It's a sickening feeling when you're driving down the road, and you hear that sound, almost like a pop or snapping noise; it's when a rock hits your windshield. I know this because it happens to me too often, certainly more often than the average driver. Maybe it's just bad luck, but I've dealt with windshield issues most of my driving life, especially when I started exploring out to see more of the country.
A sizable rock came off a construction truck in Iowa and broke my windshield. A large section of slushy, frozen snow popped off the top of a semi-trailer while driving through the twin cities. It seemed to float like a potato chip through the air before smashing my windshield. When I reported it, the state trooper asked if I was following too closely. "I wish I had been," I told him, "then the icy chunk would have sailed right over my car."
Shoot, I was on a four-lane highway in Idaho, in the left lane passing a semi-truck, and sugar
beet flew off the top of her trailer and cracked my windshield. Can anyone else tell me a sugar beet has stuck them?
In most states, if a vehicle kicks up a stone or any other debris from the road and hits your car,
it is considered a "road hazard," and the other driver has no responsibility for damages. However, if something falls off their vehicle, they do. In each case mentioned, I contacted the companies, and they paid for my repairs.
I don't even have to be driving to have an incident. One time I was watching a baseball game at
Wildwood park. A foul ball was popped up very high in the air. Naturally, it came down and hit my car, cracking the windshield.
Another time, I was following my wife to Duluth to drop off my car at the service shop; she was my ride home. All of a sudden, I heard it; SNAP! "You've got to be kidding me!" I said, then looked for the chip. Sure enough, there was a fresh new star in the glass just under the rearview mirror. I called her immediately, "You just kicked up a rock, and it chipped my windshield." At first, she didn't believe me, then denied any liability or wrongdoing. She claimed she was too far ahead of me for a rock from her tire, hit my car. "Well, it did," I said, then adamantly insisted, "and you're going to pay for my windshield." There was a long silent pause. "Hello? Are you there? Hello?" My car glass is immune from nothing, not sweet things, not even love!
A chip can turn into a crack running wild random directions across the glass in extremely hot or cold temperature changes. Having the chip repaired or filled can help avoid cracking. I get rock
chips frequently, so I'm familiar with the auto glass repair shop.
When I lived in Iowa, it was not a problem to drive a few blocks where Ottumwa Glass would repair my windshield. But living in northern Minnesota is different. We live sixty-five miles from the glass shop, a hundred-thirty-mile round trip. A rock chip is a real pain in the glass - if you know what I mean.
In the old days, doctors made house calls, but you had to take your car to the shop for a new
windshield. Times have changed; doctors don't make house calls anymore, but the glass shop does.
Shortly after we moved to Minnesota, I needed to replace the windshield on a truck I bought. I called City Auto Glass in Duluth for an appointment and was told, "We come to Silver Bay every Tuesday. Do you have a heated garage?" I did not, so she gave me the name of a local garage, "If you can bring it in a ten-o-clock, we can fix it for you there, and it will be ready to go in about two hours." Being skeptigal, as I am, (that's not a typo, it's a person who is skeptical and frugal – you know, cheap?) I asked how much more it cost to have them come up. "It's the same price. If the weather was warmer, we could replace the glass right there in your driveway." Wow. How could I refuse a deal like that?
The bright red City Glass van has been in my driveway several times since then, in addition to the numerous times I've been to their shop. About a year ago, they came and repaired a rock chip on my truck. During the past winter's spell of minus thirty-five-degree temperatures, the chip ran, making a large circle from the passenger to the driver's side of the glass. It was time to make an appointment to get a new windshield.
Admittedly, I'm not a real fan of some of the new technology; I don't get it; that's why I still carry a flip phone; however, some of it just makes good sense. For example, City Auto Glass has locations in several towns. If the office people are busy or on the phone when you call the local number, someone from another site will answer your call. You'd never know you're talking to someone out of town – unless, of course, you are one to break a lot of windshields. Lisa answered the phone, and I knew there's no Lisa in the Duluth office.
Lisa got some information from me about the vehicle. She wanted the VIN to make sure she ordered the correct windshield. I told her I didn't have the number with me, but they should have the truck in their system. "Ah yes, I see we repaired a rock chip on this vehicle last May." It's a mystery to me how she knew that or how she knew the schedule for the Duluth shop. "Okay, the guys will be out Tuesday morning at ten to replace the windshield on your truck in your driveway. Is there anything else I can do for you today?" With the business portion of our call done, it was time to have some fun.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is." I said, "While they're here, could you ask them to bring in the trash can from the curb and set it inside the garage?" There was a slight pause as Lisa tried to figure out if I was serious. "Also, can they feed the dog and do the dishes? Oh, and sweep the floors if they have time." We shared a good laugh about that. "You are full service, aren't you? This is my idea of full-service."
Lisa was still laughing when she asked, "Is there any laundry that needs to be done and would you like them to mow the lawn?"
I was pretty sure she was kidding, but just in case, I asked, "Do you think they'll have time?"
We shared another good laugh; I told her I'd look forward to seeing the guys on Tuesday. Amidst all the merriment, I forgot to ask about payment.
