by Bob Beranek
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You take the vehicle apart and there is corrosion.  What do you do?

  1. Get the customer involved as soon as possible. As soon as the rust is detected, stop and involve the owner. Do not proceed until the problem is discussed and course of action is agreed upon. Make sure they understand the ramifications and the costs involved.
    1. Adhesives do not adhere to rust. If the rust is not removed and the metal prepared properly, that glass will not bond to the frame and the vehicle will be unsafe and will leak like a sieve. NO ONE can make that bond or make that windshield leak-free without corrosion treatment.
    2. The corrosion is neither their fault, nor your fault, but it must be fixed.
    3. Discuss the cost and who will pay for it. The cost must include materials and labor time and it must be fair. If they refuse to pay for the corrosion treatment, either walk away or discuss other options.
    4. If you proceed with the corrosion treatment or ignore it and proceed with the installation without treatment, you are now taking on the liability. This is important to note because how you complete the procedures will determine your exposure.
  2. Determine the level of corrosion and see if you can complete the treatment procedure dictated by your adhesive company. If your adhesive company does not have corrosion treatment products and procedures, then corrosion treatment should be referred to a collision repair center.
  3. Every adhesive company has procedures and guidelines to follow when dealing with corrosion. Make sure you have (in writing) all instructions and products to treat the metal properly. Some companies recommend an outside product from a different manufacturer that can be used with their products. Make sure you use only the specified products and not products that appear to be similar. The chemistries may not be compatible and the bond could suffer or fail.
  4. Prepare the metal for protective coatings. ALL rust must be removed from the vehicle’s pinchweld. If by removal of the metal, you feel that the metal is weakened in any way, you should refer the vehicle to a collision center for metal replacement.
    1. Light corrosion – Remove the light corrosion with a stainless steel wire brush or wheel to bright shiny metal. Wipe or blow the debris from the affected area.  Allow any application of liquids to dry thoroughly. Then coat the area with the recommended products and bond according to instructions.
    2. Moderate corrosion – Protect the interior surfaces with pads that can tolerate flying hot metal flakes thrown by the grinding of metal. Remove the bulk of the rust with a grinding wheel or media blast (sand blasting). Then touch up the smaller remaining pits with a soft stone and die grinding tool. Once the metal is bright and shiny, wipe any residue from the pinchweld. Allow it to dry thoroughly if liquids are applied. Then coat the area with the recommended products and bond according to instructions.
    3. Severe Corrosion – Treating this grade of corrosion is up to the individual and/or glass company. This is the most questionable level because once you get into the rust removal stage the metal may break through into holes or be weakened to such a state as to be dangerous. Care must be taken to treat this level of rust. To prepare the metal for coating, observe at all metal removal stages the condition of the pinchweld. If it becomes perforated or weak to the touch, stop immediately and tow to a collision center of metal replacement. If you are able to remove the rust to bright shiny metal and the pinchweld strength is not compromised, then follow the preparation instructions mentioned above.
    4. Perforated Corrosion – This level should not be attempted by a non-professional body man.  Perforated includes the corrosion that is deeply pitted, expanding metal (like wet plywood or blisters) or actual holes in the metal.
  5. Lastly, do not attempt to treat aluminum bodied vehicles. Aluminum requires special handling and materials to repair or treat galvanic corrosion. Send these vehicles to a collision center that has experience with aluminum repair.

Treatment of corrosion is a necessary evil that we must recognize and deal with whether we like it or not. It is not the most pleasant conversation we will have with a customer but it is an important one. Customers are going to expect the price you quoted over the phone to be what they pay. However, in regard to corrosion, that will not be the case.

If you live in a high corrosion area of the country, I would suggest that you stop giving “quotes” and start giving “estimates.”  Explain that corrosion is common in the area and that a vehicle over a certain age (5-8 years old with a prior installation and 7-10 years without) is susceptible to corrosion that may raise the cost of the replacement. This discussion opens the door to the “safety” issue that makes your company exceptional and all of your competitors ordinary. Do not shirk away from the issue of corrosion. Rather embrace it and look at it as an added service you can offer to raise revenue and save lives.    

Ben Franklin once said, that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  When it comes to auto glass removal, that quote holds even more meaning. If we scratch a vehicle and don’t protect that exposed metal from oxidation then we have just put the driver and all occupants in that vehicle in harm’s way. So, preventing the scratch from happening in the first place eliminates the possibility of injury or death. Wow—doesn’t that word “death” scare the heck out of you? Did any of you realize that every scratch you cause and fail to deal with could cause serious injury or worse? Do you take the extra effort to eliminate damage to the paint? Do you take the extra effort to find every small scratch and deal with it?

Here are some of my suggestions for preventing, eliminating and dealing with damage to the vehicle.

  1. Use protective coverings to cover susceptible areas of the vehicle. This can include fender covers, drop cloths, tapes, pads and even the new pinchweld protection systems.  Use the thickest tape that will allow movement of the tools. It may be necessary to double or triple coat an area.
  2. Use the right tool for the job.
    1. The new wire-out tools are becoming very popular. I heard from some of my contacts in dealerships that all removals by European dealerships must be done with the use of wire-out tools.
    2. Do not use a blind cut out when a direct sightline cut out is possible. If you can see what is happening, the easier it is to control the situation.
    3. If you suspect that the cold knife blade will make contact with the body, even if it will be hidden by moldings, use a padded blade or other procedures to eliminate the damage to the painted surfaces.
    4. Use a concave type utility knife blade so it is less likely that the body will be scored during the molding removal.
    5. If a scraper is used, then use the blade reversed from what is typical. The beveled side should be to the floor of the pinchweld and the flat side facing up. This makes the existing urethane removal smooth without scraping the paint.
    6. Make all tools as sharp as possible. Change the blades on utility knives often.  Sharpen and hone all blades that cut. All auto glass cut-out tools, with the exception of utility knife blades, have a beveled side and a flat side. The flat side is always to the glass. If the technician reverses that blade and puts the beveled side to the glass, the blade will dive to the metal and damage the metal and interior moldings. Make sure you keep the beveling the same. Do not sharpen both sides.
  3. If scratches occur even after we put forth our best efforts, it is best to cover those scratches as soon as possible and with the recommended materials.
    1. Remember that urethane metal primers are not rust-inhibitive. They are used to cover exposed bare metal so oxidation can be slowed.
    2. Some scratches are so hard to see that many technicians fail to see them even with extreme care. Here is a hint I was taught by one of my dearest friends and colleagues, Bruce Gates from Gates Bros. Glass. Take a pocket flashlight or any bright light and shine it on the pinchweld. If there is exposed metal, the light makes it stand out and it is obvious. Even in bright daylight the flashlight highlights the scratch for easy priming.
    3. Make sure you prime only the scratch with a 1/8 inch overlap to make sure that the scratch is covered and air tight.
    4. Don’t forget to prime the scratches that are in areas outside of the bonding area.  They can corrode as well. They can spread into the bonding area and undermine the bond.

Prevention is obviously the best way to deal with corrosion, but cure is an absolute. Try to be perfect but when mistakes happen make sure you correct the mistake thoroughly.

Next week is the treatment of corrosion.