by Bob Beranek
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Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) have plagued and perplexed our industry for the last few years.

There is confusion over whether ADAS systems are officially “safety” devices. Some have said that because the system can be turned off by the driver, it cannot be considered a safety device. There are very different regulations designed for “safety devices” than other add-ons in a vehicle.

Dealerships haven’t been paying attention to automotive-glass related issues because glass replacement is outsourced to another company, and they depend on the service provider to deal with glass-related problems.

ADAS is a relatively new technology that does not apply to all models within a brand. Unless the carmaker announces a new service initiative with tools, directives and protocols, the dealerships let it pass without much attention. Service managers do not read the manual until they need to. Considering that most dealerships subcontract glass work, it will be up to glass replacement companies to raise questions about the new technology.

A big roadblock in getting definitive answers is the fear of liability, both on the part of carmakers and car repair facilities. I don’t think there is much question that these systems are safety devices, but some companies may be very reluctant to say that out loud for fear of becoming responsible for failures to the systems.

That brings us to our current situation: Carmakers defend themselves against liability by requiring or recommending recalibration, OE glass and/or other hoops to jump through. They hope these requirements will protect against a lawsuit, or at least supply a defense that is deemed plausible. The technology is too new to have a track record of data to prove one way or another right now. We are all trying to protect ourselves by crossing all the “T’s” and dotting all the “I’s.”

We in the automotive glass industry are no different than carmakers in wanting to minimize our liability. We want to release a safe vehicle to our customers, but we need information from carmakers and car designers so that we can define and overcome obstacles to aftermarket replacement.

As we uncover information that could help you in the field, we will let you know. Feel free to collect and forward all the supporting documents, pictures, or information you can for consideration, as well.

You may be thinking cold knives? Why is Bob writing about cold knives when there are power tools and wire-out tools that are taking over the automotive glass removal process? The answer is because it hasn’t happened yet, as much as tool companies and safety advocates would like to make that case. The cold knife is still the most popular tool for glass removal.

The productive use of a cold knife can be nearly as difficult to learn as hitting a golf ball straight, or hitting a baseball on every pitch. There are angles to find, leverage to master, and muscles to develop before a rookie technician can be proficient.

It takes some training. I call it the “sweet spot.” If a technician is able to find that sweet spot, he (or she) is able to cut through urethane like butter. It is amazing the first time a tech gets it just right. Only experience allows you to find it every time.

In one of my classes I taught a 14-year-old girl (no more than 70 pounds soaking wet) to pull a cold knife in two days. However, that isn’t always the case. I had a former employee who took six months to finally learn the technique. The problem with my ex-assistant is that he was a body builder in his spare time. He had a lot of muscle, so he thought that should be the secret to cutting out glass. Because he didn’t want to consider angles, leverage and the use of body weight, it took him a lot longer to learn than it could have.

Another component involved with the efficient use of a cold knife is the blades we choose. One of the most popular blades is the pointed and tapered sided blades invented and manufactured by UltraWiz.

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Their blades have been the choice of many new technicians country wide if not globally. They are easy to insert into a hardened urethane bead. The company offers super thin steel construction and the coated blades, pictured above. This is the blade style of choice by many. However, one thing I noticed as a trainer is that the tapered design does pose an inherent problem for the new and learning technicians. As the blade is pulled or pushed, it has a tendency to move out from under the glass and move towards the wall of the pinchweld. This wasn’t a problem when we had reveal mouldings to cover any mishaps in paint scratches but the modern “exposed-edge” glass mounting requires that the technician pay attention to the blade making contact with the exposed wall of the pinchweld.

When I started as an installer, we had the standard style of cold knife blade with parallel sides.

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This blade was substantially more difficult to insert and to pull. In fact, we needed to regularly use the shortest to the longest blade progression to comfortably cut out the glass. Even then, the blade itself was not always easy to remove from under the glass.

If you are relatively new to the industry and you use the tapered blade in your knife, please be aware of the action of your tool. Tweak the vertical handle in at the base to keep it under and against the glass edge during the cutout. Have the vertical handle of the knife with a slight backward angle while pulling and a slight forward angle when pushing the tool. Positioning the tool in this way will allow for the most efficient use of the cold knife without damage to the wall of the pinchweld.

Please let me know if you have other suggestions for mastering the cold knife. I am always interested in hearing your experiences.

In July 2012, I wrote a blog post about the debate between pulling cowls vs. tucking the glass when replacing windshields. The question came up again recently.

As someone who has been training in the automotive glass industry for many years, I have learned firsthand that safety can never take a back seat behind margins and productivity. Instead of saying, “I put in the glass safely every time,” some techs say (and I hate this) “I never had a problem.”

My question to the people who say they never had a problem is, define “problem?” Is it that you rarely have a comeback or is it that you never maimed or killed anyone? Buddy, if you had a “problem,” by my definition, you would be forced out of the industry by a civil lawsuit or in jail because you killed someone and were charged with negligent homicide. The odds may be against that happening, but I have personally witnessed several court cases where the vehicle owner was injured (or killed). It does happen and the companies that did the installations (not to mention the vehicle owners) had to pay the price.

As I noted earlier, I don’t pull every cowl. There are some vehicles, like the Jeep Wrangler, and older Cavaliers and Sunfires that don’t require it. However, the safety of the installation cannot be compromised ever. What does this mean?

I pull or displace the cowl in every vehicle where it is necessary to make sure the glass is on the bead and not in the bead. The lower glass bead that is behind the cowl panel is the most important for the support of airbag deployment and the support of the firewall in a front end collision. If you compromise or guess on the bonding of the lower bead by not pulling the panel, maybe you will save a few minutes and possibly get in one more job that day. Some will say, as long as there is no complaint from the customer, it must be okay, right?

However, how do you know that you created a solid bond if you did not pull the cowl to see? Making sure your bond is secure is the only way that you can be protected in the event of an accident. Maybe you will get away with cutting corners 99 percent of the time, but your odds decrease the longer you put in glass. That last one percent can get you in real trouble or kill your customer, literally.

Minimizing comebacks and keeping productivity high are important aspects to a successful automotive glass shop, but making sure your installations are 100 percent safe is the only answer to keeping it viable for the long term. Improper installation will hurt you sooner or later, either through customer dissatisfaction due to noise or air leak complaints, through lawsuits connected to injury or through legal action due to the death of your customer because you needed to save a few minutes.

Pulling cowls is not an all or nothing proposition, and as I’ve said, it is not necessary in all vehicles. However, it should not be a debate. Safe installation is the only answer. If pulling the cowl is necessary to that end, get on with it.