by Bob Beranek
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My old boss at Auto Glass Specialists, Mr. B, always said the customer has just one way to measure a quality job immediately after an installation: by how well the vehicle was cleaned up. Think about it for a minute—the customer doesn’t know if his glass is bonded correctly. He doesn’t know if the installation will be leak free. Many times he doesn’t know what the moldings and trim looked like prior to installation. All he knows is how his vehicle looks now.

Mr. B’s motto for his company and the installation crew was always, “leave the customers’ vehicle cleaner than you found it.” That may mean cleaning all the glass and not just the part you worked on. It could mean vacuuming out the vehicle or simply dusting the floor mats. Whatever “extras” were done, he felt the customer would appreciate and reward the effort.

I remember an incident that illustrates our company’s dedication to customer service and cleaning the customers’ vehicle:

A technician in one of the branches I managed really took to heart our owner’s directive to leave the vehicle cleaner than he found it. He was dispatched to replace a broken rear door glass. Upon arrival, he noticed that the rear passenger compartment looked like a dumpster. It was filled with sporting equipment, school books, notebooks and wrappers from every fast-food franchise imaginable. However, he knew what his job was. Once he was done with the installation, he did a stellar job of cleaning up everything.  He threw away the garbage and neatly stacked the books, notebooks and sporting equipment on the back seat and proceeded to vacuum up the broken glass.

When the technician arrived back at the shop, his manager asked him if he remembered this particular door glass. Obviously he did, and he asked if there was a problem. “Yes,” the manager said, “when you cleaned up the broken glass, the customer said you threw away a McDonalds Monopoly game piece worth a thousand dollars.” True or not, we ended up giving the customer a free installed door glass, demonstrating Mr. B’s dedication to customer service.

We may or may not have been taken advantage of, but the incident did pose a dilemma. As a company, how do we portray the impression of a “clean” car without getting it too clean? We decided to have bags printed with our company name on them accompanied by the words “Litter Bag.” We supplied every tech with a generous supply of them. The directive was that all items found in the vehicle, except broken glass, were to be put in the bag and left on the seat. What we had accomplished by using the “litter bags” was that we were able to deliver a vehicle cleaner than we found it, leave the customer a little gift of a litter bag for future use, place our company name in front of anyone occupying the vehicle and eliminate future claims of cleaning too well.

I tell the people I teach that Mr. B’s old adage is still applicable today. Use drop cloths on the interior surfaces, fender covers on exterior surfaces. Pay attention to the hidden mess, under the exterior door handle, behind the inside rearview mirror, the door pull area of the door panel and behind the steering wheel.  Don’t forget to tape up the defroster vents and radio speaker covers.  Clean it as if it were your own vehicle.  If you can leave a gift with your company’s name, they won’t forget you.

A few years ago, I was asked to judge an auto glass installation competition at a large western glass company. That company planned on having the competition at a race track in their area so spectators would be able to watch. The temperature that day was going to exceed 100°F and the vehicles were parked outside in full sunlight.

When the judges arrived, we checked the adhesive instructions which stated that the application temperature should not exceed 110°F. Obviously, we were concerned about the high temperatures surrounding the competition. However, when the instructions said “application temperature” did they mean product temperature, surface temperature or ambient temperature?  What would be the ramifications of applying the adhesive in extreme temperatures?

We had an adhesive representative who was present for the competition, so we asked him for advice. Unfortunately, he did not know the exact answer, and due to the fact that the competition was occurring on a weekend, we were unable to contact a technical advisor at the adhesive company’s technical lab.

Through some serious discussion between the replacement company owner, the adhesive representative and the judges, we decided to take steps to cool down everything involved with the installation. We placed the glass and adhesives into air-conditioned service vehicles to make sure that the glass surface and the adhesives were well under the temperature limit of 110°F. We also started the vehicles and ran the air-conditioning in advance of the competition to assure that the vehicle was cooled down before the competition proceeded. We weren’t sure at the time what the upper temperature limit of the “Application Temperature” meant, but we were certainly not going to install glass under conditions contraindicated by the sealant manufacturers.

Since that incident occurred, I have researched this issue and found that there are different consequences for applying adhesives beyond their temperature limits. They can include bonding deficiencies, application problems and storage concerns. Obviously, the most important of these consequences is the bonding problem. If the sealant does not bond properly, the result could be injury or death caused by improper glass performance in a crash.

If the adhesive loses its viscosity, the adhesive pre-maturely cures, and waste is the obvious result. If the adhesive loses its thickness due to higher than normal temperatures, it can drip onto the customer’s interior causing vehicle damage. Under extreme heat conditions, the weight of the glass can flatten the windshield to the pinchweld’s metal and cause a stress fracture. Lastly, if sealants are stored improperly, the product cannot be expected to be to perform as promised.

The moral of the story and the research we conducted says one thing, temperature matters and caution must be exercised to insure proper performance of your adhesive products. Check your adhesive’s technical data and installation instructions for temperature limitations.  If for some reason the data is missing or not clear, check with your adhesive rep. If the rep is unsure, check with the adhesive company’s technical expert for clarity. This is important. It is not enough to go through the procedures perfectly if you don’t know your products limitations. Do it right every time and think before you proceed.

There was a thread on the glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR™ magazine forum in which someone asked how to prepare the pinchweld for a windshield installation on the new aluminum Ford F-150. I found the written instructions from Ford for that vehicle and posted them.

Ford happens to use Dow adhesives, and so the instructions I posted were written by a Dow representative. Of course, dealer instructions must make the assumption that the tech is prepping a pinchweld that was damaged upon the removal of the glass.

However, one reader commented that it should be the goal of every tech to not damage the vehicle at all. I fully agree, and feel this is an outlook that does not get its proper due. Are some of us too careless? You should be actively doing your best not to harm the vehicle.

I know that tools break, blades wander and technique must be mastered, but “no damage” should always be our goal.

Mistakes happen, but I sometimes see technicians fail to take into consideration the tools and precautions needed to remove the glass with minimal body damage. They feel that the primer is there for that reason, and as long as the installation is away from the customer’s immediate sightline—no harm, no foul. I disagree.

Primer is necessary to protect the pinchweld in the short term, but once the bare metal is exposed to oxygen, corrosion has begun. The best way to eliminate corrosion for the short and the long term is not to damage the vehicle at all. It may take a little longer, but it is time well spent.

The potential for problems occur during the removal and preparation steps. In the removal step, the technician must make a decision that is best for the customer’s vehicle, and not for his installation speed and comfort. Yes, the cold knife and power tool would get that glass out faster but they also raise the possibility of more damage to the vehicle if you don’t take measures to protect it. Depending on the vehicle, it may be better to use finesse rather than violence to remove the glass.

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In the preparation step, damage usually occurs during the removal of the old adhesive. If the glass is original equipment, the urethane bead is usually quite easy to strip with little or no damage. The problem comes with the second and third installations. The technician before you may believe in “the more the better” philosophy of automotive glass replacement. There could be urethane everywhere that needs to be removed. Yet, we must at least try to remove the existing urethane with the least possible damage. Buy the right tools, take your time and practice the techniques that make you the best in your area.

In full disclosure, I am not a saint. I do sometimes pick power over finesse, and I’ve been tempted to let the primer “cover up” my mistakes. But I fight that inclination, and so should you. Instead, brag that you didn’t use one drop of pinchweld primer today. If you have no scratches, you will need no primer. That would be an accomplishment that you can celebrate.

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