by Bob Beranek
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At Thanksgiving this year, I began to think of what I was thankful for as an auto glass professional. It wasn’t easy. I read and contribute to a lot of auto glass forums and discussion groups, and frankly, they are sometimes pretty demoralizing. But then I began to really look at my profession and came up with a few things I like about it.

At first, as an installer, I liked the idea of driving around the countryside and meeting new people. I loved looking at the sites and feeling the wind in my hair. Back then I actually had some. It seemed to me to be a cowboy existence. No bosses over your shoulder telling you what to do or how to do it. You could play your radio as loud as you wanted and sing along to your favorite song with no embarrassment of how badly you sang it. You can stop by bakery shops, ice cream stands and fast food restaurants with no one telling you how bad it was for you. You didn’t care because you had a job that would give you a good amount of natural exercise and clean air to breathe. I was thankful for that.

As I progressed to management, I learned a whole new challenge—growing profit against tough and very similar competition. We had to trim costs in the lean years but still produce quality work or risk losing good customers. As a manager, I met some great people who became my trusted colleagues and my fierce competitors. They taught me a lot as a businessman and as a man. I’m thankful for that.

When I started in college, I wanted to be a teacher. However, after doing my research and finding out what a teacher’s salary was, I decided to major in business. In the auto glass field, I found an industry that needed training as much as I wanted to teach. Auto glass training was truly a blessing. I could be in business as a CEO and make a good living and still be a teacher the way I always wanted to be. I met the best people in the industry and learned a lot. With the knowledge I gained from those many experts, I was able to help the new technicians and future leaders of the industry. I’m thankful for that.

The automotive industry is never boring. Every year we have new vehicles, new designs, new technologies, new tools, new procedures and new challenges. What better way to keep your attention and make it interesting? Anyone who likes to use their hands to make a living has to like the auto industry. I’m thankful for that.

I am old enough to remember when the new Ford Taurus came out in 1986. How do you get that glass out? What is that dual bead of urethane doing there? It doesn’t even have a pinchweld to put it on. This windshield is impossible. No, it wasn’t. It just needed our innovation and determination to figure it out.  The same can be said for any glass part that has found its way to our doors. Our first comment, because that was the way we are, this is nuts!!! But a little later on we hear, “That’s not so bad. Just do this….”  I’m thankful for that.

Auto glass has been good to me and my family for more than forty years, and it can be good for you, too. Ann and I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving and that you all have a wonderful holiday season. We’re looking forward to everything new in 2018, and we’re thankful for that.

In the past, I have discussed the art of laminated glass fabrication. We covered a number of subjects such as the equipment required and the mechanics of scoring, breaking the score, radius corners and finishing. Although there are various ways of separating the lamination, today I want to explain why care must be taken in using alcohol and heat.

The preferred method for separating the lamination between the two layers of glass during glass fabrication is by cutting the vinyl, not melting it. This is because heat causes the lamination to shrink. If too much heat is added to the vinyl (called Polyvinyl Butyrate or PVB), it will shrink too much and cause lamination separation right on the edges you need to bond or seal. Of course, there are additional safety concerns when using a lit flammable liquid as a separation method.

Lamination separation is seen in two ways: bubbles between the two layers of glass or a clouding effect originating from the edges. The bubbles are the vinyl shrinking from one or the other glass surface caused by concentrated heat application. The clouding effect is the glass allowing moisture between the two surfaces thus causing it to revert back to its pre-autoclave condition, which is the last step of making laminated glass transparent. If lamination separation occurs, the glass is drastically weakened and could not be considered “safety glass” anymore.

Some technicians think that eliminating the use of denatured alcohol and replacing it with the use of a heat gun fixes this problem. A heat gun is safer to use than lit alcohol, but it is still not recommended.  The heat is the culprit here—not the product or tool used. 

Cutting the lamination is still the best way to separate the cut piece from the stock piece. Some technicians use a straight-edged razor blade, which works fine. I find that the razor blade is a little too thick for use around radius corners.

