by Bob Beranek
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Several of my recent posts have been about glass quality, primarily because it has been a frequent topic of discussion in our industry. Today, I want to discuss what increasing the quality of auto glass will mean to your business.

Will increasing the quality of auto glass mean that the price of glass goes up? It probably will. If you want higher quality, you will have to pay for higher quality, and you will have to sell the benefits of that higher quality to your customers.

Selling customers on higher pricing has been a problem for many of the owners and operators I‘ve talked to in past years. They say they can’t compete with X’s glass shop down the street if they don’t meet or beat its price. I disagree.

Selling the benefits of your auto glass replacement service is similar to selling anything else. Every service and every product offered to the public occupies its own niche in the marketplace. You can be the “low cost,” the “fast service” or the “high quality parts” supplier. The key to success is not figuring out how you can provide a similar product at a lower price, it is figuring out how your business is different from the competitors’ and then selling that distinction. “Difference” sells.

Remember that if price is the only decision point of a consumer, there would never be luxury or “quality” items offered.  If price is the only decision point, we would only drive Nissan Versas (the lowest priced vehicle for 2017) and talk to our friends on flip phones.

We as consumers choose products that appeal to our particular needs. If our need is for safety, we’ll look for items deemed safe. If our needs are cosmetic, we’ll buy what looks good. If our needs are to have our vehicle perform the way it always did, we’ll buy what is necessary to achieve that prior performance. Price is important, but it’s on a sliding scale that is directly proportionate to the perceived value.

It’s true that glass isn’t always an easy sell. A windshield is not a new boat, a new piece of furniture or new technology TV—it’s a transparent panel people look through and never notice. However, we all know good glass from cheap glass. If we explain to customers why our glass is better, they will know it, too.

Don’t simply put in what you get and complain among yourselves about the quality. Glass professionals need to explain the importance and performance features of the product they sell. You need to illustrate to your customer the benefits of his or her new windshield and explain how it contributes to comfort and safety. You need to sell its value; if you don’t, you are doomed to forever selling and installing junk glass for junk prices.

You want good glass? Learn about what good glass is. Then find it, pay for it, refuse poor quality and sell it for what it is worth. Cream rises to the top and so will the profits if you put forth the effort.

I have recently heard of a problem in adhering urethane to an internally applied frit. What we mean by an internally applied frit is one that is applied on surface 2 or 3 instead of surface 4 where it is usually applied. The frit is the paint band around the perimeter of the glass and acts as an aesthetically pleasing finishing application, but also acts as a protective coating for urethane’s biggest enemy, ultraviolet light. The frit applied to surface 4 also acts as a bonding enhancer. The frit is a rough surface that increases the bonding surface urethane can grip. So, the rougher the frit surface is, the more enhanced bonding there is. 

Glass has a very smooth surface and adhesion is enhanced when there are certain conditions present. They can include a rough surface, a clean contaminant free surface and a primed surface that can interact with different substrates. The issue I see could be all or part of the options above.

If the frit is applied to the inside surface instead of an exposed surface, then an abraded surface must be created to enhance the bonding surface. This is why there are products or procedures that abrade surfaces. Dow’s Betabrade, Sika’s PowerCleanAids and other adhesive company’s wet scrub procedures are used for contaminant removal but also adds an abrasion that would also add adhesion success with increasing bonding surfaces. The more surface to bond to, the better adhesion strength is accomplished.

The next question would be, how well was the surface cleaned? Were the proper procedures used to clean the edge of the glass? Time and again during my training sessions I see technicians cleaning the glass incorrectly, even from technicians that have years of experience. They use improper cleaners, cleaning towels, and procedures that add contaminants rather than eliminating them. Add those improper procedures to a smooth glass surface and you have adhesion failure. Technicians and companies should be seeking cleaning instructions from their adhesive company representatives to fine tune their procedures and insure proper cleaning procedures.

Finally, I have no problem with primerless urethanes. Primerless urethanes work very well and produces a safe and proper installation with the elimination of a step that can save time and effort. However, primerless urethanes demand a clean surface to bond well.  There is no back-up and there is no amount of forgiveness if the surface is not clean or if the surface is too smooth to adhere to aggressively. Primerless urethanes may very well demand abrasion for maximum adhesion when applied to interior applied frits. I suggest that you check that possibility with your adhesive representative for confirmation or instruction for use.

Primable urethanes add an application of primer that also adds a level of increased bonding surface by its application to the glass. When it cures (dries), it leaves behind peaks and valleys that have walls to increase the bonding surfaces even on smooth interior applied frits.

My opinion is that if you use interior applied frit glass, use a product or procedure that abrades the bonding surface of the glass or use primer whether the urethane asks for it or not. Either way more bonding surface is created and the mechanical bond is enhanced.

Since I began in the auto glass industry, technicians have regularly complained of poor glass quality. I remember the DW725-26 Chrysler windshield that had a bend problem that reached unbelievable proportions.  The edges and bottom could be placed dry and directly on the pinchweld and the top center had almost an inch gap off the pinchweld. That was a problem. I remember having to convince Volvo owners that their desire to have OE glass installed was a mistake, because OE didn’t fit. The glass was too small and the moldings would not cover the gap between the glass edge and the pinchweld wall, causing the moldings to rattle or blow off. I had to sell them on the Safeguard FW404 and OE clips to make it work.

It has occurred to me lately that as a technician, I never brought my concerns to the people that could do anything about quality issues; the glass manufacturers. I just adjusted my install to compensate for poor quality glass, complained to my fellow technicians and continued on. That was wrong.

Recently I have been hearing complaints on glass quality again. Extreme protrusion of laminate, mirror pads put on crooked and falling off, glass being out of bend, VIN windows being misplaced, and attachments poorly applied. These add time and money to each installation and in some situations they can stop the installation completely.

It seems obvious that the quality of some glass pieces has deteriorated. However, if you have read my recent posts I think it is evident that glass quality will and must be improved or the manufacturers will soon be out of business. Proof of that statement is a recent glassBYTES article in which Pilkington has announced a huge upgrade to their Kentucky plant that will improve quality and increase production. That is a good sign and a step in the right direction.

What I am saying is that if you want better quality glass you must fight for it. How many of you have gone to your supplier with a complaint and they tell you, “We have not had any complaints about that problem before”?  Is it that we don’t protest enough? Do we simply deal with the defect and continue on with the installation like I used to do?

Technicians have to demand higher quality to get higher quality. I believe in the old adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If a glass manufacturer or distributor doesn’t know that there is a fit problem with certain part numbers, or if they don’t know that glass quality is important to you, they will supply what sells. At this point, that may be glass that is the lowest price (with marginal quality.)

You can’t expect suppliers to feel your pain unless you are direct with your expectations. Glass manufacturers are in business to sell glass and make a profit.  If you keep quiet and ignore the problems, you will get what sells, not what you want. It is in our best interests, and our duty to our customers, to speak up about poor quality glass. The moral of this story is that the manufacturers cannot deliver to us what we want unless they know what that is. We as aftermarket consumers of auto glass must voice our likes and dislikes or we will be subject to the only thing the manufacturers know; sales. If you want change, speak up. If you want quality, pay for it.