Of all the hazards you face when driving, hail is certainly one of the most dramatic. While it is unsafe to drive through a hailstorm, most hail damage occurs when you aren't even driving. If your vehicle isn't parked in your garage or carport, you can suffer expensive hail damage just by virtue of the car being exposed to the elements.
Is hail really that dangerous for your car? The following post explains what you can expect from this dramatic weather event.
Everything You Need to Know About Hail
Hail forms when a rain droplet is carried higher, where the atmosphere is colder, into a thunderstorm's updraft. The icy droplet then attracts surrounding water droplets and becomes both larger and heavier. Once a hailstone becomes either too heavy for the updraft, or the storm's updraft itself weakens, it falls to the ground. The bigger the thunderstorm, the greater likelihood that hail conditions will develop.
In most parts of the U.S., hail is an uncommon occurrence. In general, the Plains receive more hail; some states — Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado — receive the most. In fact, Colorado and Texas account for 37% of hail-related insurance claims in the U.S.
Although hail can fall at any time of year — any strong thunderstorm with a powerful updraft can produce hail — May and June have the most reported hail.
How Hail Damages Your Car
Size and velocity are the main concerns with hail. If the hailstones are large enough, you can suffer considerable damage to your car, including:
Cracked, chipped, or broken windshields.
Dents to the body of your car. Some may be small and unnoticeable. Others could chip the paint and cause rust if not repaired.
Damage to the side-view mirrors, which can become dislodged by large hailstones.
Water damage to the car's interior if the hail damage allows water to infiltrate.
Hailstones fall to the ground at an indiscriminate speed and can vary in size. Small hail may behave like snow or ice and fall in drifts, causing hazardous driving conditions on roads and highways.
If you encounter hail while driving, your best bet is to pull over and wait for it to pass. Try to find a covered area to park if possible. Continuing to drive could put you in major danger, especially if your windshield or windows crack or break.
What to Do When Your Car Has Hail Damage
The first thing you'll need to decide is whether you want to report the damage to your insurance company. It depends on the type of insurance you have — for instance, you won't be covered with liability-only insurance — and how low your deductible is.
If you do decide to go through your insurance company, document the damage with photos before you get a claims adjuster involved. The insurance company may have a list of auto body shops it recommends, but in many states, like Texas, you are allowed to take your car to the mechanic of your choice.
If you don't use your insurance, you may be able to have a glass replacement company show up at your premises and replace a busted window or windshield. It's worth calling these companies first — you may be surprised to learn that the cost of glass replacement is lower than your deductible.
You may need paintless dent repair (PDR) if the hail damages the body of your car. This type of repair applies pressure to the backside of a car's panels to smooth the dents without damaging the finish. If the finish is damaged, of course, your car may need more extensive bodywork.
Worried About Getting Caught in a Hailstorm?
IDriveSafely.com understands that hazardous road conditions can make even seasoned drivers anxious. That's why we offer behind-the-wheel driving lessons to show new and more experienced drivers how to drive carefully in unsafe conditions.