by Bob Beranek
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As I was reading a recent post on the glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR™ magazine Forum, I was drawn to a discussion about primerless urethanes. I believe that primerless urethane has a place in the automotive glass technician’s truck or tool box, but as a trainer I don’t typically recommend it as an everyday urethane in the field. Why? Because a primerless urethane requires perfect cleaning and prepping of the glass, and conditions may not always allow for perfection.

Some products state they’re primerless, yet they require the application of a cleaner/preparation material to promote adherence. It would take a major debate between chemists and English majors to define and explain a primer vs. a preparation and a prep from a cleaner. Let’s settle on one premise that is correct regardless, always follow the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions to the letter and without deviation.

The purpose of my post is to make sure that those who chose to use primerless urethanes use them correctly and with diligence and adherence to the idea “cleanliness is next to godliness.” The number one reason for adhesive failure is the improper cleaning of the surfaces. If the technician makes a lackadaisical effort at cleaning the bonding surface of the glass edge and pinchweld area, the adhesive can’t stick to the bonding surface no matter how good the reputation the product has for performance.

The benefit of prime-able urethanes is that the primer acts as a back-up for not-so-good cleaning. Don’t get me wrong, proper cleaning is important for both prime-able and primerless urethanes to adhere. However, primerless urethanes need extra special care in the cleaning process. Any contamination will cause the products to fail and some to fail badly. If you have “some” contamination in an area, it may create a leak problem, but improper cleaning habits with primerless urethane can cause catastrophic failure that could maim or kill people.

So, if you choose to use the primerless products out there, develop the talent and practice the proper cleaning techniques recommended by your adhesive manufacturer. Here are the procedures that feel fit those parameters.

  • Use an approved glass cleaner. One that is free from ammonias, silicones and petroleum additives. Make sure they are free from fragrances and anti-static properties. Streak-free cleaners usually use additives that leave a film that will not allow the adhesives to reach their proper strength requirements.
  • Concentrate on the glass-bonding area. The glass-bonding area is defined as the frit area of the glass or the inside outer edge of the glass surface.
  • Use a foaming glass cleaner. The foaming glass cleaners highlight where contaminants can hide by dissipating when coming in contact with the oils and films on the glass surface. Test the glass by spraying the glass edge with the foaming glass cleaner and look for dissipation. When the dissipation occurs scrub that area and retest the bonding surface.
  • Non-traditional (NT) contaminants must be removed. NT contaminants are the ones that few technicians notice or take the time to remove. These can usually be found around pre-attached mouldings or encapsulation but can also be found right on the bonding edge of the glass. Water and/or glass cleaner may appear to “ball-up” when applied to this contaminant but it may not show itself by dissipating the foaming glass cleaner.
  • Use an abrasive pad or cleaner to clean off the NT contaminants. Some of the major brands of adhesives have products or devices to remove the NT contaminants. Dow offers its Betabrade™ and SIKA offers cleaning pads called SIKA PowerClean Aid. One thing to note on these products is that they remove the contaminants without taking off too much frit paint. The frit protects the urethane from its only enemy, ultraviolet light. So abrasives must be used to remove NT contaminants but they must be used correctly to not remove the frit.

If an abrasive pad like Scotch-Brite is used, then make sure the surface is wet and do not place too much pressure on the surface of the glass. Stop when the NT contaminant has been removed.

  • Clean and dry the surface thoroughly. Make sure all surfaces are clean and dry before installing. If it is your habit to prep the glass before dismantling the vehicle, turn the glass over on your windshield cradle to keep airborne contaminants from falling onto the bonding surface.
  • Use unpowdered nitrile gloves when handling the glass. Obviously, vacuum cups are recommended to set the glass into the opening, but even that requires the use of gloves to guard against accidentally touching the prepared surface and contaminating the bonding area.

Primerless products can be a viable option, but make sure your cleaning procedures are above reproach. Remember that improperly cleaning of the bonding surfaces is the number one reason for adhesive failure. Make sure of your procedures, and develop the habit to make sure it is done right each and every time. In our business cleanliness is next to godliness.

“I read with interest the article recently printed in Automotive News and linked on glassBYTEs.com™ “Automatic Braking Standard: ‘New Model’ or ‘Safety Sellout’?” The article outlines the debate between having regulatory mandated braking systems in new vehicles versus a voluntary buy-in by carmakers. Either way, this change is coming and the automotive glass industry needs to be prepared.” —Bob Beranek

As you may expect, the argument is political. One camp wants carmakers to voluntarily equip new models with the lifesaving system by the 2022 model year and the other wants the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to go through procedural steps to make it law and force the system to be included in all vehicles sold in the U.S. I’ll let the article speak for itself, but my question is, will the automatic-braking systems be a friend to the automotive glass industry or will it make our installations more difficult and less profitable?

