How Long Does It Take to Replace a Windshield? Factors to Consider

It goes without saying that having a clean, crack-free windshield is essential for road safety.

In fact, the National Transportation Safety Administration considers your vehicle’s windshield a safety device, and federal law mandates that it be in good enough condition to provide a strong enough anchor to prevent passenger ejection in the event of an accident.

It is therefore crucial that your car windshield always be kept in good condition, and a replacement windshield be fitted as soon as possible when necessary.

(It should be noted though that you don’t always have to get a replacement windshield straight away. Oftentimes, you can fix the problem with a windshield repair kit, and everything will be back to normal again.)

Workers in a garage repair shop replacing a car's windshield

While you might think that getting a new replacement windshield is a significant expense and a hassle, one you don’t have time for, you may be surprised at how quickly a broken windshield replacement can be completed.

Nobody enjoys having to pay and wait for vehicle maintenance to be performed, but when it comes to vehicle safety and legal requirements, it will be well worth your time.

In this article, we’re going to examine how long it takes to replace a windshield whenever it is necessary to do so.

What Would Cause My Windshield to Need to Be Replaced?

A vehicle’s windshield is the only thing between your head and the outside environment in front of you. Any number of rocks, sticks, roadside gravel, or even an animal strike may damage your windshield enough for it to need replacing.

As a general rule, a chip or crack in your windshield that affects the driver’s line of sight, more than three chips or cracks over the entire windshield, or a crack or chip bigger than a dollar bill will be enough to merit a total replacement.

A small chipped windshield that is ignored also has great potential to expand, eventually leading to the need for a complete car windshield replacement.

To avoid that last bit from happening to you, we’ve written a complete guide about how you can prevent a cracked windshield from worsening and becoming huge headaches for you.

Why Is It Important to Replace Your Windshield When Necessary?

Not replacing your windshield when it really needs to be done can cause numerous potential safety and legal problems for you in no time.

Compromising Your Vehicle’s Structural Integrity

Any damage to your windshield can compromise its integrity, which means that it’ll become more susceptible to shattering at any time.

If even the smallest of rocks hit your windscreen when it is damaged, there is a high risk of the entire windshield shattering.

Additionally, if your car were to roll over, the windshield acts as an anchor to help keep the roof intact. If the windshield is already damaged, it can more easily shatter, and the roof can crush the occupants inside.

Causing Visual Impairment

If the windshield in your line of sight is damaged, your forward vision will be impaired. Depending on the size, as well as the location of the crack, you may not see other vehicles, pedestrians, and other road hazards.

Not only does this put your life in serious danger, you’re also putting the lives of your passengers and those of anyone else on the road around you at the time at risk.

Not Preventing Passenger Ejection in the Event of an Accident

If you are ever involved in a car crash, the very last line of protection you have against ejection and possible greater injury is your windscreen.

A damaged windshield will be easily shattered, and will not be able to prevent a passenger from being thrown from the vehicle.

Preventing the Airbag from Deploying Correctly

In the event of a collision, the windshield is what pushes the airbag toward the passengers in the front seats.

However, if the windshield is damaged, the airbag could end up going through the windscreen itself, rendering it almost useless.

How Long Does It Take to Replace a Windshield?

Most dedicated windshield specialists and companies generally agree that a normal windshield replacement will take around 60 minutes under ideal conditions and with no issues arising.

Though a strict windshield replacement can be a rather short affair, the total replacement time (when taking everything into consideration) will be anywhere from two hours to several days.

There are many factors that can affect the total time of a complete windshield replacement.

Who Is Doing the Replacement Work?

Large chain companies like Safelite Auto Glass specialize in car window repairs and make it a point to get a chip repair or replacement done quickly and efficiently.

Companies like this often claim a total time of two hours for a complete windshield replacement job, given that everything runs smoothly and nothing unusual happens.

Smaller shops with limited personnel, hours, and overhead may take longer to complete a total car windshield replacement.

As a matter of fact, some of these shops claim that 24 hours is needed at minimum for a complete and totally safe windshield replacement job.

Each auto glass repair shop (or auto glass replacement shop) also uses different techniques, equipment, and materials, all of which come into the equation and will either increase or decrease windshield replacement times.

Confidence in a shop’s own work and the materials they use will dictate what each believes is a safe period of time for all windshield replacement processes to be complete.

If you’re repairing your windshield on your own, then that’s a completely different story, obviously.

What Kind of Vehicle Is Having a Windshield Replacement?

Every vehicle is designed differently from one another. No two vehicles are exactly alike.

Even though the windshield is generally an easily accessible part of the vehicle, some models require parts to be removed or special procedures to be carried out for a proper removal and replacement.

Many high-end vehicles such as Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, and Cadillac models require longer windshield replacement times because of how each vehicle is designed.

What Are the Environmental Factors?

Taking your vehicle to a specialized glass repair shop will provide the best replacement times and conditions, because a shop’s environment can be regulated.

