if you apply too much pressure. Note: You may need another person to assist you in doing this step.
Step 4: Get inside the car, and carefully remove the old windshield by pushing it away. If you have an assistant, make sure that he or she will be able to hold the old windshield as you push it away. If you don't have an assistant on the other hand, place a big piece of cloth or tarp that would catch the pieces of glass in case the old windshield shatters.
Step 5: Using a putty knife or razor, remove the remaining sealant from the groove where the old windshield was placed.
Step 6: Apply a windshield sealant to the groove where the old windshield was laid in. Make sure to fill sealant to all the cracks.
Step 7: With the help of an assistant, lay the replacement windshield on the groove. Remove any sealant that oozes out of the groove with a piece of cloth rag. Once the windshield is already secured, reinstall the windshield wipers.
Step 8: Using a rubber mallet, reinstall the windshield molding over the windshield.
Once the new windshield is installed, make sure that the doors of your vehicle are open for the next two days. If you fail to close the doors, the pressure from inside the cabin can cause the new windshield to pop out of place.
Windshield Buyer’s Guide
- The windshield is an automotive glass panel that is installed at the front of the passenger cabin. The windshield is installed on the window frame through the use of a rubber gasket and a sealant.
- The windshield provides the driver with a clear view of the road ahead, while at the same time creating an air-tight environment that protects all of the car’s occupants from kicked-up road debris and the elements.
- The glass panel is made up of two sheets of curved glass with a layer of polyvinyl butyral in between. These three components are chemically and mechanically bonded with each other to ensure that the glass panel stays in one piece. Once bonded together, the panel is bent and cut to fit vehicle specifications.
- Windshields may have an infrared-reflective glass, a heating mechanism, or a shade band.
- The general consensus is that a windshield must absolutely be replaced if the damage runs deeper than the outer glass. You may choose to replace your windshield if it either has a single deep crack or more than three minor cracks.
- The only exception to this rule is if the smaller cracks and chips are located near the window frame.
- While it may be possible to drive short distances with a damaged windshield, it is strongly recommended to consult an auto glass expert immediately. Only a professional will be able to gauge if it is safe to drive your cracked windshield.
- Windshield replacement costs will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, model, and make. OE replacement windshields will generally cost you somewhere between $60 to $82. These are sold individually or as part of a kit.
What is a windshield?
The windshield is an automotive glass panel that is installed at the front of the passenger cabin. Unlike what some may think, it’s actually made up of two curved sheets of glass with a plastic layer sandwiched in between to minimize shattering. It’s installed on the window frame using a rubber gasket and a sealant.
What is the function of a windshield?
The windshield provides the driver with a clear view of the road ahead. At the same time, this glass panel protects all of the car’s occupants from kicked-up road debris and the elements. It keeps you dry while driving under rain or snow. Together with the car door and rear windows, it allows you to create an airtight environment that helps your air conditioning system keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
What kind of glass is used for windshields?
While automakers differ in terms of the look and shape of their windshields, most of these parts are made of the same material. The glass panel is made up of two sheets of curved glass with a layer of polyvinyl butyral in between. These three components are chemically and mechanically bonded to ensure that the glass panel stays in one piece. Once bonded together, the panel is bent and cut to fit vehicle specifications.
Common windshield features
Your windshield may come with different features that make it easier to drive under different conditions.
This type of windshield glass may appear to have a purple hue when viewed from outside the vehicle. As its name suggests, it filters out harmful infrared waves while allowing visible light to enter the window. Reflecting the infrared waves reduces your cabin temperature by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, thus reducing the need to put your A/C on full blast in the hot summer months.
Just like how an infrared-reflective glass helps control cabin temperatures in the summer, a heated windshield will keep your windshield free from ice during the colder months of the year. You may notice that this type of windshield has small wires embedded within. These wires conduct heat that defrosts the glass surface and improves your visibility.
This feature also reduces the need to run your heater on high to prevent the glass from fogging up. Most importantly, this will help you save time de-icing your car in the morning.
Aside from the sun visor inside your car, some vehicles come with a shade band that helps protect the driver and passenger’s eyes from the glare of the sun. This feature usually comes as a dark tinted strip, usually between three to six inches wide, located at the top part of the windshield that connects to the roof. These often come in shades of grey, green, or blue that diffuses sunlight without completely blocking it out.
When to replace a windshield
The general consensus is that a windshield must absolutely be replaced if the damage is deeper than the outer glass. You may replace your windshield if it either has a single deep crack or more than three minor cracks. Check for cracks that are more than 14 inches in length or bullseyes that exceed three inches in diameter.
The only exception to this rule is if smaller cracks and chips are located near the window frame. In this case, replacement is necessary even if the damage seems smaller than the measurements mentioned above. Any cracks near the frame can create fissures that compromise the structural integrity of your windshield.
What should you do with a cracked windshield?
While it may be possible to drive short distances, it is strongly recommended to consult an auto glass expert immediately. Only a professional will be able to gauge if it is safe to drive your cracked windshield. In case of an emergency, you may use the following tips.
Remember that these are only meant as temporary fixes, and your priority should be to get your vehicle to a professional.
Use super glue or nail polish
Wipe the area clean and apply a layer of super glue or nail polish to the crack to prevent it from dirt or moisture.
Keep your car protected from the elements
Protect the glass from further damage by parking in the shade or in a covered garage. If you are parking your car outdoors for an extended period, it helps to use a car cover to protect your windshield from water and direct sunlight.
Keep a windshield repair kit in your car
These glass repair kits contain a resin that helps keep small chips and cracks from getting worse. However, bear in mind that this is not meant as a long-term solution.
How much does a windshield replacement cost?
Windshield replacement costs will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, model, and make. OE replacement windshields will generally cost you somewhere between $60 to $82. These are sold individually or as part of a kit. It is strongly recommended that you seek the help of an auto-glass professional during the installation of your windshield to ensure a secure and proper fit.
Why is windshield repair important?
It is important that you do windshield repairs immediately to ensure a clear and unobstructed view of the road. The windshield’s design is critical not only for your comfort but also to keep the structural integrity of your vehicle intact.
A cracked windshield increases the likelihood of injury in case of a rollover accident because your roof won’t be able to hold up as much weight with a damaged windshield. This part will also unable to push the airbags towards the occupants during a collision in a forward collision. There is also a high chance for passengers who aren’t wearing their seatbelts to be ejected through the windshield in a car crash.
Finding the right fit
Make your search for the right windshield easier by using our website’s built-in vehicle selector. Just plug in your car’s complete information in the search bar to activate the filters and browse our selection of compatible parts.