Have you noticed an area on your acrylic boat windshield that appears cracked, warped, rippled, or puckered? Are you wondering if it's just a harmless factory flaw or something you should be worried about? The bad news is that what you're seeing is known as crazing, and it is something that you should be concerned with. The good news is that this crash course in crazing will teach you everything you need to know to prevent it from happening again.
What Is Crazing?
Your acrylic boat windshield is made of durable polymers mixed with small particles of rubber. The rubber additive boosts the elasticity of the material, making it far better able to absorb shock than regular old glass.
If you don't properly take care of your acrylic windshield, however, those little bits of rubber can soften or swell up and create tiny cracks in the acrylic.This process is known as crazing and as soon as it happens, the durability of your windshield is sacrificed.
How Can You Fix Crazing?
There are a lot of DIY sites on the Internet that suggest that heating and reshaping a windshield will remove crazing. Yes, acrylic can be melted down and reshaped, and the process will remove the cracked or warped appearance that crazing creates. However, before a boat windshield leaves its manufacturing facility, it is subjected to tests to ensure that it can withstand vigorous conditions.
The average person cannot duplicate these tests, so there is no way to fix crazing with this method and be confidant in the strength of your boat windshield. Even the smallest difference in thickness between 2 spots in your windshield will leave weak spots that will quickly begin crazing again.
While you may be able to find somebody who offers to fix your warped boat windshield, it's a far safer (and likely cheaper in the long run) to have it replaced with a new one instead.
What Causes Crazing?
The biggest crazing-causing culprits are harsh ultraviolet rays from the sun, acid rain, and ammonia alcohol-containing cleaners. Poor workmanship during the manufacturing process can also result in a weakened windshield that will be susceptible to crazing.
How Can You Prevent Crazing?
While you can't fix crazing once it happens, you can take steps to ensure that it never does.
Shop Smart - Replace your boat windshield with a new one, and make sure you purchase it from a reputable dealer. The paperwork that accompanies your new windshield should clearly state that the product has undergone quality control testing.
Avoid Common Cleaners -- Never clean your acrylic windshield with common household glass cleaners. Acrylic and glass have far different properties and thus need to be treated differently when cleaning.
For routine cleanings, wipe your acrylic windshield down with clean,warm water only. Don't use paper towels, either; they're abrasive and can scratch acrylics. Instead, use a clean, cotton cloth and make sure it stays good and soaked while you're scrubbing.
Use A Sealant Barrier Sparingly - You can purchase a spray-on protective coating that is specially formulated to protect acrylic windows from UV rays and pollutants at your local boating supply store. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way, so use it sparingly. A light coat is perfectly capable of protecting your windshield, and using more than recommended will just increase the risk of scratching your windshield while you wipe it.
While acrylic boat windshields are up to 100 times more resistant to wear and tear than glass windshields are, you have to take care of them properly in order to maintain this level of protection. If your boat windshield is showing signs of crazing, have it replaced and use the above information to ensure that it never happens again.