Along with rocks and road gravel, hail is one of the most common causes of windshield damage. Fortunately, there is usually plenty of warning before a hailstorm so you can bring your pets in, cover your garden plants and put your car in the garage. But what if you don't have a garage, or don't have time to drive to your friend's house or to the covered parking garage at the mall? Here are some low-tech but effective things you can use to protect your windshield from an imminent hailstorm:
Plywood and a Tow Strap
You'll need someone to help you with this, but if you can work fast enough it's worth the effort. Place a sheet of plywood on the roof of your car so it extends over the windshield. Take a nylon tow strap, or a long piece of rope, and wrap it over the plywood, down against the door and under the car. Anchor the hook to the strap and tie it shut. If you use rope, tie the wood down as tight as you can. If you don't have plywood, you can use any durable remodeling leftovers like drywall or panelling.
Foam Cell Camping Pad
If you are a camper you probably have a foam cell pad that you use under your sleeping bag. Place it over the windshield and open the car doors. Fold or roll the ends of the pad so they won't get caught when the doors close. Place duct tape across the pad and through the car interior to secure it, and then close the doors. Don't stick the tape to the inside of the windshield – the doors will hold it in place.
Your Car Mats, Carpet Remnants or Welcome Mat
Any stiff, flat or rubber object will work in an emergency. Cover the windshield with as many as you need and duct tape them in place.
Old blankets, quilts or even throw rugs will provide some protection if they're all you have. Cover the windshield, hood and roof, then tape or tie everything down securely. They'll get wet, but it's easier to dry them than to replace a windshield. The good part about using blankets is that you can cover the whole car and protect it from dents as well.
If you have a few bales of straw for archery practice or for yard décor, pile them on the hood and windshield. They can take a beating from hail and are heavy enough that they won't blow off the car.
While these makeshift methods won't save your car from baseball-sized hail or hurricane-force winds, they might still protect your windshield from typical hail damage. But sometimes you can't win against nature. If, despite your efforts, your windshield does sustain a crack or chip, be sure to have it looked at by an auto glass repair shop. You might only need a spot repair in order to drive safely.