CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Windshield clarity

I bought a Ford Focus ZX5 brand new in 2003. While very happy overall, I’ve noticed in the last few years that the windshield isn’t as clear as it was when new. When sunlight or headlights hit the windshield in a specific angle, I can see dozens of what appear to be tiny scratches. I am assuming this is from all of the debris hitting the windshield over the years. My question is, is this something that can be fixed or will the windshield need to be replaced? If it can be fixed, is this something that is DIY or should a professional be consulted?

There are several chemical “fixes” on the market, but in my experience they are short lived.

You may want to check with your insurance company. I had a windscreen replaced once for free for this very reason, no charge.

I have heard of polishing procedures, but I have no personal experience and the results I have heard of have been mixed.

If it were my car, I would replace the glass. However I would take it to my insurance company and have them take a look at it. They may be willing to replace it for free.

As long as we are on the subject, you should be aware that there are different types/qualities of glass available.

Good Luck

Try a local business which does glass repairs - some also do auto glass - but look for a local business which won’t automatically tell you that you need a new windshield. It’s possible that you do, but a small independent business is more likely to tell you about a repair if one exists to resolve your issue.

There are some repairs that can be done to windshields depending on the type of damage. I know from work done at my local auto glass specialist that deep scratches can’t be repaired, but small rock chips are repairable, so perhaps your light surface problems can also be fixed…you’ll have to ask. I have to wonder though about the cause of your problem: It may be that you’ve used your wipers to clean the glass when there was a lot of dust and grit on it, instead of flushing it with water either at home or at a gas station. I suggest you remove heavy dust in the same way you wash the rest of the car, with a bucket of soapy water and a hose. The good news is that if you are the cause, you’ll be able to prevent it from getting worse, or from having the same thing happen to a new windshield. Use your washer system when you must, like driving in traffic during a storm with spray from other vehicles throwing up road dirt, but otherwise, try to rinse the glass with copious water before using your wipers.

As @JosephEMeehan suggests, your insurance policy may cover or reimburse the repair work or offset the cost of a replacement windshield.

Take the car to a good auto glass replacement shop for them to look at and offer any “fixes”.

The wipers scratch the windshield especially if they are used without water or enough washing solution to float away the dirt. Driving a lot on dirt roads at higher speeds can “sandblast” the windshield too.

I bought a used car with a scratched windshield due to improper wiper use by the previous owner. It didn’t get worse while I owned the car and I was able to live with it. The problem is worse at night when oncoming headlights hit the windshield and cause a “flaring” effect. I just made sure the windshield was as clean as possible inside and out to reduce the problem.

If your problem is worse to the point of dangerous, a new windshield might be the only real way to fix this.

Aging windshields normally get tiny pits in them from impacts, not scratches. I would expect that scratches would be the result of someone trying to remove water spots or ice with something that was not intended to be used on glass. I once ruined a windshield by using one of those sponge-looking paint scraper pads to take off ice.

Certain types of sand and dust on the wipers can make nasty scratches on the windshield as well.

It is possible to polish a windshield, but now that the Chinese have put virtually every other windshield manufacturer in the world out of business, the cost of windshields is so low that it is cheaper to buy a new one than to pay someone to polish the old one.

The Chinese windshields vary in quality from perfectly OK to thin, weak, and optically poor. For my cars, I insist on better glass from the couple of remaining non-Chinese manufacturers, but I have to come out of pocket for the cost difference because the insurance company won’t pay for them.

Mine was the same too. Windshields will get that way over time.

Some states like NH…you need glass coverage to get the insurance to replace it for free (or minimal cost). I have the glass rider. They would NOT replace it for this type of damage…only cracks. So after a couple of months my windshield was hit by this hammer (I mean rock) which caused a long crack that went to the edge. That hammer (I mean rock) had to hit the windshield in the same spot 2-3 times before a crack developed that was long enough for the windshield to get replaced as opposed to just fixed.

A product like Rain-X can mask tiny scratches and improve visibility…Follow the directions EXACTLY…be warned, if you don’t like the results, it can be difficult to remove completely…

In the future, clean your windshield by hand, not with the wipers/squirters…

If you drive on the expressways where I live, the normal lifespan of a windshield is <5 years. They get sandblasted every time you drive on the expressway. This is apparent when you ride a motorcycle without a faceshield. You’d be amazed at how much sand and debris is pelting your windshield and over time, they get pitted. When the right time of year comes along and the sun is low, it can be almost impossible to see out of the windshield even if it is pristinely cleaned. Fortunately, glass coverage is mandatory part of comprehensive coverage here.

Call a reputable windshield replacement company like PPG and get a quote to replace it. You may find it’s cheaper than you think, and it really does make a huge difference. I replaced mine twice over the years (17) on my old pickup, and the difference each time was astonishing.

I’ve. Had a number of windshields replaced due to sandblasting at no cost to me. Just check with your insurance. They don’t want you driving if you can’t see.