You might not have guessed it yet, but one of the most expensive parts of any car is something that you stare at – nay, through – every single day. Sure, the machinations underneath your automobile are a complex web of dollars running around. But the masterful artistry and fabrication of your glass windows are no less costly. It’s not a surprise then that every once in a while, a crack or shatter on the precious glass leaves your running amok, thinking about the rear window replacement cost.
Expect the repair bills to rise upwards of four digits, so do sit down. It’s not a cheap fix, but perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised. The rear windshield plays many roles that we often take for granted. For instance, it keeps us sheltered from the extremes, while also adding an extra layer of protection for you and your passengers. This alone is more than enough to justify the rear window replacement cost, no matter how large it may be. So, let’s get into why these slabs of glass are that exorbitant.
- Front v. Rear Glass
- Causes For Damage
- Should You Keep Driving?
- Repair Or Replace?
- Rear Window Replacement Cost
What’s The Difference Between The Front Windshield And Rear Window?
First and foremost, let’s clear up a common misconception. This is one that’ll help us to better study the rear window replacement cost. Some folk mistakenly think the glass is similar both front to back. It’s a thinking that’s reinforced more so by cars that have windscreens that are seemingly identical in shape and design, both in the front and back. But hold on, as the rear windshield is very distinct from the front in more than a few ways. Before we continue, we can talk about the similarities…
Both of them are glass, and thus will shatter or crack from an impact. All of us must’ve experienced this once or twice over the lifespan of our cars. An accident can result in objects smashing the rear window hard enough to shatter, or at the very least, crack. Even if the collision doesn’t hit the glass itself, it may warp the surrounding bodywork enough to weaken it. If not from an accident, debris can be kicked up from the road, and smash into the glass with force strong enough to crack or shatter it.
There are then things that you can’t predict, like thieves smashing into your car. Or, a hailstorm bursting from the heavens. So then, what are the important differentiations that we have to make between your car’s front, and rear windshield?
1. They’re Made From A Different Type Of Glass
One that might catch you off-guard here, but it turns out that the type of glass used varies between the two. Front windscreens are made from ‘laminated glass‘. So-called, as it consists of several layers of glass – often two to three – laminated together into a singular slab. This is done to enhance its ability to withstand shattering, and we can say that the front glass is more robust.
The goal here is to make sure that when an object makes an impact with the front windshield, it should be strong enough that it won’t shatter. It ought to protect you, and your eyes from being showered by tiny flying shards of glass. Meanwhile, the goal of the rear glass is different. It doesn’t need to protect your face from shards, nor does it need to be as durable.
This is why the rear windshield is made from ‘tempered glass‘. Similar to what you’d find on your phone’s screen protector, tempered glass is actually supposed to shatter everywhere when it’s broken. However, it should be noted that its shattering effect is made to be controlled. Normally, the glass would break up into thousands of minuscule, sharp shards.
With tempered glass, your rear windshield should instead shatter into very small sand-like pebbles. This would help to prevent glass-related injuries, to those sitting inside the car and other users on the road. This difference in material structure and construction is – spoiler alert – the reason why a rear window replacement cost is different than what it would’ve been for the front windshield.
2. Rear Windows Usually Have Heating Elements In Them
Another important difference to look at is the heating element inside your glass, or the ‘defrost’ grid‘. These are those slim – typically orange or amber – lines that run across the length of your glass. For newer cars, these may appear less visible than older ones. But their function is quite simple – to carry heating across the windshield. Thus, it can aid in defrosting your foggy windscreens.
Alternatively, they can also help to melt away snow or ice off your rear windows. Meanwhile, front windshields don’t commonly have heating grids in them. It could be that it’s far easier, and also less distracting (you wouldn’t want to be staring through those grids, would you?), to let the car’s heater warm the glass up. Or, it could be down to the fact that it’s easier to wipe away.
If the front glass is fogged up, you can more easily reach out there with a towel to clear it. The rear glass, on the other hand, is quite far away. While calculating the rear window replacement cost, it should be reminded that these heating grids will need installing, too. As a result, it may take more time to fit in the rear windows on your car than it would for the front windshield.
3. You Need To Clean Up Your Rear Windows Before A Replacement
This is surely one aspect of the rear window replacement cost that you should be aware of. As we noted earlier, the rear window is made from tempered glass. This is designed so that it can shatter into practically microscopic, and fairly blunt shards of glass. Well, since they shatter in that way, tiny shards of glass would practically be spread everywhere on your car.
