by Bob Beranek
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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.

Comments (18)

  1. Daniel said on 13-07-2012

    I would say it’s all to The Technician’s expertise to decide when or whether to take away the cowl, prior to the windshield replacement.
    I personally got astonished when my partner in VA made a habit of just prying out the upper edge of the cowl of 2005 Toyota Corolla keeping it far from the pinchweld with some blue ribbon tape. Although I was not at all happy to embrace this procedure I had to admit later on that the cutting out and the installation could be performed safely and successfully if higher skill and attention were demonstrated. Not to mention that the time of the installation was shorter with some quarter an hour.
    As long as time is not a constraining factor, if the procedure of cowl removal eases the job, then it’s better to do it. If you are in a hurry, then compromises should be accepted. Depends on each and every situation.

    Have a great week-end, pals !

  2. John Pazar said on 14-07-2012

    Thanks for the great article Bob! Here are my thoughts on removing the cowl.
    I very rarely leave a cowl on the vehicle. A good technician can remove a cowl in just a few minutes, and by doing so you will eliminate any chance of pushing the urethane off the pinchweld. I see too many vehicles with air leaks and areas where there is no bond along the bottom because the cowl wasn’t removed. I have seen installers spend more time trying to “displace” a cowl than it would have taken to remove it in the first place. I agree there a few cowls that are difficult to take off. In that situation, you should have another technician handy to help with the set to make sure there are no mistakes.
    The quality of the job should never be compromised to save a few minutes!

  3. John R. Allen said on 16-07-2012

    In our line of work, we see windshields everyday IMPROPERLY installed by either short cut method or by “TUCKING”. This has resulted in leaks which have caused mold in the cars and I know of 3-4 recently where tucking was the cause of the water leak that took out the computer resulting in over $4,000.00 in damage, just google the leaking Toyota windshield from Montreal…

  4. John R. Allen said on 16-07-2012

    …If you are in a hurry, then compromises should be accepted., this is a quote from “Daniel”…see above. Compromise what, saftey, are you nuts! It is guys like you who give this business a bad name! If you admit to compromises, do you use the long or short cut method? How about non compatible urethanes, primers, glass cleaners? How about out of date products or do you compromise by not using pinch weld primers….

    • Daniel said on 26-07-2012

      Dear John,

      It would have been better if you quoted the whole phrase and not criticize just for the sake of posting something here.
      “Depends on each and every given situation”, I said for completion.
      If you want to understand in your own way, fell free to do so. But refrain from calling any of the posters “nuts”, it’s just not polite.
      Have a great day !
      Daniel

  5. Glasseye said on 17-07-2012

    I do not agree with ” tucking” or as it is called in the UK “diving” a screen under a cowl, why?
    safety – you must be able to guarantee 100%, the screen is seated correctly on the bead
    efficiency – any fitter, worth his salt, can organise cowl removal and replacement during the prepping and curing stages, so no real time is saved
    sanctioning bad habits – newby technicians seeing this done will be more likely to take shortcuts thinking that it is ok to do this.

  6. Bob Beranek said on 18-07-2012

    Many of you know that I am the editor of the Auto Glass Journal. I contribute most of the installations written in the AGJ. One thing I have noticed on the newer vehicles is that the cowls are becoming easier to remove. Many are held in place with simple retainers that can be released with just your fingers and hands. There is no reason not to remove the cowls.

  7. Terry H said on 27-07-2012

    Pulling the cowl is a great idea when you are learning and unsure of your skills. I have done this for 20 plus years and don not pull them on 98% of vehicles. Not even the FJ. my warranty rate is always less than 1% and usually 0%. Bob I have seen your work in person on my own vehicle during a training class and you would have gotten a poor review under the net promoter score “NPS”

    • Bob Beranek said on 31-07-2012

      Could you elaborate on what is a net promoter score? I am interested in how you felt I was poor in my installation. I am always willing to learn.

  8. Jason C. Davis said on 18-10-2012

    “Cowls” are for pastures, just an old saying and I am joking. I pull cowls on some and vise versa. I have 18 years of experience and know my limits. There is nothing worse than pulling a cowl and nowhere to put a stop and no one to help. Skill level comes to play with laying a bead.

  9. AutoWorx Auto Glass said on 02-06-2013

    ” tucking” is is not the issue …the problem is most all techs do not understand the the details of the bond characteristics…if every tech knew how to insure a correct bond then there would be no problems..but not too many techs understand the bare metal to primer to paint and then urethane and how the factory is not installing windshields correctly and how to remove rust completely and prepare the bare metal correctly to insure a high strength bond

  10. A Touch Of Class AutoGlass said on 21-06-2013

    “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.” I totally agree, when i was with safel*te, that was my main complaint and led to me leaving. and i think thats what Terry H. meant earlier with the “NPS”, a safeli*e score for quickly getting jobs done. As for myself, i do remove and dont remove, kinda along the lines you stated Bob. p.s. love the blog!

  11. keith elder said on 07-03-2014

    auto worx wins,,, as i have said in other topics its all about metal and glass prep. if its not proper it “aint” gonna stick and hold… what height and width should the urethane bead be? whats the glass industry standand?,, seems to be up to the auto manufacturer.. (and the stupid robot).. 1/8 inch square minimum has been very common as i have seen over my 31 years experience.. of course larger to gauge the height of the glass to moldings and cowl.. pull a cowl or not??,, you decide.. glass has to stick, look good and be a safe install.. the rest of it is elementary… safety first

  12. Robby Williams said on 01-01-2015

    What techs don’t understand is that a quality install is not measured by comebacks for leaks or air noise. This is old school. I can install with butyl and not have comebacks on many vehicles. We have to think beyond a water leak or air noise. We have to think safety and this is a game changer. When we install with safety of a customer in mind we not only reduce comebacks we save lives, but when we install with just reducing comebacks in mind we are putting lives in danger. I’ve seen installs without a comeback but if it was in a collision the windshield would of definitely came loose. So leaving on cowls may not be a comeback but it could be a silent killer.

  13. James said on 05-01-2015

    I’ve been installing for 20 + years and the is always going to be conflict between pulling a cowl and stuffing a windshield. Without compromise to safety I know what I can stuff and what I can’t. I spec in European vehicles and do remove most cowls ide say about 90% even if I know I can stuff it. Now for the people who say that they pull every cowl good for them but pulling a cowl doesn’t actually make you a good installer there are many steps to ensure a safe install and cowl removal would be the last on the list. Just my opinion if you can safely stuff a windshield then by all means do it if you can’t safely stuff then pull the cowl cause no matter what is said here installers will still install their own way

  14. […] July 2012, I wrote a blog post about the debate between pulling cowls vs. tucking the glass when replacing windshields. The question came up again recently.” —Bob […]

  15. James Michael Rose said on 29-05-2017

    I’ve been doing Autoglass for awhile and I’ve gone both ways usually D2 overbooking you know 12 or more jobs in one day it’s not the case today I take the cowls off and do no more than 5 jobs a day,I love Autoglass My name is Mike Rose, MY WORK IS MY SIGNATURE AND I SIGN IT LEGIBLY

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