by Bob Beranek
  • facebook

When I started in the auto glass replacement business, 90 percent of our work was completed through mobile installations. I had regular runs that started with an hour and a half of driving before I began my first job. At that time, and with our gasket sets, I believed that any auto glass part could be installed on a mobile basis just as it could in the shop. Under reasonable environmental conditions, it was understood that if a technician had the proper tools, a mobile installation was equal to a shop installation.

However, over years of experience and through extensive research, my early beliefs and those of industry experts have changed. There are valid reasons for rethinking mobile installations. There have been tools and products developed to promote mobile service and one man installs, but that does not mean that the installation itself is better for those developments.

Yes, urethanes have been formulated to cure to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and there are cordless power tools that allow installations anywhere, away from any access to shelter or a power source. There are ergonomically sound setting tools that allow for one-man sets. But really, do you think an installation like that is as good as one in the controlled conditions of a shop environment?

I think not. If you add wind blowing contaminants around a properly prepared part, the uncertainty of stable footing, and the effect of variable temperatures and humidity on today’s urethanes, you cannot guarantee a mobile installation will be equal to a shop job as far as safety goes.

I’ve heard many glass shop owners say they wouldn’t survive in their market if they didn’t offer mobile service. You’ve heard the arguments. “All my competitors offer it.”  “If I wish to keep up with my competitors, I have no choice.”  Is that true?

I would suggest those who market a different way demand attention and will usually benefit from that difference. Think about this a minute. Who was responsible for introducing mobile service to the consumer in the first place? We were. If we could convince the consumer that mobile service is good, why can’t we convince them that shop installs are better? It makes perfect sense and smart consumers really know it already. Add to that the new technology built into the glass and the electronics that power the modern vehicle and the common sense of environmentally controlled installations is a no-brainer.

I predict more sophisticated technology will be built into the glass of future vehicles. I predict glass design will include larger areas of space on the vehicles surface. So large, in fact, that it may take a machine or at least two people to lift and place it into the vehicle’s windshield opening. I predict the auto glass of the future will have more drastic bends and shapes to reduce vehicle drag and the awkwardness of setting the glass properly will be very difficult. I predict mobile service will be eventually phased out as an option due to size, shape, technology and electronic calibration. Your glass shop can be proactive and begin planning for these changes now. You can work on educating your customers, or be reactive when everyone else is doing nothing but shop jobs. It’s your choice.

While conducting a training course recently, I covered the proper steps for prepping a pinchweld after a collision repair.

I was surprised to hear that my mostly experienced audience did not know that it is necessary to tape up the pinchweld after the primer coat and before the color and clear coat is applied.

The typical coatings applied to the bare metal of a new vehicle’s body consist of:

  • An electrodeposition coating or “etching” primer. This coating gives the bare metal corrosion resistance.
  • You apply body primer on top of that coat.
  • Once the primer coat is cured thoroughly, you should apply the color coat.
  • Finally, you cover the color coat with the clear coat.

These coatings are then baked to meld them together, and to produce a long-lasting durable finish that will resist corrosion and hold the color without fading. In most cases, glass parts are then bonded to the melded finish. Federally mandated crash testing proves this method easily meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that regulate windshield retention.

Problems can occur however, when the vehicle needs repair after a collision. Most collision repair shops cannot replicate the original paint job. Body shops must rely on chemical-curing coatings because the vehicles are rarely stripped of all interior parts, and baking a vehicle at OE temperatures would melt and damage parts left in the vehicle during repair. These chemical curing paints do not have the strength between coatings to meet the requirements for stationary bonded glass parts.

All adhesive companies and collision repair training organizations instruct their collision repair technicians to tape off the glass bonding area of the pinchweld before the color coat or clear coat is applied. The reason for this is the aftermarket color and clear coats cannot meet the tensile strength necessary to hold the glass in place in the event of a collision. However, the primer coat can. The primer to “E” coat adherence is strong enough to withstand the forces dictated by the federal standards.

The proper procedure to follow and to communicate to your collision center customers is as follows:

  • You should start by removing the glass part. Do not strip back the existing urethane. Leave the existing urethane in place until right before reinstallation.
  • Next, you should instruct the body shop technician or paint professional to tape off the floor of the pinchweld after the “E” coat and primer coat is applied and cured.
  • The painter can now apply the color and clear coat.
  • When the glass technician returns for reinstallation, be sure to remove the pre-applied tape and strip back the remaining existing urethane, leaving 1-2 mm.
  • Next, prime the exposed primer coat with urethane metal primer and bond it accordingly.
  • If the body shop technician does paint the bonding surface of the pinchweld, you are required to abrade off the color and clear coat to the primer level and follow the step above.

This procedure will restore the strength necessary to meet FMVSS 212 and 208. If the steps listed above are not followed, the installation is compromised, and the bond is only as strong as the strength between the primer and color coat. That is not enough.

A friend in the industry recently sent me an email concerning a 2011 Mercedes Benz E350 convertible (FW03303GTY).

He wanted to provide a heads-up about an issue with this vehicle that will affect glass technicians in the aftermarket arena. The vehicle is equipped with all of the options offered by Mercedes, including the Advanced Driver Assist System.

The company installing the replacement windshield used dealer glass, and they instructed the owner to take the vehicle to Mercedes for calibration. Before sending the car to the dealer, there were fault lights displayed on the dashboard, as expected. However, the Mercedes dealer discovered the installer had mistakenly switched the wiring connectors with other connectors.

According to the glass company representative, the dealership mechanic “checked the codes and was getting no communication from the LD camera, light sensor or overhead control module. In checking the wiring in that tight space (keep in mind, convertible) he found the connector to the module and camera were indeed swapped. They are the same style plug and will easily interchange. ”

The connector for the camera puts out a current to the camera’s internal heater. When the camera connector was plugged into the control module, the current from the camera connector was not proper for the control module, thus it shorted out the system.

The inadvertent mistake cost the glass company $1,500 to repair and replace the wiring harnesses and calibrate the system. With further research, we have found that Mercedes is not the only vehicle brand that uses interchangeable wiring connectors. Volkswagen is another manufacturer who uses these types of connectors in their door glass mechanisms.


Photo Courtesy of Fox Motorsports

Please take this as a piece of advice. Make sure – on German vehicles particularly – you pay attention to the wiring connections as you disconnect them. It may be necessary to mark the male and female ends to make sure you do not interchange them. It could cost you big dollars to fix a simple mistake.