Cracked windscreen

Can you drive with a cracked windscreen?

Is a cracked windscreen an MOT failure?

Windscreens cracks are one of the most common types of damage you’ll find on your car. It’s easy for a piece of loose gravel or a branch falling from a tree to cause a crack.

But while it might only be a small crack, it’s important to know the laws around chipped windscreens and how damaged windscreens affect your safety while in the car.

This guide will explain common causes of cracked windscreens, laws to be aware of, how it could affect your MOT and how to get it repaired.

In this article

Car windscreen with crack above steering wheel

Cracked windscreens  what causes them?

Cracked or chipped windscreens most commonly happen after being hit by rocks, stones, or gravel thrown up from the road by the tyres of other cars.

There’s not much you can do to prevent this entirely, but leaving space between your car and the one in front can reduce the risk of this happening.

Cracked windscreens can also be a result of poor glass quality, particularly if it’s already been replaced by someone other than an expert technician.

Cracks and chips can also be caused by debris knocked about by bad weather, such as falling tree branches, as well as sudden changes in temperature.

Your car is always likely to be safest in a garage if you have access to one, and it’s better to avoid using boiling water to defrost a frozen windscreen.

While your car is in your garage, it’s also worth checking other basic maintenance items, like your battery and your tyres.

Can you drive with a cracked windscreen?

Depending on the size of the crack, it may be illegal to drive with a cracked windscreen and might constitute a motoring offence, as it could be considered use of a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Drivers legally need to have a full view of the road ahead. Any blockages of that view can result in a fixed penalty of three points on your licence, as well as a fine. It’s also dangerous to drive if you can’t see the road clearly.

The penalties may increase if you’re involved in a collision while you have a cracked windscreen, as it makes it more likely that the accident was your fault.

If you take out breakdown cover with us, we can help you after an accident.

Is a cracked windscreen an MOT failure?

Your car might fail its MOT if its windscreen is damaged. Windscreen chip MOT rules mean that a chip of 40mm anywhere on the windscreen will result in failure.

But even a smaller chip of as little as 10mm can result in MOT failure if it’s within a certain area of the windscreen at the steering wheel, as this means it’s in the driver’s line of vision.

If your car fails its MOT due to damage to the windscreen, you’ll need to get the windscreen chip repaired before retaking the MOT.

How much does it cost to repair a windscreen chip?

Basic repairs to your windscreen can generally be affordable and will vary depending on the damage itself, but you should expect your windscreen chip repair cost to be between £100 and £140. These repairs are often covered by your car insurance.

This is one of the reasons it’s important to get damage looked at as soon as possible – the longer you wait to get repairs, the larger the damage is likely to be and the more the price will increase.

Replacing the entire windscreen can be upwards of £100, with high-end vehicles reaching as much as £400 to £500.

AA Smart Care allows you to book in for an MOT, service or expert vehicle check quickly and easily.

How to repair a windscreen chip

Windscreen repair depends largely on the nature of the crack or chip.

A small chip can be repaired without replacing the windscreen in one of the following ways:

  • Filling the chip in with resin yourself using a windscreen chip repair kit.
  • Taking your car to an expert.

It’s always better to take the damage to an expert technician first or speak to your insurance provider as incorrectly repairing a chip may not resolve the issue, which means the damage could increase over time.

For the same reason, it’s also important to get any windscreen damage looked at as soon as possible.

Smaller chips can be repaired at a lower cost than a full replacement but the longer you go without getting the repairs done, the more a chip can spread.

Larger chips or cracks will mean higher costs or might even result in the entire windscreen needing replaced.

Expert tips for avoiding windscreen damage?

Taking care of all parts of your vehicle is important and should never be overlooked – that includes your windscreen. Our top tips can help you avoid windscreen chips and damage:

  • Avoid gravel roads and areas with lots of construction

If you can't avoid these, make sure to at least drive slowly to reduce the risk of rocks or debris getting kicked up at your windscreen.

  • Leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front

This should help to reduce the risk of debris being thrown up at your windscreen by the tyres of whoever is in front of you. This is one of the most common causes of windscreen damage.

  • Check the condition of your windscreen wipers

If your windscreen wipers are in rough condition or badly damaged, they can exacerbate any windscreen damage and chips you may already have.

  • Park your car under shelter

If you have access to a garage, parking your vehicle in it will ensure better protection from the elements. Other vehicles can still kick up pebbles at your vehicle as they're driving past.

  • Don't try to defrost your windscreen with boiling water

This could cause too quick of a temperature change to your windscreen, leading to an increased likelihood of stress fractures.

  • Avoid travelling in bad weather

Storms and strong winds can mean an increased likelihood of damage to all parts of your vehicle, but your windscreen is at particular risk from falling branches and flying debris.

Cracked windscreen laws

Cracked windscreens can be a costly annoyance, but are they also illegal? The short answer is yes, in most cases. Driving with a chipped windscreen might not be considered an offence, if the chips don’t in any way obscure your vision as the driver or cause large amounts of glare for other drivers.

However, driving with a cracked windscreen may be seen as an offence due to driving a vehicle in an unsafe condition. If the crack is bad enough, it may obscure your vision or cause other drivers to be dazzled.

Specifically, if your windscreen chip or crack is bigger than 10mm and directly in front of the driver, or bigger than 40mm anywhere else on the windscreen, it will fail the MOT.

The penalties may increase if you’re involved in a collision while you have a cracked windscreen, as it makes it more likely that the accident was your fault.

How far can you drive with a cracked windscreen?

If your windscreen is cracked, as opposed to just chipped, you shouldn’t attempt to drive anywhere. We recommend that you only drive if it’s to get your windscreen repaired or replaced.

How do you fix a crack in a windshield?

We don't recommend that you repair your windscreen yourself as modern windshields contain unseen sensors that may affect other safety features on your vehicle. Instead, only get a professional to fix any cracks in your windshield.

Can you stop a crack in your windscreen from spreading?

We wouldn’t recommend trying to improvise even a temporary solution to stop a crack in your windscreen from spreading, as you could inadvertently cause further damage or obstruct your view while driving. Instead, get a professional to repair your windscreen.

Published: 30 July 2021 | Updated: 12 March 2024 | Author: The AA