Cold Weather Installations

I started installing automotive glass in March of 1973. The company I worked for, Auto Glass Specialists, had recently started sending out trucks with one technician for a job so I learned a lot in a short time. Luckily I started in early spring and I had the opportunity to master my tools in warm weather.

Installing automotive glass the following winter was like starting out all over again. The tools did not work the same way. I know that some of you out there don’t understand the difference between cold and coooollllldddd. To some of you cold is under 40° degrees. Here in Wisconsin, I’m talking about doing mobile work at -10°F degrees. I didn’t want to be out in the cold for very long so I learned to work fast.

I know I sound like an old fogy, but in those days we used butyl tape to put in glass and safety wasn’t mentioned except for glasses and gloves. All we had to do was take the car apart cut the glass out and put it back together as leak-free as possible. However, today things are a lot different. Safety leads the conversation and favorable weather conditions are necessary to do a good job.

Today’s adhesives allow for curing to O° degrees as long as other instructions are followed strictly. I thought I would share some tips to make sure that the conditions are right for a safe installation even in less than comfortably cold environments.

Here are the tips:

  • You can’t install while it is snowing or raining unless the vehicle is under cover. Urethane doesn’t stick to a wet surface.


  • When the installation is scheduled, ask the owner if he has or can supply a controlled environment, like a heated garage or space. You’ll be surprised at how many customers have friends or family with a heated space in which you can work. However, even an unheated garage is better than nothing.


  • Wear clothing in layers so they can be removed as the day warms up. Put on your long underwear, then your flannel shirt and thick pants, wear a hooded sweatshirt and then a jacket. Don’t forget your hat and gloves. Winter is always a time where I don’t have to remind my techs to wear their safety gloves.


  • If I am 100 percent sure that the glass is the right glass for the job, or if it is a part that is common and I can sell it later if need be, I will wash and prep the glass in the shop prior to going to the job. This way, the glass can stay in my heated truck until I’m ready to use it and the primer has had plenty of time to dry and cure. Make sure the use of the part is within the usable time frame of the primer.


  • I never turn off my vehicle during a cold day. I leave it running to make sure all of my tools, parts, and chemicals are warm and in usable condition.


  • If the installation must be outside, ask the owner if you can run the vehicle during the installation. Start the vehicle and make sure they have enough fuel. Then turn the defroster on full blast and begin to take the vehicle apart. While you are removing the cowl and mouldings, the vehicle’s heater is warming up the interior and the urethane bead. Once the glass is out, the defroster is blowing warm air and the immediate surrounding area is somewhat comfortable. Then once you set the glass, the air is again diverted to the glass and upper pinchweld area where it contributes to bonding and curing. It will also allow you to wash the glass without the glass cleaner freezing.


  • Brush off all the snow from the top of the vehicle. As it melts, it will dribble onto the pinchweld and vehicle interior and could cause improper bond and customer complaints.


  • If you choose the use a cold knife to cut out the glass, use a wide-based propane torch and heat the cutting blade. The blade will insert easily and pull like butter for the one side. Then reheat and do the other side. Caution: This does shorten the life of the blade but it will make the cut out easier. If the blade begins to bend, change the blade immediately or it could break and cause damage.


  • If you choose to use power tools to cut out the glass, I suggest that you use an approved glass cleaner rather than water. Most glass cleaners use some isopropyl alcohol as a grime cutter. It will also keep the liquid from freezing on the urethane bead. Water by itself will freeze and will not help in lubricating the interior surface of the urethane bead. You could add a little of your own isopropyl alcohol to plain water if your adhesive company will approve.


  • I keep all of my adhesives, preps, primers and cleaners in a box near the heater. I never put them on the dash because of safety reasons. Anything not strapped down can become dangerous in an accident.


  • Unless I can park my truck in a heated garage, I take all of my retention system products into the heated shop overnight. Some products lose their bonding properties if they are allowed to freeze. The same goes for my repair resins and equipment.

I hope some of these ideas will work for you.

I know that it is always best to get the vehicle into your shop or under controlled conditions to work on it, but sometimes that just isn’t possible because of geography or competition. An extreme cold weather installation, or even an extreme hot weather installation is not ideal. The best installation is when the conditions can be controlled and our message of safety is accepted. I am confident that someday that will be the case.