by Bob Beranek
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I get weekly emails from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that list the most recalls issued. There was one that caught my eye; it was on two General Motors vehicles, the 2016-2019 GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express vans.

Its recall identification number is 19V387. The title is what initially drew me in Incorrect Rear-Quarter Window Glass/FMVSS 226.  Tempered glass increases the risk of injury in the event of a side impact or rollover.

What was wrong with the quarter glass installed in the original assembly? Tempered glass has been used for quarter glasses for decades. According to the summary of the recall notice:

“One or both of the rear-quarter windows may be tempered glass instead of laminated glass. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 226, ‘ejection mitigation.”

What is FMVSS 226, “ejection mitigation?”

FMVSS 226, officially “49 CFR § 571.226 – Standard No. 226; Ejection Mitigation.”, can be obtained here.

If you have an engineering degree or speak “legalese” fluently you’ll probably get through it and completely understand it. I don’t have either ability, so I contacted some experts for an explanation. Here’s what I’ve learned.

FMVSS 226 is a relatively new standard, as it was introduced in 2011. There’s been a phase-in period for vehicle manufacturers until September 1, 2018, which is why we haven’t heard much about this until now. It says:

“This standard establishes requirements for ejection mitigation systems to reduce the likelihood of complete and partial ejections of vehicle occupants through side windows during rollovers or side impact events.” 

The 19-page standard goes on to explain the phase-in requirements, performance and testing parameters. My experts explained it is a new stand-alone standard that’s a directive from the government to vehicle manufacturers, mandating that laminated glass take a greater role in vehicle manufacturing for safety reasons.

The standard makes an exception for cargo vans and other specialty vehicles under 10,000 lbs. However, if you have a cargo van with a factory installed laminated quarter glass, I don’t recommend replacing that part with a tempered piece. We cannot interpret the language of the standard for our or our customers’ benefit.

The immediate concern, is that some of your dealer customers may want you to replace the tempered quarter glasses with laminated on the left rear-quarter position for long wheelbase vehicles and both left and right rear-quarter positions for short wheelbase configurations. Also, you should be proactive and inform your customers of this recall.

The long-term impact is not known at this time. There may come a time when all glass will be laminated in a motor vehicle. If that happens, new tools and procedures will have to be invented to deal with the change. I will keep you informed of new developments with this standard as new requirements are announced, and I will add the facts to my training courses to assure up-to-date knowledge.

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