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Windscreen scratches can be irritating, and even hazardous if they’re in the driver’s line of vision. (Polka Dot Images/Getty Images/Polka Dot RF)
Windscreen scratches can be irritating, and even hazardous if they’re in the driver’s line of vision. (Polka Dot Images/Getty Images/Polka Dot RF)

Ask Joanne

Scratches are a pain in the glass Add to ...

I have a few small scratches on my windshield and I’m wondering if these can be buffed or polished out? – Jan in Medicine Hat, Alta.

Unlike the side and rear windows, glass in the windshield is subject to extensive wiping, scraping and general cleaning action – and often with wiper blades that are long past their prime.

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Windscreen scratches can be irritating, and even hazardous if they’re in the driver’s line of vision. You will find polishing liquids on the market that promise to eliminate auto glass scratches, though experts I spoke with aren’t convinced.

“You can try, but you’re probably going to spend 30 or 40 bucks, and hours sweating and putting in elbow grease – because you have to rub it in and wipe it off, do another coat then wipe it off, and repeat as many times as you can. In the end, it’s not really going to make much difference, if any,” says one Speedy Glass technician.

If you’re not eager to put in time and sweat to try the polishing yourself, what about enlisting the auto glass pros?

“The rule of thumb is if you can feel a scratch with your fingernail don’t even attempt it. It’s too deep to buff out. And if you’ve got a whole bunch of really fine scratches, it’s hardly worth the labour to buff them out. By the time you do, if you’re successful, you usually end up with a distortion which is more annoying than the light, slight scratches,” says Mike Phillips, an Alberta regional manager for Crystal Glass.

The consensus among the experts I spoke with is that if the scratches are really bothering you, replacing the windshield is the only option.

If the scratches are very fine, however, a treatment designed as a preventative measure may offer some relief. “There are different products out there, but the one we install and put on the windshield is called Aquapel. For lack of better words, it’s like putting a Teflon coating on your glass; it’s a repellant for rain, slush and snow,” says Phillips. “Depending on the usage of your wipers, it stays on anywhere from three to six months and then you reapply. It’s not an expensive application, and helps reduce scratching because your wipers glide over it, and it also helps reduce the wear and tear on the wipers. We put it on our own vehicles, and you’ll find that you don’t have to turn your wipers on nearly as much, because in a light drizzle or even a heavy rain the water beads up and rolls off the way it does when your car is finely polished.”

So, how might this help with your scratches?

“If you take a look at the outer layer of glass microscopically, it has tiny little holes in it, and this treatment fills those microscopic holes, as it would with a fine scratch or line,” says Phillips.

If the scratches are deep and obstructing the driver’s field of vision, you’ll need to replace the windscreen. If the scratches are fine, and you have the patience and time, try applying a polishing treatment at home, or visit the professionals.

Whether your scratches were caused by damaged wiper blades (known as “wiper burn”), or scraping your windshield with dirty snow, you’ll want to ensure it doesn’t recur.

Change the rubber blades regularly. The experts recommend every six months, or at least each time you change the oil. Before turning on your wipers to clear snow, brush the windshield first. This will also help spare the wiper motor, which can cost $200 or $300 to replace.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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