by Bob Beranek
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Mazda has a new warning out on the 2010-2013 Mazda 3 vehicles (FW3087-3551).  The lower driver side pinchweld area can split and cause damage to the VIN plate if the glass removal isn’t completed properly.  This can cause the need to postpone the installation until body work and a new VIN plate is obtained and could take weeks and possibly months for installation completion.

It is common practice to use a long-handled utility knife to cut the bottom recessed bead.  To accomplish this in the easiest and most efficient way, a certain amount of pressure is applied to stretch the urethane bead.  This is the action that can cause this problem as well as the one described in the attached TSB.  It is recommended that a power tool or wire out tool be used to cut the lower bead free from the pinchweld.  If a hand tool is the tool of choice, we suggest that the corners be freed up first before interior pressure is applied to cut the rest of the bead.

Please pass on this information to all technicians you come in contact with.

Dissolvable VIN numbers
The other issue concerning VIN plates is the dissolvable numbers.  VIN plates are either stamped metal, engraved, painted or printed.  It is possible that any painted or printed VIN plates could dissolve with the application of water infused with solvents or other lubricants used for cut out.  Mercedes and Nissan are two vehicle manufacturers that had printed VIN plates and reported VIN numbers dissolving.

It is highly recommended that you check the VIN plates for any indications of printed or painted plates before any applications of lubricants.  The printed numbers can show itself by having edges around the number like a label sticker.  The painted ones are harder to detect but less likely to dissolve but care must be taken nonetheless.  If you can refrain from adding any lubricants directly to the driver side area near the VIN plate, the less likely a problem will occur.

CLICK HERE to view a copy of Mazda’s report.

One of the prerogatives of getting older and reflecting on past experiences is to analyze terms that always seemed similar or confusing. The other day I was watching an installation video and remembering some of the students I have had in some of my classes and these two terms came to mind—installer and technician. All of a sudden I began to compare the two terms and define the differences. I thought I would share my thoughts.

First of all, I must make perfectly clear that this is my opinion and not a true definition that should appear in Webster’s American Dictionary.  However, I think it will provoke some discussion. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to refer to the subject of this article as a male of the species though female auto glass professionals fit the same description.

The Installer
An installer is one that gets up every morning and goes to work. He grabs his work orders, loads his truck and collects his supplies. He fuels his service vehicle, sets his route and goes about completing his installations. He meets his customers, smiles brightly and does his job to the best of his ability. Most likely, he is well thought of by his fellow installers, his boss and himself—I don’t know why but it seems that any installer that has over two or three years of experience thinks he knows everything there is about auto glass and its installation, though that is not always the case.

An installer is a thinking man. He is not stupid. He will think through his installation to determine what can be done to make his job easier or faster and he bases that thinking on the knowledge he was given by past training or experience gained. He looks at the job at hand and contemplates either what could be done quicker and faster to get him home so he can make the ball game or what can I do to complete more jobs in a day to gain more money to buy that new flat screen TV. After all, this is what I get paid to do, right? He brags that he can do more jobs than the next guy and do it without leaks or complaints, though he does not have facts to back it up.

An installer sees something different and determines if it needs to be there or if it can be eliminated to facilitate the installation. He will see a problem and solve it with the cheapest and easiest method available to him with no regard to the next installation or the long term effects on the vehicle. An installer resists change because it will make him do something he is not comfortable with, such as additional training, a new tool that needs mastering or a procedure that may slow him down. Safety equipment is for wimps and protective coverings only slow him down.

I know this is a close definition of an installer because I was one of these for many years.

The Technician
A technician is all of the above with a few exceptions. He still gets up and goes to work. He loads his truck and meets his customers with a bright smile. He is also well thought of by his peers, but his boss looks to him for leadership among his fellow workers and has great expectations for promotion and advancement.

A technician is also a thinking man, but does not take anything he sees or hears as fact unless he can prove it himself. He seeks answers and researches constantly. He knows that if a vehicle manufacturer puts something on a vehicle, it is there for a reason and not for a whim and investigates it until he knows why. A technician also looks for short cuts and time savers, but not at the expense of safety. A technician is trained, certified and recertified whenever it is required.  He seeks more knowledge by attending mandatory training, seminars and even outside courses to improve his knowledge of the art. He attends national trade shows if he can afford it and local ones if he can’t. He reads trade magazines, periodicals and service bulletins. He contributes to the industry through blogs, committee service and trade organizations.

A technician also sees something different and asks why? Why is that there? Why does that do that? What is the purpose of that thing? He then determines if that is important to the safety of his customer and replaces, reinstalls or replicates the condition if necessary. If a technician breaks something or damages something he replaces it and tells the customer that he screwed up. A technician sees change for what it is—a challenge that must be mastered and implemented for the good of all. A technician realizes that safety equipment will prolong his career and assure income for his family long-term and that protective coverings will protect the customers’ vehicle from mistakes that happen to the best of us.

There are thousands of installers in this industry but only a select few technicians. You cannot tell a technician by simply looking at all of the patches on his uniform, nor can you determine an installer by the lack of patches on his jacket. I can tell a technician from an installer by how they deal with a critique. If I confront an auto glass installer with a safety problem I observed, more often than not they will respond with this statement, “I never had a problem with that.”  This is an installer response because if he had a problem with that, the customer is dead or crippled and he is not there talking to me because he would not have a career in auto glass. The technician’s response will be, “Really? How can I correct that?” This is usually followed by guilt and concern. I even had one customer that went back and redid several installations he knew he did wrong. That is a technician.