Companies with mobile windshield repair and replacement services, open shops, and you – if you replace the windshield yourself – all have to deal with external conditions at the time.

Hot and humid conditions are the most ideal for urethane curing, while colder temperatures require a longer curing time before safe driving can be assured.

How Extensive Is the Windshield Cleanup?

Like many other vehicle repairs, a windshield replacement can be messy if you’re doing this yourself. Things like window stickers, the rearview mirror, and the old seal need to be removed and cleaned before being reapplied to the new aftermarket windshield.

Most companies offer to remove interior and exterior stickers and mirrors for the customer, but the old urethane seal will most likely need to be removed with a putty knife or razor after the glass has been removed.

After that, the pinch weld will need to be cleaned, any excess sealant or caulking will need to be cleaned after windshield installations, and the new windshield and the glass will need to be wiped of any dirt and fingerprints.

For vehicles that require the removal of parts or specific windshield replacement procedures, cleanup may be more extensive as well.

What Kind of Adhesives and Other Materials Are Being Used?

Materials used in the sealing of automotive glass include silicon, polyurethane, and acrylic.

Each of these materials can be used for different types of replacements and repairs, but the material used will dictate how long it will need to cure before it is safe to drive your car again.

What Is the “Drive Away Time?”

Drive-Away Time is the amount of time your vehicle must sit after getting a windshield replacement to ensure that the windshield has sealed correctly and the adhesives have dried properly.

Some adhesives claim a Drive-Away Time in as little as an hour before a vehicle can be driven safely. Under less than ideal conditions, many adhesives can have a Drive-Away Time of up to 24 hours, or sometimes even more.

Always refer to the material manufacturer or shop performing the windshield replacement to know the accurate Drive-Away Time in your case.

Not adhering to the set standards may result in windshield leaking, or your windshield coming off your vehicle while driving due to the force of wind resistance.

Is an Appointment Made to Replace the Damaged Windshield?

Nobody can predict if or when enough damage will ever be done to your windshield to warrant a complete replacement.

Emergencies happen, but whenever possible, parking your vehicle and booking an appointment will always ensure that the least amount of time is spent replacing your windshield.

In worst case scenarios, common vehicles can often be found in parts yards with intact windshields. These can often be bought at a lower price than brand new glass, and can be fitted quickly by yourself or a professional.

If you do opt to replace your windshield by yourself, be prepared to take longer time than a professional would require.

As handy as you may be, getting the job done right the first time will take lots of patience and focus.

Here’s a video that demonstrates the windshield removal process, if you’re interested in getting more familiar with it up close.

Are There Any Other Factors to Consider Concerning Windshield Replacement Times?

If you are ever unsure of anything related to a windshield replacement, a certified technician should be able to answer any questions you may have.

Many new windshields even come with a warranty should they be installed incorrectly or break prematurely, depending on your repair shop of choice.

A certified technician will also be able to advise if a full windshield replacement is even necessary in the first place.

A simple glass repair due to something minor such as some jagged edges or a condition that just requires some fills in the crack takes much less time to perform than an entire window replacement, and oftentimes, that’s all you really need if the windshield crack isn’t all that serious.

If a windshield replacement becomes a certainty, check for reputable repair shops with consulting services so that you can be sure of every aspect of your purchase.

Lastly, you can often speed up the windshield replacement process by preparing yourself if a situation ever arises, by not allowing the damaged windshield to get any worse than it already is. That way, you’ll be doing everything possible to make the replacement easy for the service team.

Things like removing stickers, removing the rearview mirror, and even ordering your own replacement windshield could make the entire process much quicker for yourself and others.

Wrapping it Up

You now have an idea of how long it should take to replace your vehicle’s windshield. However, remember not to cut any corners where your safety is concerned! If your windshield needs replacing, please do it as soon as possible and do not put it off for later.

Things like weather conditions, the shop you prefer to work with, the types of sealants used, and what kind of vehicle you own will all have an effect on the amount of time a full replacement will take. The Drive-Away Time will also vary depending on these types of factors (and others) as well.

A certified technician will be able to give you all of this information, as well as a more definitive timeline of events depending on conditions at the time of the replacement. They will also be able to answer any other questions you might have.

Stay safe, and happy driving!

Shawn Furman

I've had a passion for cars since 8 years old, and been a subscriber to Auto Week magazine since my 10th birthday.Ever since I turned old enough to drive, I have driven as many vehicles as possible, while teaching myself how to perform maintenance and upgrade work on every vehicle I've owned.For the past 10 years, I've been honing my skills as a vehicle hobbyist, in recent years also enjoying writing car reviews, opinion articles, vehicle how-tos, car-buying guides, and even provide individual consultations for those who need car-buying advice.In addition to writing for Vehicle Scene, I currently write for Autolist, and also own and operate my own vehicle blog website, The Unlimited Driver.

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