by Bob Beranek
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There is no doubt that power tools help today’s technicians do their job more easily and efficiently.   How many of you just pick up the tool and go to work?  Do you sharpen the blade?  Do you change the blade for the job at hand or just use the blade that’s in the machine?  Do you adjust the blade for the vehicle that is being done?  Do you lubricate the cut out area?  Do you oil the tool from time to time?

These are questions that can mean the difference between damaging the vehicle, injuring yourself, burning out the tool prematurely, and using the tool most effectively.  Here are the eight good tool habits that all technicians should develop.  You may remember the last two from an earlier post.  Your feedback suggested that I address this topic more thoroughly.

  1. Wear your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  The PPE for power tools are basically the same as for hand tools, safety glasses and gloves.  However, when using power tools, your safety gloves should be anti-vibration gloves.  These gloves give extra padding in the palm and finger area to cushion the hand from the constant jarring of the tool.  If this type of glove is not worn while using the power tool, a serious disease called HAVS (hand-arm vibration syndrome) or VWF (vibration-induced white finger) can occur.
  2. Sharpen your blades before every use.  Make sure that you sharpen them the way the tool is designed, tapered on one side and flat on the other.  “Machine sharpen” daily and hone it before each use.  Sharpened tools are safer tools.
  3. Keep your tools in good repair.  Some tools need lubrication or tune-ups but all need cleaning and care.
  4. Work from outside of the vehicle whenever possible.  It is always better to see what you are doing rather than working blind.  Stand on the outside while working the tool from the inside.  Then watch where your blade exits the bead and pull back when necessary.  If the vehicle has a flat “A” pillar pinchweld, plunge the blade from the outside and run the tool downward with part of the blade visible inside and out.
  5. Lubricate the cutting area.  Make sure that the area to be cut is liberally sprinkled with water and added during the process.  Wet the interior, exterior and the cutting blade as well.  If you add soap or another lubricant to the water, the chance of contamination to the bonding surface is possible so it is recommended that only water be used.  Once the glass is out, make sure you wipe away any standing water from the bonding area before you trim back the existing urethane.  The urethane bead is porous and water can be absorbed into the bead and hinder the bond between the new application and the existing one.
  6. Do not apply tension to the adhesive bead while cutting.  Unlike the utility knife, tension does not aid in the cutting action of the power tool blades.  As a matter of fact, it can cause the cutter to jump and cause damage.
  7. Make sure you use the right blade for the job.  The closer the blade edge is to the power source the better the cut out.  I know that changing the blade is a pain – though tools are making quick change blade housings – but the fact is that if you use a long blade when a short blade is called for, the cut out will be harder, the blade and tool will be damaged faster, and the chance of vehicle damage will be higher.
  8. The flat side of the blade should always be toward the glass.  Almost all blades are purposely sharpened on one side and flat on the other.  The purpose of this is to have the blade rise to the glass surface and away from the metal and interior moldings to prevent damage.  If the blades are reversed, the blade dives to the metal.  There are occasional reasons to reverse the blade; I am only saying that the blade design is made for control and not convenience of manufacture.  If you prefer the blades that are beveled on both sides, then the technician must control the blade with the hands to shave the adhesive from the desired surface.  This takes a lot of skill and control.

They say that it takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit.  I propose that you develop these good habits one at a time for the next three weeks until all are second nature.  You won’t be sorry, I promise.

Previously we have discussed manual cut-out tools and now let’s talk power cut-out tools.  Power tools come in three power options, two blade actions and two that are completely different in regards to separating the adhesive from the vehicle. I will discuss the blade style tools this week and the unique tools next week. I will be using the brand names of some tools, but please note that I am not making specific recommendations. Most of my readers identify these tools by their name and not by its description and we want to avoid confusion.

As for my friends and colleagues in the auto glass tool manufacturing and distributing industry, for the purpose of this blog I am marking your tools’ names with the appropriate © and ®.  Thank you all for the information and research you provide the industry. Without you we couldn’t do our job as well as we do.

Let’s begin with the three main power sources, pneumatic, electric and cordless. Obviously each serves its purpose and the choice of which to purchase depends on what your business model demands and what your pocketbook will allow.

Typically the pneumatic tools are less expensive and more durable than the other two because of fewer moving parts to wear out and simplicity of design. If most of your jobs are completed in a shop environment with compressed air available, then the pneumatic is for you. It is cheap, durable and usually smaller in size so it can reach the hard to get to areas of the cut out.  Another benefit is that the power is constant as long as the compressor can produce the air pressure to power the tool. The down side of pneumatic tools is the air hose. The hose must be hooked up and dragged to the work area. If the hose is dragged through dirt and dust from the floor, then the interior of the vehicle must be protected carefully or cleaned thoroughly after the installation.

