When the Windshield Helps Drive the Car, a Repair Isn’t So Simple

Fixing a cracked windshield used to be the kind of repair a technician could perform in a few minutes in your office parking lot while you were at work. Today, the same repair could take hours and require expensive computerized equipment in a special facility. And it will probably cost much more. If the repair is not done properly, it could have dire consequences.

In this new world of advanced driver assistance systems, features like lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking and collision avoidance are integrated with windshields. They can prevent horrific accidents and save lives, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but they also involve a complex suite of sensitive components, including ultrasonic, radar and video sensors.

Cameras nestled behind the windshield, radar sensors hidden in the front grille and ultrasonic components embedded in bumpers work within narrow tolerances. A seemingly minor impact can knock them out of alignment. And as vehicles — and drivers — rely on these systems more and more, tuning these components properly can be a life-or-death matter.

A camera that hasn’t been recalibrated after a windshield repair, for example, could mean the difference between keeping you between the lines or steering you off a cliff.