Dear Car Talk:
My 1998 Toyota Camry developed windshield cracks at the upper corners recently. They grew longer, so I took it to a national chain for a windshield replacement. They looked at it and said they wouldn't replace the windshield until the rust was repaired.
I went to the internet to learn more. One discussion said it could cost as much as $2,000 to repair -- if it could even be repaired. Another said junk the car.
The car is in excellent shape. I spend about $1,000 a year on it to keep it that way. Please give me some of your wisdom on this problem. -- David
My wisdom's the same, David: You can either spend about $2,000 to fix it or junk the car.
Here's the problem. They can't replace your windshield because there's no longer anything solid to attach it to. The windshield is actually held in place by a gasket that attaches to the surrounding metal. If any -- or all -- of that metal (the roof, the side pillars and the cowl) is rotting away, the gasket will be loose, the windshield will move around and likely crack.
It's not easy to just patch up the rust with Bondo, because there's probably not enough solid metal there to work with anymore.
So, the solution -- assuming the rust is at the top or on the sides -- is to replace the car's roof. A body shop would have to find a junkyard Camry of the same vintage for you -- one without the same rust problem.
The junkyard would then cut off the old roof, usually at the bottom of each pillar, and deliver it to your body shop. Then your body shop would cut off your roof and weld on the new one. And when you add in the sanding, the paint job and the new windshield, you're easily looking at $2,000.
If you really love the car, and it really is in great shape, that would be your best option. But keep in mind that if the metal around the windshield has corroded to the point that it no longer casts a shadow, it's likely that there are other parts of the car that are rotting away, too.
So get someone to really look it over carefully before you invest in a new roof. And if the rot is pervasive, buy a new roof with a new car under it instead. Good luck, David.
Even if your old car doesn't start, it can start conversations that will help all of us learn more about the world. Donate your old car to your favorite NPR station. Here's how.