Pulling Cowls vs. Tucking

I have to thank the many regular contributors to the glassBYTEs.com™ forum for ideas on the content to this blog. I have noticed that “pulling cowls” was being debated hot and heavy on the forum, so I thought I would put in my two cents worth.
Do you pull all cowls or do you merely “lift the wipers” as they say? Quality minded technicians might say that removing the cowl panel is the only way to get a solid and safe installation. As a quality minded technician, I agree. But, like many of my recent writings, the word “however” usually comes up. This post is no different.

Do I remove every cowl panel? No, I don’t. Even though I am a quality minded technician, there are some vehicles in which complete removal of the cowl is unnecessary and in some cases wrong. I think a good rule of thumb in determining which vehicles necessitate pulling the cowl is to ask “What is the goal?” The goal is to recreate the OE bond originally designed in the vehicle to assure safe crush-zone performance in the event of a collision.

Since 1973, when many of the domestic and foreign vehicles changed the role of the glass in a vehicle, unique designs have caused the glass to take on a more important role in occupant safety. Some of these designs are well known to the industry because of association with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards such as passenger side airbag deployment (FMVSS 208), windshield retention (FMVSS 212), and roof crush support (FMVSS 216). Other design requirements, like the support of the firewall and other body panels are less well known but are equally important. If any of these panels lose support of the glass, they fail in a crash and people get hurt.

I remove the cowls I must, displace the ones that make sense and leave on the ones that don’t matter. A good bonded glass part is one that is set onto the urethane bead and not into the urethane bead. If this cannot be accomplished without removing the cowl panel, then the cowl panel must be removed, period. If it can be accomplished another way, then it should be considered to save time, money and possible damage to the vehicle. It may mean displacing the cowl like on some of the Range Rovers or not removing them at all because the actual lower pinchweld is above the top edge of the panel like on the old Ford Aerostar.

I look at it this way, if the panel is flush or attached to the glass edge by hooks or retainers, I remove the cowl panel. If the cowl can be displaced enough to apply the urethane properly and place the glass onto that bead easily, I will do that. If the cowl is mounted far away from the glass surface and I can set the glass onto the bead without removing the panel at all, I will do that.

And, obviously, if the glass and its moulding sit atop of the cowl panel—like the Cavalier/Sunfire of old—and are not designed to be removed, I will do that. Too many auto glass installers worry about leaks, but then completely discount the safety part of their installations. Is it because they don’t care? I think it is because they don’t know.

Technicians are pushed to get jobs done faster and faster, but frequently they are rewarded for the number of jobs completed, not the quality of the installation.

Don’t get me wrong. I always look for short-cuts and ways to shorten the installation time, but I will not choose a short-cut that will endanger my customer. I need all the customers I can get. I can’t go around maiming and killing them and expect to stay in business.

However, to those installers out there who never do more than “lift the wiper” and “tuck” the glass, please heed my warning. You will regret the consequences. It could be an air or water leak that jeopardizes your job, or it could be as serious as the death or crippling of a customer that could lose you your freedom.