Cracked Windshield Laws in California: A Guide


Laws that address cracked windshields vary state by state. In California, the laws are strict; since driving with a damaged windshield can be dangerous for the driver and others on the road, traffic laws prohibit cracked windshields on the road. Read on to learn more about the legal details. 


Is driving with a cracked windshield legal in California?

The short answer is “no.” The following language is included in California’s Vehicle Code, Section 26710 (On Defective Windshields and Rear Windows): 

  • “It is unlawful to operate any motor vehicle upon a highway when the windshield or rear window is in such a defective condition as to impair the driver’s vision either to the front or rear.”

What does this mean for you as a driver? It means that if something happens to your vehicle’s windshield—whether an object or a bird flies into it, or it cracks during a collision—you can’t legally continue to drive the car if it obstructs your ability to clearly see the road or surroundings. Most cracked windshields impair the driver’s vision, so even if your windshield has a small crack, you will want to repair it quickly to avoid legal repercussions. 

If you are found driving a vehicle with a cracked windshield, you will likely be given a ticket. If you are informed during an inspection that your windshield is not up to code, you have 48 hours to repair the windshield (if you are caught operating the vehicle after that period with the windshield still cracked, you can be arrested and given a court date). 

You might wonder why the laws are so strict! It turns out that impaired vision isn’t the only factor; cracked windshields are also not as strong, and may not protect you in the event of a collision or accident (which is more likely to occur if your vision is obstructed).  

Does this apply to all vehicles? 

The law applies to all public vehicles (buses, public transport cars), as well as all private vehicles. This includes all tractors, trucks used to move goods, and fire engines. If it has a windshield, it’s likely that the vehicle is subject to this law. The only exceptions are vehicles that were not required to have a windshield when they were sold or registered, but there are not many cars that fall into this category. 


How do I know whether to get my windshield repaired or replaced? 

Some small cracks will allow for a windshield repair, but most will require a windshield replacement. The general guidelines are as follows: 

  • If the crack is less than 3″ long, or if there is a chip smaller than the size of a quarter, windshield repair professionals should be able to repair the glass. Guidelines can vary by insurance companies, though, so make sure to check your plan details before taking it in for repair. 
  • If there is a crack directly in front of the driver’s view or the crack is more than 3” in length, you will likely need to replace the windshield. This can cost up to a few hundred dollars, depending on the model/make of the car, but it may be covered by insurance. 



If you recently acquired a crack in your windshield, It is important to consult with an auto glass repair professional to make a formal assessment. SD Auto Glass & Tint is your premier source of windshield servicing in the San Diego area.