Q: Can Cold Weather Crack Your Car Windows or Windshield?

asked by on

Can cold weather crack your car windows or windshield?

When considering if cold weather can crack your windows or windshield, it is important to first note that glass windows are under tension.

As with any material, glass is subject to stress through expansion, and compression or contraction with changes in temperature. If the windshield or rear windows are completely covered in ice, then it is possible for them to crack when heating them either with the vehicle’s main heater, or using the electric defrost mode. This also applies to the side windows, but, more commonly, it affects the rear window or windshield due to the direct application of heat. In fact cracking is also possible if the temperature that the glass is exposed to goes through extremes, even without being coated with ice.

Automotive windows are made using tempered glass for the side and rear window, and laminated glass for the windshield. The tempered glass is a single pane which is designed through a process which repeatedly heats and cools the glass during its production and gives it strength to withstand the normal forces that are exerted while driving. The windows are subject to flex as the body is bouncing down the road and shifting when the vehicle goes through turns. This strong glass is designed to shatter into small pieces in the event of an impact. As i mentioned before, it is under tension, but very sturdy while at the same time susceptible to shatter under the right conditions.

Pressure over a large area generally will be deflected by the glass and it will not shatter. However, a fine point of energy applied will generally cause the window to shatter into thousands of pieces. That being the case, it’s possible for temperature and stress to contribute to the window shattering. In fact, this is most common on rear glass panels in vans and large SUV’s. I have seen cases of these windows actually exploding when cold or frozen and the rear electric heater element is turned on. The rapid heating of the window combined with the stress or flex of the body can cause it to shatter violently in some cases.

When it comes to windshields, they are laminated. This means that two pieces of glass are bonded together with a plastic layer in between. This strengthens the glass and while it does not make it crack proof, it is by design basically shatter proof. The windshield can be cracked slightly or appear to be shattered but because of the lamination, it will remain in one piece. This is for driver and occupant safety.

Whether it’s for a windshield or a window, you should never attempt to de-ice or defrost with hot water, as the sudden heat stress can cause window cracking.

Was this answer helpful?
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
  1. Home
  2. Questions
  3. Can Cold Weather Crack Your Car Windows or Windshield?

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Malfunction of electrical components - 2006 Cadillac XLR

There is a Recall for a possibly related electrical issue with your vehicle. The Recall issue (NHTSA recall campaign 06v263000) addresses an electrical issue that has damaged various electrical systems with your model vehicle. Discuss this with your Cadillac dealer....

Q: Q: How do I turn on the windshield wipers?

The windshield wipers are a key safety feature that give you visibility when it is raining. The windshield wipers are controlled by the windshield wiper lever, which protrudes from the right side of the steering wheel. To turn on the...

Q: Trouble starting when cold or damp outside.

This sounds like a possible battery problem. Batteries do not perform as well in colder temperatures. Batteries have a rating for starting power measured in cold cranking amps (CCA). I would recommend having your battery load tested by a YourMechanic...

Related articles

P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
P2103 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle Actuator Control Motor Circuit High
P2103 means there is a fault with the throttle actuator control motor circuit, likely due to a defective electrical component or part.