Is 70 Percent of Glass Previously Replaced Done Wrong?

Many of you may remember the parlor game called “telephone.” Someone starts a phrase and whispers it into the ear of an adjoining person who repeats the phrase to the next person and so on until the phrase reaches the last person in the room. The last individual then repeats what he heard and most of the time the phrase doesn’t resemble the original. The results can be pretty amusing.

I made a statement many years ago that has come back to me lately as a perfect example of that game. In the mid-1990s I gave a presentation at a seminar in which I stated “Of the installations I have examined in my career where the glass was previously replaced, I would say that 70 percent were done incorrectly in one way or another.” The purpose of the statement was to show the need for proper automotive glass training, as opposed to throwing a rookie on a truck with a veteran and hoping for the best. That statement I made two decades ago has been attributed to many other sources, misquoted and has grown to the level of viral so now it is common knowledge that “70 percent of the installations completed in the United States are completed unsafely.”

My original statement was preceded by the comment that this was my opinion and not a scientific fact or a proper survey. The only way to know definitively what percentages of installations are unsafe is by crash testing, which isn’t really practical. However, during that same seminar, a person in the back of the room, a representative for PPG Industries, said to the group, “I have seen installers installing glass for years and you are all wrong, it is more like 90 percent are improperly installed.” That observation drew many laughs and nods of agreement but, like my original comment, it was an estimation based on observations and not fact. I have observed, inspected and participated in thousands of installations during my career, mostly OE installed, but many installed previously by so-called “trained” technicians. Over the years, I do think the quality of installations has improved to a certain extent, but so has the demand for more expertise in the art. So is 70 percent an accurate percentage of failure?

I guess before we can discuss “incorrectly” installed parts we have to define “proper installation.”

Proper Installation: An automotive glass installation that restores the safe condition designed in the mounting of a glass part to the vehicle frame as defined by Federal Safety Standards, replicates the fit, performance and appearance of the OE product and its installation and restores the proper operation of all safety and value added features originally included when the vehicle was purchased.

That definition now allows us to determine a correct installation. Do I think that installations in general are incorrectly done 70 percent of the time? I don’t know, you tell me. Just keep in mind:

  • The complexities of proper adhesive use, cleaning, prepping, priming and proper application;
  • The need for contaminants to be controlled during installation;
  • Many installers, as reported by a glass distributor, use primerless, longest curing, cheapest product in all conditions and on mobile trucks;
  • There is a urethane being used on the coasts that are plain white tubes that say “urethane,” that’s it;
  • Many of the mobile trucks are one-man trucks without setting devices or helpers, are they properly setting every time?
  • Adhesive brand systems are often mixed incorrectly for the sake of cost or convenience;
  • There is adhesive failure by ARG companies and paint delamination on OEs;
  • Many installs are done with wipers up and cowl panels left on; and
  • Many windshields are still installed with round beads instead of the recommended triangular beads.

You tell me. How many of these things do you see and witness every day in prior installations? You may be lucky and live in an area where good installations are the norm, but think of the many installations nationwide and worldwide where the technicians don’t have a clue.