A broken windshield or side window doesn’t always come from a collision. Whether it’s hit by hail, golf balls, or road debris, a broken window in your car can be a serious hazard. Here’s what you need to know about handling the situation safely.

How Is Automotive Glass Different Than Regular Glass?

There are two types of glass used in cars and trucks: laminated and tempered.

Laminated glass is made by sandwiching plastic between two panes of glass. This plastic layer acts as a shock absorber, helping the glass resist vibrations and impacts. In addition, if one of the panes breaks, the plastic keeps the broken glass from separating from the rest of the pane. These traits make it ideal for use in windshields. Some automakers also use laminated glass rear windows to add structural support.

Tempered glass, sometimes called “safety glass,” is made by quickly heating and cooling the pane. This process makes the glass cool unevenly, creating tension at the center of the pane and compression near the edges. Once cooled, there’s 10,000 to 20,000 PSI of pressure pulling between the middle and edge of the glass. This pressure makes tempered glass about four times stronger than regular glass. If the glass breaks, the release of this pressure breaks the entire pane into small, rounded pieces. These pieces are less likely to cause injury than the shards left behind by regular glass used for the side windows and rear window.

What Do I Do if a Window Breaks while Driving?

The first step when dealing with shattered glass is to avoid panicking. Both types of glass will make a loud bang when they break. Take a moment to collect yourself, then make your way off the road.

Even a small crack can spread across a broken windshield, obscuring your view. You may need to poke your head out of the side window to see where you’re going. If the glass is completely shattered, strike the windshield with the palm of your hand to break away some of the glass. This opening will give you a small area to look through. Then, get off the road as soon as possible.

When tempered glass breaks, the entire pane disintegrates into tiny pieces that will scatter around the inside of your car. Again, the key is not to panic and safely get off the road to assess the damage.

With glass missing, your car’s interior is exposed to the elements. To avoid interior damage to your car, seal it with a garbage bag and tape. While a plastic cover isn’t a perfect solution, it will help while waiting for the replacement glass.

What does insurance cover?

According to the Kentucky statute, any automobile insurance policy that provides comprehensive coverage “shall provide complete coverage for repair or replacement of damaged safety equipment, without regard to any deductible.”

Not every type of auto insurance is covered by this law, however. For example, Kentucky’s zero deductible full glass coverage law only applies to comprehensive policies. So, if you have cracked or broken glass on any window in your vehicle and you have comprehensive insurance, you will not pay the deductible.

If a window breaks during a collision, Glaser’s Collision Centers will include replacement costs as part of your collision repair. If you need only glass replaced in your vehicle, check out Roy’s Auto Glass (502) 585-5801 or your insurance company for more options.