If you run an automotive glass shop that replaces broken windshields, you are already in the business of restoring a safety device. Most of us would not put money over the safety of our customers. There are more than 32,000 lives lost on the roadway every year, and we all should be looking to save as many of those lives as possible, no matter what the circumstances.

However, when every car sold in 2022 has a camera to detect obstructions and stop the vehicle, there will be changes to the way we do business. When every vehicle has Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), there certainly could be some benefits, but there is no doubt that businesses will have to adapt.

Here are some challenges that may occur if you decide to take on calibration as an added service:

  • It could cost thousands of dollars in investment to add calibration services to your business’s offerings.
  • Additional training will be needed for technicians to complete the calibrations properly.
  • It could lead to higher insurance costs to cover liability if calibration is done incorrectly and for coverage to drive the customer’s car during calibration procedures.
  • No more mobile installations on ADAS vehicles. Calibrations must be done in conditions that are controlled and manageable.
  • More OEM glass used. This could be a benefit due to better fitting parts but could cost more with lower mark-ups.

The positive side of this development:

  • Added revenue generated from your new added calibration services.
  • Fewer trucks on the road and fewer expenses that come with mobile service. This would reduce fuel, insurance and maintenance costs on trucks and wasted manpower driving from one location to another.
  • Fewer poorly fitting parts and resulting customer complaints.
  • By developing a relationship with all of the dealerships in your area, you could convince them that you could do their glass work on their site and bring customers to them.
  • A benefit may be a reduction in competition. Many competing service providers do not have the finances to invest in equipment, facilities and training necessary to offer calibrations. However, added competition may come from the local dealerships.

I know that change is never easy. However, if handled professionally and correctly, this change could work to your benefit. We have been given an opportunity to look into the future. While many of us may not like what we see, we can make plans to deal with the change before it happens. In life, we rarely get these warnings in advance. Let’s be thankful for the power of forethought.

A couple of years ago I explained the history behind the (often repeated) statement that 70 percent of the automotive glass installed in the country was done wrong. Recently, I gave a training course in Baton Rouge, La., that gave me some more insight on this problem.

At the company where I was training, I was surprised at the difficulty we had in finding a fast-curing urethane to use and recommend. I understand that distributors and retailers must stock what they can sell. If a product sits on their shelves and does not sell, especially those that have a shelf life, those products must be reconsidered for restocking. If it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t deserve the shelf space. However, what I found was a real eye-opener.

Keeping that retail rule in mind, two distributors in the Baton Rouge area only carried one product and it was a seven-hour safe-drive-away-time (SDAT) urethane. There were no other options available. Also, they didn’t have any primers in stock because the urethane they sell is primerless. Are you kidding me? Does that mean that in the Baton Rouge area that there are no automotive glass shops that offer one-hour SDAT service? My client told me that it is more likely that they use the cheaper, slow curing urethane and then tell their customer to go ahead and drive it in an hour anyway.

Now, couple that with the condition of the vehicles we did in conjunction with our training and it all starts to make sense. We did a total of eight windshields and one back glass during the hands-on portion of the training. Of the windshields we completed, all (but one) were previously installed by local shops. Of the seven, three were corroded to the point of having to undergo a corrosion treatment procedure. Four had gaps in the urethane bead at various points that leaked badly. Which brings me to the “70 percent done wrong” issue.

I believe that the 70 percent issue is not a national phenomenon but a regional one. In areas where training isn’t seen as a priority we have poorly trained installers and thus, the more sparsely stocked distributors, because no one is requesting the materials needed. In some other areas of the country we have very well-trained technicians and well-stocked distributors.

So, I must add to the quotes indicating that 70 percent of the installations done in America are done wrong, with a new non-scientific, non-official survey. I now believe that most of the poor installations in various high population areas of the country are due to poorly trained installers and poorly stocked distributors. When they go to the distributor and only one urethane is available, will most people demand the product they need, or will they just take the product that is “in stock”, perpetuating the glut of bad installations in the area?

What is my recommendation to those located in these areas of questionable installations? Seek knowledge through training and research. If your distributor only carries one urethane product or one quality level of glass products, you may be in one of these islands of poorly trained service providers, but a distributor will order products for you if you ask. Don’t miss the opportunity to gain control of your market. Simply do the job right, and explain to your customers what that means to the safety of their families. Customers will be knocking down your door.