by Bob Beranek
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I had an inquiry recently from one of our Auto Glass University graduates. His question reminded me that there are some common problems that technicians should address when prepping a windshield with a rain sensor.

There are two types of rain sensor mountings. In one type the rain sensor is attached to a pre-applied lens, and the other is where the lens is part of the sensor and the unit uses an optically-clear pad to fill the gap between the lens and the glass surface. These two sensor mountings demand two different cleaning and preparation processes that must be completed properly or the rain sensor will malfunction.

11192015BobPic1First let’s talk about the easy one, the pre-applied lens. This is easy because the glass comes to us with a lens already applied to the surface so we do not have to worry about pads or mixing compounds. The sensor itself is usually attached to the lens with the help of clips or mounting hardware that is easily released and reattached.

You may think there is little we can screw up here, right? Wrong.

It is possible to disrupt the operation of this sensor by how you clean the glass. Most glass with a pre-applied lens come with protective tape covering the lens. This tape is used to protect the lens from handling mishaps that could damage the lens and cause malfunction. However, be aware of another use for the protective covering; to protect the lens from collecting glass cleaner overspray. If glass cleaner gets on the lens’ surface and air dries, the laser beam that causes the sensor to operate will be disrupted and the sensor will not work. It is impossible to clean the lens after glass cleaner is applied to it due to the rough surface and due to the possibility of scratching it with the cleaning towel. It is best to keep the protective tape on the lens until right before the sensor is reattached after replacement.

11192015BobPic2The next sensor mounting is the pad-mounted type. This type of sensor has the lens incorporated into the sensor itself. The optically clear pad that you obtain for replacement is used to fill the gap between the glass surface and the lens of the sensor. If there are any bubbles or other debris between the lens surface and the glass surface, the sensor will not operate properly because condensation can occur causing drops of water that will be detected by sensor. This leads to a malfunction. This type of sensor usually has a bracket attached to the glass that allows for proper alignment and clip retention. The inner part of this bracket can be cleaned before mounting and this is recommended.

It is always recommended that you replace the pads on every installation. I know. You have salvaged a pad here and there. I have, too, a few times. But, your luck does not always hold true, does it? If you do not want to have your customer inconvenienced, and you don’t want to pay the cost of going back out to do a remount of the rain sensor, then you will get in the habit of changing the pads on every job. Just do it.

To prep for this sensor mounting, it is important to have the pads and the glass at least at room temperature. This will allow the pads to stick properly to the lens and the glass with little or no bubbles. Lay the pad onto the sensor so air can escape out the sides. This is usually done by laying the pad in a bending fashion side to side.

If you choose to use the two-part liquid material, the material must have a convex shape above the sensors outer ridge and not cover the laser window. It is best to have the sensor on a flat surface when applying the material. Once applied it must also be cured a number of minutes before it is applied to the glass surface. Many technicians will attach the sensor to the glass before it is set in the opening.

So there you have it, prepping the glass for rain sensor mounting. I have but one more thing to add, make sure you pre-inspect the sensor before beginning the installation. If it didn’t work before you began the installation, odds are it won’t work when you’re done either.

This weekend I read about a new technology from Tesla called Autopilot. This technology is not a fully autonomous vehicle; it is more like an advanced cruise control. It is designed to assist in the act of driving, much like a pilot is assisted when he engages the autopilot once the plane is airborne and at cruising altitude. With this software upgrade, once your Tesla is on a well-marked roadway and cruising at the speed of the traffic, the Autopilot can be set and the driver monitors the trip just like a pilot does during a flight.

I am a huge fan of Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX. Mr. Musk is a futurist with great foresight and even greater engineering brilliance. He created a vehicle that can be improved by simply downloading upgrades from a remote website and not from the dealership service department. The Tesla Models “S” and “X” were given a download—“software 7.0”—that greatly enhanced the Autopilot features. Tesla remotely downloaded the software and the next morning, the Tesla owner woke up to a newly upgraded vehicle. Wow, that’s cool.

The article I read this weekend reminded me of a seminar given at the Auto Glass Week™ in Reno, Nev., this year. Mr. Richard Wallace, M.S., is the director of the Transportation Systems Analysis group within the Center for Automotive Research (CAR). He gave a wonderful futuristic vision of what may become of the automotive industry.

One of the things that struck me was his idea that we would not own our cars in the future. We would only pay for the right to use them for a period of time. Each vehicle’s systems would be stored on the “cloud” and carmakers would make adjustments and/or repairs remotely as it sits in the garage.

Why would we not own the car? Mr. Wallace suggested that modern-day vehicles carry millions and millions of lines of code and that those lines of code are owned by the carmakers and the code developers. Thus, they own the working systems in the car, you do not.

What does this mean for us in the automotive glass industry? I think that this is the future. All electronic systems and features will be adjusted and calibrated from the carmaker’s headquarters, no matter where it might be.

One plus for our industry is that automakers still can’t replace automotive glass remotely. However, making electronic adjustments and calibrations from the cloud can certainly present some interesting possibilities for keeping drivers safe and our vehicles up to date. Some might say that autonomous cars are going to be a detriment to our industry, and that remains to be seen. But, I think in the long run, technology will be our friend and not our enemy.

My friend, Steven Rossetti at American Auto Glass Administrators in Rhode Island, recently emailed me a link to a website that professes that automotive glass replacement is so easy anyone can do it. The site advises that, “You may also prefer to replace the windshield yourself rather than spend the time and money to take it in to an approved auto technician.”

Maybe the people who developed this site (which I will not name) should “spend the time and money” to research the facts before they post nonsense. They add, “If you don’t replace your cracked windshield immediately or don’t do it properly, it could potentially shatter into tiny pieces into the faces of you and your passengers. You don’t want that to happen, right? We hope not.” Are you kidding me? Really?

Don’t worry though; this website gives you step by step instructions to replace your windshield. Items in italics are their recommendations; my comments are in bold parentheses.

Please Note: I do not recommend this website.

“To replace the windshield on your car, all you have to do is purchase the correct windshield for your car, and then detach all of the items attached to the windshield. This includes the wipers and the rear view mirror. (Since when are wipers attached to the windshield?) You should then separate the rubber gasket from the glass carefully using a screwdriver or a knife, (What?) and then squeeze away the glass from the frame gently by pushing it from inside. (Again, what?) Carefully remove the glass and set it aside; the windshield is much heavier than you most likely think it is, and it can break apart as you hold it (this is why removing and replacing the windshield on a car is largely a two-person job for safety reasons).

Simply proceed to wipe the rubber gasket clean and then place it around the new windshield. Apply a sealant to the rubber gasket and the frame, and then push the windshield firmly in the frame, so that it fits tightly.”

Wow, I wonder how many people driving on our roadways today have replaced their own windshields using this method.

Now get off the floor and dry your eyes. I know this stuff may seem funny to a professional, but there are people that read this and think that it is for real. The people who follow this advice are putting their friends and family in danger.

The Internet is a wonderful thing. I use it daily to research and verify information, but I do not use just one site to give me the facts that I need. Nor do I take the articles that I read as fact. I do consider the source and the timeliness of the information and compare what I am reading to the facts that I already know as true.

I know that many of you cruise the Internet to watch videos or find articles to help with your preparation for upcoming installations. However, I hope you will take the information you find with a little skepticism and find confirmation from an authority you can trust.

Those of you out there reading my blog that are not automotive glass industry professionals, I have a word of advice. All of the things you find on the Internet are not necessarily true. There is no law or restriction on publishing falsehoods. The Internet is for a free sharing of ideas, opinions, sometimes facts and sometimes complete fabrications. Surfer beware.