How To Remove Scratches From A Windshield

Have a scratched windshield and aren’t sure how to proceed? Sadly, insurance rarely covers the cost of scratch repair, and most shops charge between $150-$300. Why waste money if you don’t have to? Thankfully, we’ve put together a simple DIY guide explaining how to remove scratches from a windshield yourself.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Drill with rubber polishing wheel
  • Scratch repair product
  • Glass cleaner
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Masking tape

The process is fast and easy, taking less than an hour to complete from start to finish.

But before we explain the steps, let’s first look at the different scratch repair products available. Then, we’ll review how to determine if you’re dealing with a scratch or a crack. Lastly, we’ll go over at a few simple ways to help prevent scratches in the future.

Windshield Scratch Repair Products

Clear Acrylic Nail Polish

Yes, you read that correctly, clear acrylic nail polish is useful as a windshield scratch remover. It acts as a sealant that fills in the grooves left by scratches. Not only is it clear, but when it dries, it solidifies, and when used correctly, leaves behind a scratch-free surface.

Baking Soda And White Toothpaste

Ready for another DIY mixture for scratch repair that might surprise you? Baking soda combined with white toothpaste – we’re serious. Yet, it only works well on smaller scratches and requires repeated applications since it wears away rather quickly.

Cerium Oxide

Cerium oxide is an oxide from the rare earth metal Cerium. It comes in powder form, and when mixed with a small amount of water, it becomes a thick paste-like substance.

Many specialty windshield polishing products contain cerium oxide. Meaning you can either buy the powder yourself or purchase a product that has it in the mix. Either of these is your best bet for deep windshield scratches.

What’s The Difference Between A Scratch And A Crack?

If you didn’t already know, a windshield typically features two sheets of laminated glass with a plastic layer in-between them. If the damage to your windshield penetrates the outside layer, it’s a crack, and if it doesn’t, it’s a scratch. 

While you might be able to reduce the appearance of a crack using a windshield repair tactic, you won’t solve the problem completely. If one is left alone, it’s likely to spread. This will not only further impede your visibility but may compromise the integrity of the windshield as well.

Think of a scratch as basically, a groove etched into your glass. By filling in that groove with a clear substance and polishing the surface afterward, you effectively remove the scratch.

DIY Steps For Repairing Scratched Glass

Step #1 – Determine How Deep The Scratch Is

The first step is to determine whether a repair is even possible at all. You can do this by running your finger or fingernail across the surface. A fixable scratch shouldn’t catch on your nail and should feel smooth to the touch. If it does catch, it’s likely too deep to repair using a DIY method.

Step #2 – Clean The Windshield With Glass Cleaner

Using the glass cleaner and microfiber cloth, wipe down the entire windshield to ensure there’s no debris left on it. Dust and dirt can collect on your polishing wheel, which will further scratch your windshield while polishing.

Step #3 – Tape Off The Affected Area

Especially after getting wet, scratches can be hard to see once you’ve repaired the deeper areas. For this reason, you’ll want to surround it with masking tape to ensure you don’t lose sight of it. You can also use a dry-erase marker if you don’t have tape available.

Step #4 – Prepare And Apply The Scratch Repair Product

Depending on the repair products you’ve settled on, you may need to prepare it. This applies to cerium oxide powder, as well as baking soda and white toothpaste, which require a small amount of water to be added into the mix. 

The same might apply for some specialty products as well. However, most of these come as a gel-like substance that can be directly administered to the windshield. Be sure to follow any additional instructions listed on the bottle.

For acrylic nail polish or an acrylic-based scratch remover, simply apply, wait for it to dry, and wipe clean.

For the other options, you’ll have to attach a polishing wheel to a drill. Then, apply the product, and start buffing. The idea is to keep a milky consistency. Too much and you’ll leave a mess, too little and it may not fill the scratch fully.

Work in circular patterns up and down the scratched area, gently, with limited pressure. Don’t buff for too long in one spot either, as it might get hot, in which case you might harm your windshield. 

You might have to repeat the process several times, but if it was a light scratch, you should notice it disappear entirely.

Step #5 – Clean The Window

Finish by spraying the windshield with glass cleaner again and wiping it clean with the microfiber cloth.

Tips For Preventing Future Scratches

Keep Your Windshield Clean

While they might not cause deep scratches, debris left alone on your windshield can leave light scratches as your wipers pass over them. Thankfully, if you make it a habit to keep your windshield clean, you can reduce the chances of this happening.

Watch For Signs Of Aged Wipers

Worn wipers are one of the main culprits of window scratches. If you start to notice they’re less efficient than usual, it can mean their rubber blades are beginning to wear. If they wear too much, it may expose the metal surface, which is what will be scraping against your windshield.

Other signs include chattering against the windshield at highway speeds or leaving streaks. As well as visual damage like cracks. Be sure to replace them with a fresh pair every change in the season (around every 6-months).

Keep Wiper Fluid Topped Off

Using your wipers without spraying the windshield first is a great way to end up with light scratches. Remember, dust and dirt are basically small rocks, and if your wipers scrape them against the windshield it’s likely to leave a scratch.

Thankfully, a small spritz of washer fluid is all it takes to keep your windshield safe while wiping.

Don’t Waste Money If You Don’t Have To

Instead, repair light scratches yourself at home.

All it takes is a handful of household items, a scratch repair product, and a little time and effort. At the end of the day, you’ll have a scratch-free windshield, and a higher balance in your checking account.

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Joshua Barrett

Josh Barrett is a writer hailing from the great state of Alaska. While describing himself in the third person is not his forte, writing about any and all things automotive – is. After 13+ years hustling in the exciting world of car sales, he took off to travel the world with his dog Teemo.