The electric tools are more expensive than the pneumatic but a little cheaper than the cordless.  The benefit to electric tools is that it is unnecessary to have an expensive air compressor on premises and the power is also constant. The body of the tool is usually larger to handle because of the motor of the tool so it is a little harder to get into tight areas. Yes, it also has a cord to drag along with you and make messes where you wish they were not but all in all the electric tools are a good compromise.

Lastly, there are the cordless tools. The cordless power tool is by far the technicians’ favorite for a number of reasons. It seems that the initial burst is more powerful than the electric or the pneumatic so the tech gets the feeling of control. The batteries allow freedom to move where you have to with the minimum of effort. The convenience of “pickup and go” is the biggest advantage of cordless tools. However, if you talk to a shop owner or manager they have a few other considerations. The cost is usually higher, the size of the tool is bigger, the durability seems to be less desirable, and the battery costs may be prohibitive.

Power cut-out tools that use blades have either an oscillating or reciprocating blade action.  Oscillating means the high speed vibration of the blade either back and forth or side to side.  Reciprocating action is the slower movement of the blade in and out.  Examples of the Oscillating action tools are the Fein® Knife or Vibra Knife.  The examples of the more popular reciprocating tools are the Original Equalizer® Magnum XP, Extractor, Equalizer® Express®, and BTB Tool.  All of these tools work well in what they are designed to do, cut out the glass from the body frame but each also needs some instruction to use the tools properly and without undue damage to the vehicle.

There are a couple of facts you should know when using a power tool that are consistent with all auto glass cut-out tools.

  1. The closer the blade edge is to the power source the better the cut out.  In other words, make sure you use the right blade for the job.  I know that changing the blade is a pain – though tools are making quick change blade housings – but the fact is that if you use a long blade when a short blade is called for, the cut-out will be harder, the blade and tool will be damaged faster, and the chance of vehicle damage will be higher.
  2. The flat side of the blade should always be toward the glass.  Almost all blades are purposely sharpened on one side and flat on the other. The purpose of this is to have the blade rise to the glass surface and away from the metal and interior mouldings to prevent damage.  If the blades are reversed, the blade dives to the metal. There are occasional reasons to reverse the blade; I am only saying that the blade design is made for control and not convenience of manufacture.  If you prefer the blades that are beveled on both sides, then the technician must control the blade with the hands to shave the adhesive from the desired surface. This takes a lot of skill and control.
  3. Lubricate the cutting surface and the blade. I cannot stress this enough. Lubrication improves the life of the tool, makes the cut out easier, and eases the effort put forth by the technician. If there is a helper handy, have them continually lubricate throughout the cut-out procedure and feel the difference.

I wish I had the luxury of power tools when I started in the industry.  It would have made a huge difference in the ease of installation and wear and tear on my body.  I urge all of you technicians out there to take advantage of the tool options given you.  You won’t be sorry; I promise you.

We have talked about the most common cut-out tool, the cold knife, and the various blade options used with it. Now let’s talk about wire out tools, which are simultaneously the oldest and some of the newest cut-out tools in the auto glass replacement industry. By oldest, I mean it was the first cut-out tool used when glued-in windshields were introduced. By newest, I mean that wire-out tools have become more sophisticated and increasing popular as they were reinvented for today’s vehicles.

I have written positive articles and given my opinions on the wire tools in the past. The new, modern wire-out tools are much better than the first ones used in the 1940s. I believe that a wire-out tool is the best way to remove the glass without undue breakage and damage to the painted metal. However, it does take longer to cut out the glass than with other tools available. In addition, protection of the interior mouldings and dashboard are a concern during the glass removal.

Of course, all tools, if used incorrectly or without proper training, can cause interior and exterior damage to the vehicle. It is unfair for a technician to reject the use of wire tools because it takes longer to remove obstacles. All tools require the removal or displacement of obstacles. I believe that a professional technician must take into consideration all possible installation challenges when stocking his/her tool box. The wire-out tool is a viable option on some, if not all, installations and should be considered when making the decision of which tool to use to complete the installation with minimal damage.

With that being said, I thought I would provoke a discussion by giving my pros and cons of wire out tools.

Pros:

  • Vehicle manufacturer-approved and –recommended;
  • Less damage to the pinchweld;
  • Trimming back is reduced or eliminated;
  • Glass is removed whole with less mess;
  • Reduces time in strip down and clean up; and
  • Less cost for body primer due to less damage.

 Cons:

  • Interior parts must be removed or displaced;
  • Cut out takes longer, including:
    • Set up;
    • Wire breakage, re-setup;
    • Unseen obstacles;
    • Wire feed if mouldings are to be salvaged; and
    • Wire manipulation around pins, VIN plates and brackets; and
  • Tools are expensive.

In summary, I believe that a professional technician needs to develop the expertise to use all of the tools required to do the job right. An installation may require a cold knife, a power tool or a wire-out tool but the expert technician needs to become proficient in all of the instruments that may be necessary to complete the job correctly.