Therefore, and before the replacement can happen, the technicians will have to give your car a thorough clean. All those thousands of minute shards will need to be picked up from every nook and cranny. Loose items in your car are, after all, a potential hazard. This doesn’t often need to be done for front windshields, so it should be considered when counting up the labor fees later on.
What’s Causing Your Rear Windows To Break And Need A Replacement?
Okay, so we know that the rear windows on your car are very far apart in nuances from the front slab of glass. In all, however, the rear windshield is made to be as robust as possible. This is to ensure that it won’t just shatter or crack that easily. Although, if you’re reading this article, then it must mean the rear glass on your car has just shattered or cracked, right? So, why is this happening? Why is it that all of a sudden, my car’s rear windshield just exploded into tiny pieces?
Well, here are a few common causes for cracks and shattering to appear on your car’s rear glass. It may help us to properly identify the right fixes and rear window replacement cost to consider…
1. Sudden And Extreme Changes In Temperature
Now, for a bit of a science lesson. Glass, as a material and looking at the atoms inside of it, expands when exposed to heat, while it contracts when it’s cold. However, if you subject glass to rapid and extreme changes in temperature, it can put a lot of pressure on the glass. In no time at all, it can shatter, hence why some people have been left shocked when all of a sudden, their rear windows spontaneously exploded. Well, there’s a reason why that happened.
In summary, when the glass is toasty hot, don’t let it chill down too quickly, and vice versa. The strain alone can crack it into smithereens. Here’s a quick don’t-ever-do-this list:
- Leave your car under direct beaming sunlight on a hot summer day for hours, and then turn on the air-conditioning at full blast.
- Letting your car be exposed outdoors on a chilly winter morning, and then getting into the car just to turn the heater up to 11.
- Using hot or boiling water to defrost ice or snow from your rear window (or any glass surface) as you leave for a drive on a cold winter morning.
1.5. What To Do Instead…
On the other side of the spectrum, here’s a set of recommendations of what you should do instead. If not, even the slightest damage that might’ve already been there, like a tiny stone chip or scratch, can be exacerbated with terrible consequences. It can be concluded in letting your glass take its time to cool down, or heat up organically:
- Park your car in a garage or basement, or under any cover at all when the sun’s out. It’s especially so if you’re planning to park out there for a long time. Consider investing in a protected car cover with heat shielding if you regularly park your car outside.
- If your car has been sitting out to bake in the sun, don’t just turn on the A/C at full blast right away. Wind down all the windows, and let the hot air and pressure escape and even out. Then, turn on the A/C, but do it gradually as it slowly starts to cool down.
2. The Effects Of (Extreme) Weather
The climate is one that you can’t influence, but is nonetheless a variable to consider that could end up shattering your rear windows. Hailstones are one of the most common causes of cracked or shattered windshields. At the very least, strong winds can fell tree branches or blow objects and other debris to hit your rear glass hard enough to crack or shatter it.
Going back to the temperature theory again, the weather has an effect here too. A sudden heatwave or unusually hot summer can turn up the temperature on the glass. Meanwhile, winter storms can have the opposite effect. So, do stay on top of your local weather forecasts. Then, maybe think about borrowing your neighbor’s garage to protect your car’s would-be-fragile glass.
3. Consequences Of Collisions And Accidents
This is likely the most common reason why your rear glass has turned to shards, and it’s one that we talked about briefly earlier on. Accidents can have a huge impact on the structural rigidity of your car’s glass. Even if the initial crash hasn’t cracked or shattered it, the warped and bent bodywork of your car could. For instance, if the rear pillars, roof, or rear crash structure has altered in shape.
They can twist and distort the rear glass – or any one of the other window panes – hard enough to crack or shatter it. Of course, car accidents aren’t the only type of collision that you’ll come across. Bird strikes are another common cause of damaged rear windscreens. As is the rouge flying golf balls from a nearby golf course. Thus, be sure to drive your car carefully and vigilantly.
4. Impacts From Debris On The Road
Hits and smashes from various debris as you drive along are another factor that results in your rear windows getting hammered into pieces. Most of these come from small debris like stone chips, gravel, tiny branches, or any type of litter that is left behind on the roads. They can be kicked up while you’re driving either by you or other passing cars, and fly off into your rear windscreen.
While it typically impacts the front windshield more, the back isn’t entirely immune. Alternatively, perhaps you’re driving too close to a construction area, or a road that’s in the process of being resurfaced. Loose gravel, construction debris, or whole bricks could accidentally fall off and land on your rear windows. That said, try to be aware of your surroundings when you drive.