The next series of articles are going to be what I call the “versus” articles.  I wish to share my opinions in regards to different ways of doing things, different tools over another and different products over others. This, I suspect, will be a controversial discussion because everyone has their own likes and dislikes. Today I wish to discuss a subject that has been a debated over several years and several beers—the difference between applying urethane to the glass versus the pinchweld.

What is better?  The answer is neither and both. There are pros and cons to both methods of application and it is the reason I teach both in my classes. Both methods can be accomplished safely and properly, but each has problems to overcome.

Applying urethane to the glass
It is very important that the newly applied adhesive bead be matched up with the newly exposed existing bead for optimum bonding and adhesion.

Pros

  • It’s the way the OE does it.  It is true that all vehicle manufacturers apply the adhesive to the glass.  Why?  Because they use robots to apply the urethane and to set the glass.  It is easier to program and apply a liquid to a smooth solid surface.  Plus, the urethane does not need to meet an existing bead for adhesion.  If there is no existing bead it creates its own.
  • There are fewer seams. Being able to walk around the perimeter of the glass does allow for one seam—where you started is the place you will finish. There will be fewer areas of possible leaks because there are fewer seams to paddle.
  • The application is more pleasing to the eye.  The use of guide posts built into some of the urethane tips and/or the skilled guidance by a competent technician will most definitely improve the appearance and placement of the finished bead.  Plus, the smoothness of the glass allows for a clean continuous bead with no bumps or interruptions.
  • It forces the technician to use vacuum cups.  If the technician applies the adhesive to the glass edge, it is very difficult to set the glass with one’s hands because of the mess factor.  The tech is almost driven to set the glass with cups and with an exposure to the bottom pinchweld, which would require pulling the cowl panel.

Cons

  • Recessed beads must be measured out. Any recessed beads found on a particular vehicle, whether top or bottom, must be measured out on the glass and marked for application. The new bead must match up with the newly exposed existing bead to assure the best adhesion.
  • The setting of the glass must be precise. Due to the fact that the new bead of fresh urethane is hanging from the underside of the glass as it is set, it must be set exactly right or the urethane will touch the interior moldings or opposite “A” pillar and not only make a mess, but disfigure the bead and cause bond and leak problems. It would be highly recommended that a second person or a setting tool be used to assure placement in the opening. It would be further recommended that a dry set procedure be utilized to assure placement.
  • If the pinchweld is uneven, the chance of leaks is increased. Where the new bead is applied, if applied correctly, is the most likely area to be leak-free because it is able to be observed. Once the glass is set, it is out of the technician’s direct line of sight. If the pinchweld is uneven and the bead fails to touch the existing bead, gravity will channel the water into the vehicle. This is because the unseen uneven surface is lower than the surface you applied the urethane to—the glass.
  • There may be more primer usage.  It may be necessary to apply an extra amount of primer around the existing bead to guard against the new bead missing the existing bead. If the new bead misses the existing bead and touches unprimed painted metal, the bond may not be strong enough to meet the safety standards mandated by government. This extra primer will be an extra cost that must be incurred.
  • It may mean longer installation times. The addition of time to make measurements of recessed beads, dry setting the glass, setting up a setting tool, and priming around the existing bead may mean that a few extra minutes are consumed to do the job right. To some it is well worth the cost in time and materials to others it is not.

Applying urethane to the pinchweld

Pros

  • It is easy to follow the “roadmap”. Once the glass is out and the urethane is trimmed down to the proper height, it provides a perfect roadmap by which to apply the fresh urethane bead. Just apply the urethane directly on top of the existing bead and it is the right place to put it. Applying the new bead to the existing bead allows for an application that fills the uneven surfaces better.
  • Handling the glass is easier and less messy. There is no urethane hanging down from the underside so it will be easier to handle a small chance of a mess.
  • No chance of missing the existing bead. Applying the urethane directly to the existing bead eliminates the chance of missing that bead. There will be no need to measure and mark the new glass for installation. 
  • The only priming you will need is that which covers scratches. There is little chance of missing the bead so extra priming in unnecessary.
  • The chance of leaks at the bonding surfaces is reduced. The urethane is applied to the existing bead so the meeting of the two beads is assured. The only question left is in regards to the meeting of the adhesive and the glass surface. The beauty of a “V” bead is that as long as the tip of the “V” touches the smooth surface of the glass, it is sealed and bonded. Plus, gravity channels the water away before it reaches the glass to urethane bond.

 Cons

  • More seams means more chances of leaks. The only way to apply urethane to the body and have only one seam is to have a very small car or a very tall technician. It will be necessary to take care in paddling the seams caused by application. There are techniques that reduce the severity of seam gaps, but there is no way that there will not be more seams to deal with.
  • The sightline to the customer may be a problem. It is very possible, unless you are dead steady, that your bead will not be smooth and straight. This will cause the customer, unless you apply a dam every time, to see the shiny black goop that may be oozing into their vehicle.
  • Care must be made in positioning the bead on the existing bead. The new exposed edge glass demands the bead positioning be perfect to eliminate the urethane from being visible to the customer. It also must be placed properly to eliminate the clean up after the install.
  • It does not keep the technician from setting and dragging the glass. How many of you set the glass and then move it forward or back to position it in the opening? I’m sure you have. You must stop that. The glass must be set within a ½ inch either way or you run the risk of displacing the bead and causing bonding leak problems. The glass being on the body instead of the glass spoils the technician and is likely to drag or pull the glass.

As you can see there are a number of pros and cons to application procedures and how you choose to apply your adhesive is entirely up your level of comfort and confidence. There is no right or wrong way. There is only your way. Just make sure you keep in mind the “cons” to your method.