It’s never a good idea to drive around with a cracked or damaged windscreen. While a small hairline crack or a small stone chip may not seem like much to worry about right away, over time it will only expand and grow until the windscreen becomes unsafe, and by extension, putting yourself and your passengers at risk.
Your windscreen is an important structural element of your vehicle. In addition to providing visibility on the road or motorway ahead, it also acts to protect you in the event of a collision as well as against the elements, bugs, rocks and pebbles, and naturally, the wind. It should be fairly obvious that driving with a cracked windscreen is a bad idea, but is it illegal in the UK?
The dangers of driving with a cracked windscreen
So you’ve got a small crack running along the windscreen or a little stone chip or two, what’s the big deal? Although small cracks and stone chips aren’t necessarily reasons for immediate concern, it’s only a matter of time before they become a real safety hazard.
Small vibrations from a vehicle in operation as well as expansion and contraction due to temperature differences inside and outside of the vehicle will accelerate the expansion of cracks and cause stone chips to develop into larger cracks, often in a spiderweb formation.
When cracks become sufficiently large, the ability of the windscreen to protect against wind, bugs, projectiles, and the elements is greatly diminished. Furthermore, seemingly small impacts or full-on collisions can result in a shattered windscreen, with glass flying inwards at high velocity – not an ideal situation.
It’s far better to have your windscreen professionally repaired sooner rather than later. Not only is the cost of windscreen repairs often significantly cheaper than having the windscreen completely replaced, but it also ensures your safety as well as that of your passengers, as well as remaining legally compliant and ready for that next MOT test.
Legalities of driving with an impaired windscreen in the UK
Is it illegal to drive with a cracked windscreen in the UK? Yes. Driving with a damaged windscreen may be considered a motoring offence, depending on the severity of the damage and where on the windscreen the damage is located. Authorities can issue fines as well as deduct 3 penalty points on your driving license if they deem your windscreen to be in a dangerous condition.
Specifically, the Highway Code stipulates that the windscreen should not impede the driver’s view with imperfections such as cracks or stone chips. You may be interested to know that the Highway Code, however, is not a legally binding document. Instead, the Road Traffic Act can be used to hold motorists accountable for imperfections in their windscreen and subsequently issue fines and penalty demerits on their license.
Will a cracked windscreen lead to failing your MOT test?
It depends. Generally, the rule of thumb to bear in mind when going in for your yearly MOT test is to ensure that the visible area directly ahead of the driver is free of imperfections. But there’s more to it than that if you want to keep your vehicle compliant and to pass the visibility section of the MOT test.
The following will be considered on the MOT test:
- Damage that is at least 40mm in size found anywhere on the windscreen will lead to an automatic fail;
- Damage that is at least 10mm in size found in the driver’s direct field of vision (Zone A in the diagram) will lead to an automatic fail;
- Damaged side windows on either side of the driver can lead to a fail;
- Excessive window/windscreen tinting or noticeable discolouration can lead to a fail if the driver’s field of vision is obscured.
The area of the windscreen directly ahead of the steering wheel, zone A, is a section 290mm wide vertically centred on the steering wheel. Refer to the diagram below.
In summary, there are many reasons why your vehicle’s windscreen can potentially fail an MOT test. It’s always best to have your windscreen professionally repaired or replaced (in the case of severe damage) before presenting your vehicle for its yearly MOT test to ensure that your vehicle is compliant as well as safe and roadworthy.
Failure to complete the MOT test successfully on account of a damaged windscreen costs time and money. You’ll have to book another MOT test at a later date and pay if they do not offer a free retest, as well as pay to have the windscreen repaired on short notice.
Tips to avoid damaging your windscreen further
All right, so you’ve got a crack or stone chip on your windscreen perhaps and you’d like to know how to prevent any further damage whilst awaiting repairs. As cracks and stone chips expand outwards, the structural integrity of the windscreen – and by extension, the vehicle itself – becomes fragile.
Use your best judgment to assess the severity of the damage. One or a few little stone chips from loose pebbles hitting the windscreen, especially if outside of the zone A area directly ahead of the steering wheel, probably aren’t as much of a hazard as a large, spiderweb crack extending from end to end of the windscreen. For the latter situation, do not attempt to drive your vehicle anywhere and instead request a mobile automotive glazier who will come to your vehicle’s location and effect repairs on the spot.
For light damage, if you decide to roll into a nearby automotive glass technician workshop, they can usually fill in the crack or stone chip with a resin compound and have it cured within half an hour to an hour. A repaired windscreen, when done professionally and in accordance with industry standards, will provide full structural stability so you’re good to go.
Get your windscreen repaired today with myWindscreen
Driving with a cracked or damaged windscreen in the UK is not advised. Not only is it a potential motoring offence that can lead to fines and penalties, but you may also be putting yourself and your passengers at risk. You may also fail your yearly MOT test, which can further add frustration as well as lost time, energy, and money.
The good news is that you don’t have to look far to find the best windscreen repair and windscreen replacement services near you. Auto glaziers and automotive glass technicians affiliated with myWindscreen offer high-quality services at competitive prices across the UK. What’s even better is that our partners offer FREE, no-obligation quotes on all windscreen repair and windscreen replacement services.