I found out from first hand experience that if the vent cover even looks like it is getting ready to crumble it needs replacing .... yesterday. The covers are only about $15 each and install in a few minutes. I replaced 2 last summer. (lost one on the road
) The one under the MaxxAir vent waited until this spring because, as Steve noted, the MaxxAir vent protects them a bit. There is also a more expensive cover made of polycarbonate that claims to be unvreakable.
You do have to remove the inside plastic frame (4 screws), the vent crank handle, and the screen (2 screws) to loosen the crank to get it out of the riser slot.