by Bob Beranek
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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.

Those of you who attended the recent Auto Glass Technician Competitions (the “Olympics”) in West Palm Beach may have noticed that we threw our competitors a little curve this year. Instead of having the competitors replace a windshield in their first heat, we had them remove and reinstall (R&R) a quarter glass.

What surprised me the most were the various ways the competitors removed the parts. Everyone saved their quarter glasses, by the way. Not one participant broke the glass removing it which, in my eyes, proves they all deserved to be there. However, several people did damage the paint during the process.

A few scratches are not important when the body panel from which the glass is removed is going to be professionally painted anyway. That is usually the case when you are asked to remove a glass part whole. In addition, most of the quarter and vent glasses manufactured today are either encapsulated with decorative trim or have trim moldings that will cover scratches caused by the removal and primed by the technician. I understand this.

Please be aware, though, more and more quarter and vent glasses are coming out with exposed edges like the ones we had in the competition. The vehicles we used were Nissan Versa Notes with exposed edge quarters. Exposed edge glass not only leaves the most vulnerable part of the glass exposed to possible fracture, but it also exposes the wall and part of the floor of the pinchweld for the customer to see easily. If scratches are present or damage was primed with urethane black primer, it will be unsightly to the vehicle owner, which brings us to the purpose of this post.

When an auto glass technician is asked to R&R a part, he or she must determine the circumstances surrounding the repair. Is the body panel going to be painted, or is it being removed to make it easier to repair the body panel? Does the glass part have moldings or encapsulation that would cover possible primed scratches? These questions must be answered at the outset, so the technician can pick the method and tools to be used in the removal.

In the past, the success of an R&R procedure was determined by the steadiness of a technician’s hands while pulling a cold knife or by adding a helper who could assist in pulling the other end of a cut-out wire. Recently, we have had an influx of tool designs that have eased the cut-out procedure drastically.  The new wire-out tools and paddle-bladed hand and power tools have increased the success rate even among less experienced techs.

So how do you make sure your R&Rs go smoothly?

  • Understand the problems that could arise. Pay attention to the exposed-edge problem described above, or to undue stress on the glass part that may cause fracture during the removal.
  • Pick the right tools that the job demands. Figure out ahead of time if you want to use a wire-out tool, a cold knife, paddle tool or power tool.
  • Lastly, have the patience to do the job right. Too many times productivity pressure causes bad decisions to be made for the sake of quick removal.

If you are losing your dealer and collision customers, is it because they can’t overlook the damage caused by the R&R procedure anymore? That is a problem that can be fixed.

This week is the 2017 Auto Glass Week™ in West Palm Beach, Fla., at the Hilton West Palm Beach Resort. Most of the time, this is the venue where industry friends and colleagues meet to renew friendships, discuss business and learn new things impacting the industry. I have been going to these events since 1991, but this won’t be a typical year. This year the industry will learn much more about Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and get a gut check that may change the way we do business going forward.

Changes have occurred in our industry before. In the late 1940s, the issue was curved glass parts.  Cutting tables disappeared, NAGS patterns started to deteriorate, and shops got bigger to handle the room necessary to stock large numbers of curved glass parts. Distributors became more important as our warehouse and as a “just-in-time” inventory provider. New skill sets were needed and those who had the skills required to cut parts became “just” installers. Slowly, the skills and art of glass fabrication became lost. Auto glass shops had to completely change the way they did business.

Then came the first glued-in auto glass parts in the late 1950s. A whole new industry was born in auto glass removal tools. Innovation and adaptation were the words of the day. Tools were designed and technicians needed to learn adhesion and sealing skills. What the heck is butyl? Can I get Polysulfide?  Again, the industry had to change and learn new skills.

Then this new stuff came along in the 1970s called polyurethane. Boy, was that stuff strong. I remember the first time I inserted my cold knife into that stuff and tried to pull it. I swore somebody tried to install the glass with liquid concrete. New questions and concerns emerged. We heard “What do you mean the vehicle has to sit for 24 hours?”; “Are you nuts?”; “I can’t provide mobile service if it takes a day to cure.”; “What about shop jobs?”; “I don’t have that much parking to hold a vehicle overnight.”  However, just like before, the industry innovated, and, with the help of our adhesive manufacturers, we overcame another curveball thrown by technology.

I suspect that each one of the trade shows that introduced those game changing innovations for our industry gave off the same feel that this upcoming one is giving me. The innovation that is going to change our industry is going to be every bit as big as the ones before. We have had some previews the last couple of years but ADAS and the new technology it spawns is going to be huge. It will develop new sister industries, it will demand new skill development, it will teach us new ways of doing things, and it will design new tools for us to use.

This year’s Auto Glass Week™ may go down in auto glass history like the ones mentioned above. If you can still find a hotel room, it will be well worth the effort to attend. This is a milestone that our industry sees only occasionally. Don’t miss it.