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Cracked windscreens now smashing car owner’s wallets

By David Bonnici, 01 Jun 2018 Car Advice

Cracked windscreens now smashing car owner’s wallets

Glass windscreens play a key role within modern driver assistance systems, making the once simple task of replacing them a complex, and potentially costly, repair job

Windscreens have gone from being passive objects through which drivers view the road ahead, to part of active, high-tech systems that can ‘see’ potential accidents before you do.

Where they once held nothing more than a rego sticker, windscreens are increasingly being used to house forward-facing advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) cameras, radars, lasers and sensors, which are used for sophisticated accident-prevention functions such as automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, road-sign recognition, driver fatigue monitoring and rain sensors.

They’re also important to the car’s structural integrity, and are even used to deflect front airbags towards the occupants, requiring them to handle forces from all directions in an accident.

Read next: How to keep your car windscreen clear when it rains

Needless to say, replacing a windscreen isn’t the simple replacement job it once was, meaning a rogue stone flying out from under a truck tyre could end up costing you a lot more than you think.

Much of the extra cost involves carefully separating the ADAS unit from the damaged glass and attaching it to the new windscreen, which adds to time and labour costs.

Then there’s the need to recalibrate the cameras and sensors to the car manufacturer’s specifications. This is vital, as even a one-degree misalignment can cause the auto-braking system to misjudge braking distances. But it can add hundreds of dollars to the cost pf replacing a windscreen, depending on the type of ADAS system and how advanced it is – a lone rain sensor will add to the cost. 

According to Queensland mobile windscreen repairer Service8, a standard windscreen replacement for a mainstream model such as Mazda 3 Maxx, which doesn’t have ADAS installed, is about $500. However, swapping the windscreen of the range-topping, ADAS equipped, Mazda 3 SP25 Astina, could cost up to $2500.

There are two calibration methods, depending on the ADAS system, including Static Calibration that can be done while the car is stationary, which includes using a calibration tool to focus the camera on a target.

Dynamic Calibration requires driving the vehicle on the road for around half an hour and using diagnostic tools to reset tolerances using the vehicle manufacturer’s prescribed method. Some ADAS devices actually calibrate themselves while the car is in motion, which helps reduce the cost.

Read next: Six levels of vehicle autonomy

In each case the car may need to be tested to a default set up, which may include having the wheels realigned and inflated to recommended pressures, taking any heavy weight out of the boot and filling the tank with fuel. All this adds time and labour costs to the process.

If the windscreen repairer is unable to calibrate the ADAS you can get the work done at an approved service centre, though this adds to your car’s down time and potentially costs more.

Either way, it’s crucial the work be done right, so it might be worth checking to see if your insurance covers windscreen replacement especially if your car has a complex ADAS system.

Oh, and if you do get you ADAS tweaked for any reason, be sure the repairer provides a copy of the calibration certificate.