by Bob Beranek
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Do you know what a seatbelt pretentioner is? If so, give yourself a prize. Since I have been training professionally and speaking on the safety system addressed in Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 208, I regularly ask my students this question.  Most people don’t know what it is, or what it’s designed to do.

Many people confuse the pretentioner with the fast-braking belt-locking system. The fast-braking lock is a mechanical device that restricts the slack of the belt in case of a fast stop or brake application. It can be placed at various places within the seatbelt system. It works almost like a pendulum when the brakes are applied aggressively. As the pendulum is forced forward due to the fast stop, it locks into the seatbelt mechanism and restricts the belt from releasing any more slack.

The pretentioner is different, however. The seatbelt pretentioner is a pyrotechnic device that works with the fast braking lock system. The mechanical locking device restricts any more slack, and the pretentioner takes up the slack that is there and pulls the occupant back into the seat. The pretentioner works on the same circuit as the other airbags in the vehicle so that all systems work together.

Some of you may have heard of victims of serious collisions having a burn mark where their seatbelts crossed their torso. That is the pretentioner doing its job of pulling the occupant back toward the seat. You may have a mark for a while, but it can save your life.

When a door glass, vent glass or any tempered part in a vehicle breaks, the glass can go anywhere. If some of the glass chips get into the housing that surrounds the pretentioner, then removal must be done with caution. You should not dig down into the pretentioner housing to retrieve any broken glass.  Tools digging down in the housing could cause damage to the electrical system that triggers the pretentioner.

To clean out the housing:

  • Use a vacuum cleaner to suck out broken glass pieces;
  • Use compressed air to blow out the debris;
  • Manipulate the belt to force out glass chips; and
  • Disassemble the housing and clean out the pieces of glass trapped within. The housing is quite simple to remove, and the results will be cleaner with less chance of malfunction.

My advice is not to ignore the seatbelt area when cleaning up a tempered glass break. It can cause a malfunction of the system and possible injury to the vehicle owner or passenger. Just be careful when working in or around the pyrotechnic pretentioner—the cost and time needed to replace it will most definitely eat into your profits on the job.

Bob Beranek is the president of Automotive Glass Consultants Inc. 

Why do people often fight change? Is it because change is uncomfortable? Is it because people are convinced their way is better, despite all of the evidence to the contrary? I think it is a little of both. I have personally witnessed heated discussions that rarely change minds or beliefs.

In my interactions with technicians over the years, there seems to be a competition between installation procedures. Two perennial favorites are the arguments over “tucking” or “stuffing” the glass without pulling the cowl panel versus pulling the cowl panel, and squabbles over the benefits of round bead versus triangular bead urethane application.

When it comes to “tucking” or “stuffing” the glass, I always thought that even those who do it realize that it is an improper practice. I believed that if they were given enough time to get the job done right, they would practice safe sets. However, recently I heard a technician actually brag about the great job he did using the “stuff” method of install.

From his description, the bead was applied above the top edge of the panel and the glass is set into a cowl that uses hooks for support and panel attachment. This does make the “stuffing” installation possible because the glass can be set onto the bead and not into the bead. However, the seal and bond are hidden from the tech by the panel. This is not visual confirmation of a bond or a seal being made. If the glass is not set properly, even by a fraction of an inch, the bead will be displaced and the bond compromised. If it oozes out and the cowl is adhered to the glass, the cowl may be damaged upon removal by the next installer. If the glass is inserted into the bead, the chances of air leaks are increased.

The kicker here is that none of the issues described above will be known until the glass is replaced again or if someone is seriously hurt due to a bad bond and installation. Yet the technician bragged about “stuffing” the glass and holds it up as proof that his method is better and faster than everyone else’s. I don’t get it.

In the same vein, triangular beads are recommended and in some cases required for use with adhesives.  Every adhesive company, (automotive, structural or architectural) instruct the application of triangular beads. Every vehicle manufacturer instructs the application of triangular beads. Every assembly plant using adhesives uses triangular beads. Every physics teacher can explain the benefits of the triangular shape and how it is superior in distributing product on a surface. Yet, some auto glass installers continue to believe that round bead distribution is better. Again, I don’t get it.

I know that change is not an easy thing. We all feel more comfortable when the procedures we use are familiar and we all believe our methods work. I remember a time years ago when my boss instructed me to use a plastic stick to put in gasket jobs from then on instead of a metal hook tool. Even worse, he told me to teach this new method to all our technicians. I fought the concept tooth and nail at first because I felt that all technicians needed to know how to use the hook tool. However, if I wanted to keep my job I had to learn and master the “stick-in” style of installation and forget the “hook-in.” How did that workout? Glass breakage dropped by over 75 percent and our company saved thousands of dollars. I learned something new.

I would like to propose a challenge to all who “stuff” and apply round beads. Give change a chance, it will bode us well to be a little less rebellious at times and to try new things that experts tell us work. It may save you money and hassles down the road. What could it hurt?

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.