When to replace a windscreen

RACV RoyalAuto Magazine

Pass your screen test

RACV members often tell us that the roadworthy inspection they’ve had on their cars wasn’t correct, with their car being failed for issues they were sure were OK.

Sometimes it might be wishful thinking but often there can be a real problem.

Top of the list is an over-zealous approach to windscreen inspections.

Too many windscreens are being failed at the change of ownership roadworthy. At an average cost of more than $500, this is a significant cost to someone selling their car, reducing the budget they’ve got to buy something newer and safer.

The problem seems to be aggressive interpretation on what constitutes an unroadworthy windscreen and a lack of knowledge among consumers on the subject.

Fortunately VicRoads is fairly specific when it comes to defining what is acceptable.

The area of the windscreen swept by the wipers, known as the primary vision area may have bulls eyes (compact circular cracks) and star fractures up to 16mm in diameter and cracks up to 150mm long without failing a roadworthy. That is as long as the cracks do not penetrate more than one layer of the glass in a laminated windscreen.

A little bit more ambiguously, the rules also state that the primary vision area must not be discoloured, scratched, chipped or otherwise damaged to the extent that it impairs the driver’s vision so much that the car cannot be driven safely.

This phrasing is very consumer unfriendly and gives testers a free kick in front of the sticks.

Here’s a tip to measure the “bull’s eye” fracture in your windscreen. The hole in the centre of a CD or DVD is 15mm in diameter. If this fits over the fracture then there’s probably no reason for the windscreen to fail a roadworthy.

Having said that, cracks and fractures do have a tendency to grow to the point where they are no longer legal. If the damage is greater than the proscribed limits you will be obliged to replace the windscreen.

RACV recommends that the damage be patched to prevent further cracking.

RACV believes testers should apply the roadworthy rules fairly and consistently and not take advantage of consumers’ lack of knowledge to upsell them when a new windscreen isn’t required.

Any perception of unfairness or, worse blatant rip-offs would undermine faith in the system. RACV believes that VicRoads needs to review the actions of licensed testers and provide clearer guidelines. This information should be made public in a clear format. Currently the information is in a hard-to-find document on the VicRoads website and it reads like a list of council by-laws.

The public has a role to play, too, by becoming informed about what to expect from a roadworthy and telling VicRoads about any unfair test results. The email address to do this is roadworthy@roads.vic.gov.au

RACV proudly stands behind our Accredited Auto Care Centre network, which repairs vehicles at more than 40 locations around Victoria.

VicRoads says

Testers are advised that deterioration from the as new condition is allowable and a windscreen or window with minor damage should not be rejected.

A windscreen should only be rejected if:

  • It is discoloured, badly scratched, fractured or chipped within the area wiped by the windscreen wiper(s) to the extent that the driver’s vision is so impaired that the vehicle cannot be driven safely; or,
  • In the case of a laminated windscreen, it has any crack that penetrates more than one layer of glass, or
  • In the case of a laminated windscreen, it has one or more bulls eyes or star fractures over 16mm in diameter or one or more cracks over 150mm in length in a single layer of glass within the area wiped by the windscreen wiper(s). One or more bulls eyes or star fractures up to 16mm in diameter and cracks up to 150mm in length in a single layer of glass ... (is) allowable provided that they do not impair the driver’s vision to the extent that the vehicle cannot be driven safely.
Written by Nick Platt
June 01, 2015