I called right back and reached Lori. I gave her my name and told her I had just set up an appointment. "Yes, I see Lisa scheduled your windshield replacement for Tuesday," I
explained that I forgot to ask about paying my bill, then asked if I could speak with Lisa. "Lisa is in our Rochester office, but I can help you."
"Rochester?" I questioned, "Then you must be in the Duluth shop."
"No," she replied, "I'm just down the road from you - in Mankato."
"Mankato? That's two hundred and fifty miles from here." I expressed.
"Right," she confirmed, "just two-hundred-fifty miles down the road from Duluth." I got thinking about it; when anyone drives enough to get as many rock chips as I do, two-hundred-fifty miles is just down the road.
"Let me see if I've got this right; I called Duluth, and Lisa answered the phone in Rochester and
scheduled an appointment for the Duluth shop. I called back with a question for Lisa and I get Lori in Mankato to discuss a question I had for Lisa, in Rochester, about the windshield the Duluth shop is going to replace in my driveway in Silver Bay?" My head was spinning. "Are you keeping all this straight, Lori?"
Lori laughed, "Absolutely, and to answer your question, Lisa, in Rochester, already received the authorization from your insurance company for the Duluth Shop to replace your glass. So, the service technicians will give you a paid receipt for replacing your windshield when they come to your house in Silver Bay – and they'll still be there on Tuesday at ten a.m." Whew! Somehow through all that, I was sure they’d come through as they always do. They've never let me down.
On Monday, I called again and got Debbie in the Duluth office. She confirmed, "The guys will be
there tomorrow, and the insurance company has already authorized the repair, so you won't have to pay anything – it's all taken care of." How could she possibly know this? That information was in Mankato – or was it Rochester? I was impressed, but that's not why I called.
I explained, "There's rain in the morning forecast, and they'll be working outside in the driveway,
so that's not going to work. Would you be able to get me in the shop if I bring the truck to Duluth tomorrow?" She said that it would be no problem if I could be there at nine.
I arrived at the shop just a few minutes early. The big overhead garage door opened, and Dakota, the technician, came out, "You must be Tom, with the Dodge Dakota?" I told him I was, "We're all ready for you." I handed Dakota the keys to the Dakota, then walked into the office, making no mention of the coincidence of names.
Debbie said, "It will take about two and a half hours to change the glass and allow drying time. Are you going to wait here?" I told her I would go to the restaurant next door to write while they had the truck in the shop. "The restaurant's dining room isn't open, just the drive-through," she said, "You can take our loaner car if you'd like to go someplace else." I thought that was pretty
nice, and I took her up on the offer.
About 10:30, I got a call from Dakota at the shop, "We finished your truck; it just needs to set a
while longer to dry. You can come to get it any time after 11:10." Wow, that was fast – they're twenty minutes early.
Another thing I like about City Auto Glass, if a chip they repaired turns into a crack, they'll take the repair cost off the price of a replacement (some exclusions apply.) I asked Dakota about it. "Well, the chip we repaired in May was on the bottom right side, and it ran up to another chip on the top right side." How could he possibly know that – not about the second chip, but the windshield repair in May, that was done in my driveway?
"I had two chips?"
"No," he explained, "the chip on the top right ran across the glass, then looped down to join the third chip on the bottom left, which then ran back over to the original chip. That's how it made a big circle."
"I had three chips." I was surprised.
"Four. There's another small chip down in front of the VIN."
I queried, "Does this fall under some exclusions apply?" We shared a good laugh about that. When he told me about the other chips, I remembered getting the one in the top left. I felt sick when I heard that popping noise when the rock hit the glass, but I had no idea there were two more.
I was very pleased with the work and they were right on time as promised.
In front of the shop, a van with a lift bucket was parked in the first sp*ace. I stopped to chat with the driver and his helper, "I wouldn't park there if I were you."
"We're changing the sign, the driver explained, "we'll have it done soon."
"I know," I said, pointing my thumb toward the shop, "But these guys are fast! If you're there very long, they'll slap a new windshield in your van before you know it." We all shared a good laugh about that. "By the way," I added, "the new sign looks great! You two do good work!"
When I left home, it was raining. Now, it was a beautiful sunny day in Duluth. It seemed even more beautiful than usual, but it always does when looking through a shiny, brand new windshield. I was sure glad it worked out to bring the truck to the shop in Duluth. Even though we changed locations, they still completed the job on Tuesday - and an hour and twenty minutes early at that.
I returned home to a real surprise! Someone took the trash in from the curb and fed the dog. The dishes were done, and the floors swept. Even the laundry was washed, dried, and folded. The lawn didn't need mowing yet, but still, I wondered, "How could those technicians possibly have got all this done? I was only in Duluth for a few hours?" The thought made me laugh.
My wife did all those chores while I was gone, but if City Auto Glass would have come to my house that day, I'll bet they would have done those things for me. Speaking of my wife, now that I think about it, she never did pay for the windshield when she threw that rock at me with her car.
Rock chips and cracked windshields are a pane in the glass - if you know what I mean, but having good people to take care of things, sure does ease the pain.
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!