5. Improper Or Poor Installation
The glass is a part of the assembly process in any automobile that has to be done perfectly. As such, poor or incorrect installation of the windows can very easily cause them to shatter and crack down the line. Hence, leaving you, the lucky owner, to have to deal with it. This can be caused due to the use of poor-quality installation equipment, or improper handling by the production staff.
If not installed as it should be, gaps might appear between the glass and the body frame. While this isn’t enough to damage the windows, know that as you keep on driving, the vibrations can cause these gaps to enlarge and intensify. When it does, the glass could very easily pop out of its assembly, and then hit the bodywork hard enough to crack or shatter. Or, it could just fly off entirely.
Should You Keep On Driving Despite Having A Damaged Rear Window?
You may be thinking about the lofty rear window replacement cost, which we’ll get into in a bit, and decide that perhaps you’d avoid that. Maybe the damage – crack, chip, scratch, etc. – isn’t so bad at all. Maybe you think you could keep on driving for a bit longer. Well… Don’t. For starters, it’s illegal to drive a car with a damaged windshield (front and back) as it could badly impair your visibility. This is enough of a reason for us to recommend that you should absolutely get your windshield replaced pronto.
Worse, you’re throwing your safety, and those of your passengers, literally out the window. Even if there’s the tiniest of stone chips or cracks in there, know that it’s enough to compromise the rigidity of the glass. Once a tiny chip appears, it can weaken the structure of the rear windows to a point where say, a small impact with debris could cause it to shatter. Therefore, you should not keep calm and continue driving with a damaged windscreen, no matter how trivial the issue might appear.
Could You Repair, Or Do You Need To Replace The Rear Window?
But, you might ask… Could you simply repair the window instead of replacing it outright? What if the cause of the damage is small, like a tiny stone chip or a minute scratch? Unfortunately, the rear glass, mostly owing to its construction out of tempered safety glass, is much harder to repair. If not, it can be considered nigh on impossible to repair by some experts compared to the front windshield, which can be treated for chips and cracks quite easily.
How could you tell? Well, here are a couple of signs that you could look out for to know if you could be in for a quick and (relatively cheap) rear window repair instead of a complete replacement:
- It’s important to look at the size and depth of the chip, crack, or scratch to determine if it can be filled in instead of replaced. Most shops can repair your rear window with a chip of around 1-inch in diameter, or cracks about 3-inches long. Although, more high-tech glass repair shops could patch up cracks as long as 18-inches if need be.
- If the damage spans a large enough area to affect certain functions of your car, then it can’t be repaired. One example is if the chip or crack spans across the defrost or heating lines that we talked about before. Alternatively, some cars might have their rear antenna powered by delicate wiring embedded into the glass. Damage over this couldn’t be fixed.
How Much Is A Rear Window Replacement Cost On Your Car?
The best way to tell if you need a repair or a replacement is to drive over to a local glass shop and have them inspect the rear windshield. Remember that there are very fine lines between being able to fix it, or needing a completely new unit. For repairs, we can estimate that the average cost for repairing a chip or crack is around $100. If you’re left with no choice, then you’ll be curious to know the extent of a rear window replacement cost. In short, it’s costly.
According to some quotes that we’ve found, the average price for a rear windscreen replacement in the US for most cars is between $200 to $500. For the most part, you’ll likely be paying around $300, and these prices are accounting for both the glass and labor. It should be considered as well that not all cars are the same. The make and model of your car will make a huge difference in the final rear window replacement cost that you’ll have to pay.
Some luxury cars, for example, have double-paned – or ‘glazed’ – windows. These thick slabs of glass help with sound deadening, and thus reducing as much outside noise as possible for the passengers’ comfort. No doubt, a replacement set of rear windshields for this could run you upwards of $1,000 or more. Plus, some cars don’t even have “glass” windows. Racier automobiles, like sports cars, rely on somewhat rather exotic materials such as Lexan to make is glasshouse as lightweight as possible.
Rear Window Replacement Cost – Conclusion
Having learned the nature of rear window replacement cost, you might be concerned about the high price tag attached to it. There is some good news, at least, as you can try to file for an insurance claim. Some insurance policies – though you do have to double-check this with your agent – can cover rear windscreen repairs in full. Plus, it doesn’t come at the cost of any deductibles, if you’re keen to avoid the lofty repair bills. However, most policies have a $100 to $300 deductible for replacements.
But given the average rear window replacement cost of around $200 to $500, that should soften the blow quite a bit. You could even try to shop around for used rear windshields instead of buying up a new one. Those left behind by identical cars like yours could fit right in if they’re still in decently good condition. In all, the financial burden of replacing your rear glass isn’t easy to bear. However, all of the upsides are invaluable, in safety and comfort, and it may just save your life someday.
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