by Bob Beranek
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In 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.

As someone who has been training in the automotive glass industry for many years, I have learned firsthand that safety can never take a back seat behind margins and productivity. Instead of saying, “I put in the glass safely every time,” some techs say (and I hate this) “I never had a problem.”

My question to the people who say they never had a problem is, define “problem?” Is it that you rarely have a comeback or is it that you never maimed or killed anyone? Buddy, if you had a “problem,” by my definition, you would be forced out of the industry by a civil lawsuit or in jail because you killed someone and were charged with negligent homicide. The odds may be against that happening, but I have personally witnessed several court cases where the vehicle owner was injured (or killed). It does happen and the companies that did the installations (not to mention the vehicle owners) had to pay the price.

As I noted earlier, I don’t pull every cowl. There are some vehicles, like the Jeep Wrangler, and older Cavaliers and Sunfires that don’t require it. However, the safety of the installation cannot be compromised ever. What does this mean?

I pull or displace the cowl in every vehicle where it is necessary to make sure the glass is on the bead and not in the bead. The lower glass bead that is behind the cowl panel is the most important for the support of airbag deployment and the support of the firewall in a front end collision. If you compromise or guess on the bonding of the lower bead by not pulling the panel, maybe you will save a few minutes and possibly get in one more job that day. Some will say, as long as there is no complaint from the customer, it must be okay, right?

However, how do you know that you created a solid bond if you did not pull the cowl to see? Making sure your bond is secure is the only way that you can be protected in the event of an accident. Maybe you will get away with cutting corners 99 percent of the time, but your odds decrease the longer you put in glass. That last one percent can get you in real trouble or kill your customer, literally.

Minimizing comebacks and keeping productivity high are important aspects to a successful automotive glass shop, but making sure your installations are 100 percent safe is the only answer to keeping it viable for the long term. Improper installation will hurt you sooner or later, either through customer dissatisfaction due to noise or air leak complaints, through lawsuits connected to injury or through legal action due to the death of your customer because you needed to save a few minutes.

Pulling cowls is not an all or nothing proposition, and as I’ve said, it is not necessary in all vehicles. However, it should not be a debate. Safe installation is the only answer. If pulling the cowl is necessary to that end, get on with it.

Comments (8)

  1. […] TODAY’S BLOG: Pulling Cowls: Let’s End the Debate […]

  2. Frank Thomas said on 02-06-2016

    STABBING a windshield even SOUNDS BAD !

  3. Robby Williams said on 02-06-2016

    Bob, we’ll said” No debate “! I never had a problem seems to be the motto where I work!.

  4. Lynn S. said on 06-06-2016

    Thank you, Bob! You trained two of my BEST techs ever about 18 years ago in Phoenix. It was the best money I have ever spent in 30 years in the glass business for training.
    Your blog is right on the money, and the urethane.

  5. Bill said on 22-06-2016

    Fortunately, when I started in the business in 1983 , I was trained by the owner of the company. We always pulled the cowl panels. When you are taught correctly, you will find that is the only way to do the job correctly. Now that I am a business owner, i share the same knowledge with my employees. I have found over the years, that the ones who are not pulling cowls ,are the ones who are low balling price, and have to do double the work to make a living.
    Just the other day, I watched another shop replace the windshield on an Acura Tl. Never pulled the wipers, or the cowl. In fact, never even opened the hood. could not believe it
    Just my 2 cents folks
    Thanks for your articles Bob

  6. Kerry Soat CEO Fas-Break said on 23-06-2016

    Couldn’t agree with you more Bob. Great Article. Safety First and Always.

  7. Don C. said on 26-06-2016

    “There are some vehicles, like the Jeep Wrangler, and older Cavaliers and Sunfires that don’t require it. ”

    I take exception that some vehicles don’t require it. These vehicles don’t have cowls. The message should be, “You pull every cowl, no exceptions.” When ever a windshield is stuffed, you don’t know where the urethane hits the windshield. Also, you can not see if you scratched the metal and where you should prime, because rust will follow.
    So please change your message to remove all cowls.
    Thank you

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