I still think that an old tape measure blade is the best cutter of lamination for a cutter of glass. It is self-sharpening, flexible for both straight-a-ways and corners, and very cost effective. If you have one that broke recently and you haven’t already thrown it away, it is a fortunate find. But, even if you have to buy a six foot tape, ¾ “ or 1-inch wide, that tape should last you your whole career if used properly.

For the sake of safety and quality, cut instead of melting the lamination. It will pay off in the long run, and it is just as quick to do.

Have you ever wondered what all those numbers and letters on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) mean? One thing it doesn’t tell you (for sure) is which windshield fits in a particular vehicle. It is correct that if a vehicle has a single windshield option that is unique to a vehicle trim package or engine displacement, it may be noted in the VIN. However, do not think that the VIN is going to pick the windshield for you. It will help but it won’t be the only option every time.

The VIN is an alpha and numeric series of 17 characters found on the door jamb, dashboard and engine compartments. It differentiates one vehicle from another and is very much protected by governmental agencies. In other words, DO NOT cut it off or damage it in anyway or it will ruin your day.

1 G C F G 1 5 R 9 W 1 X X X X X X

The first digit (1) indicates the country of final assembly or origin. This can be either a number or letter depending on the country. Some examples are:

1, 4, 5  –           Unites States

2          –           Canada

3          –           Mexico

J           –           Japan

W        –           Germany

The second and third digits (GC) indicate the manufacturer and the vehicle type or division, respectively.

If there is a “glass” indicator section, it will be in the fourth through ninth digits (FG15R9). This section of the VIN is known as the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS). This section identifies the vehicle specifics and uses a check digit that confirms the VIN to be correct. The five digits can contain all of the information the vehicle manufacturer wants to know: model, body style, trim package, engine, transmission and more. This series of numbers are not standardized and is at the discretion of the manufacturers’ desires and needs for proper repair information of the vehicle.  The ninth digit (9) is the check digit with a special logarithm developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation to confirm the VIN to be legitimate.

The 10th digit from the left or the eighth digit from the right (W) is the vehicle’s model year.  This is one of the most used digits by auto glass professionals because it is the only true indicator of model year. Some technicians use the manufacturer date on the door jamb but that is not accurate, especially if there are half-year models. The VIN is the only correct model year indicator. Also note that the letters I, O and Q are never used in the VIN number.

A = 1980
B = 1981
C = 1982
D = 1983
E = 1984
F = 1985
G = 1986
H = 1987
J = 1988
K = 1989
L = 1990
M = 1991
N = 1992
P = 1993
R = 1994
S = 1995
T = 1996
V = 1997
W = 1998
X = 1999
Y = 2000
1 = 2001
2 = 2002
3 = 2003
4 = 2004
5 = 2005
6 = 2006
7 = 2007
8 = 2008
9 = 2009
A = 2010
B = 2011
C = 2012
D = 2013
E = 2014
F = 2015
G = 2016
H = 2017
J = 2018
K = 2019
L = 2020
M = 2021
N = 2022
P = 2023
R = 2024
S = 2025
T = 2026
V = 2027
W = 2028
X = 2029
Y = 2030
1 = 2031
2 = 2032
3 = 2033
4 = 2034
5 = 2035
6 = 2036
7 = 2037
8 = 2038
9 = 2039


The 11th digit (1) is the manufacturing plant in which the vehicle was assembled. This digit is also not standardized and is at the discretion of the manufacturer. It could be letters or numbers.

The remaining digits (XXXXXX) are the ones assigned to differentiate a particular vehicle. You could call it the serial number of the vehicle.

I hope this “simplified” explanation of a Vehicle Identification Number helps. There are a variety of apps you can download to your phone that are nice to have handy when you arrive at the customer’s vehicle. If you double check year, make, model and body style information before beginning work, it can save you time and money.