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.

Keeping up with my theme of addressing the glossary of terms, this blog is dedicated to the most important term of all – frit. Why do I say it’s the most important? The answer – its importance to bonding glass to vehicle frames and the longevity of that bond.

The frit is the black paint band around the perimeter of an auto glass part. Though it does provide the appearance benefit of acting as a “moulding” substitute to cover the urethane bead, it also has a practical purpose.

For example:
• The black color protects the polyurethane adhesive from one of its biggest enemies, ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light is found in sunlight and it attacks urethane by breaking it down to a “caulk like” black powder. This weakens the urethane and reduces its bonding strength.

• The application of the frit paint on the number four surface of the glass adds to its adherence by adding more surfaces to bond to through mechanical adhesion. The rougher the surface the more mechanical bonding can occur.

Back when frit wasn’t applied by the glass manufacturer and urethane was used to bond glass, we applied a “black-out” primer to serve the purpose of the frit. The black-out primer and large, wide chrome mouldings protected the urethane bead from ultraviolet light and the primer acted as the roughened surface for the mechanical bond. Then glass and vehicle manufacturers realized they could add more protection and better bonding by adding frit paint to the glass.

The frit allows for “exposed edge” glass parts, which contribute to eliminating mouldings. The frit also adds more of a mechanical bond, which strengthens the safety devices the glass contributes to, and it makes the car look good.

So, pay attention to that black paint called the frit. It is important. It is not just there to make the vehicle look good. It is there for safety purposes.

I’ve been in the auto glass industry for forty years, and over that time there have been things that concern me. It seems many technicians and shop owners don’t realize the importance of our profession. Over the years I’ve seen both the good and bad times.

When I started as an installer, the only concern I has was having a leak-free installation and cleaning up after myself properly. I remember the first time I pulled a cold knife through polyurethane. I remember dealing with the glass lying flat on the pinchweld because carmakers couldn’t understand the difference between liquid urethane and dense butyl tape as it relates to glass support. I remember the difficulties explaining Safe Drive Away Time (SDAT) to customers who were used to driving away immediately after an installation. I remember when every installation was billed directly to insurance companies. I remember the immergence of third-party administrators. Finally, I remember when auto glass became a safety device that contributed to other safety devices.

I had dinner with one of my friends from the neighborhood I grew up in. He was a fire fighter and proud of his profession, as he should be. He asked me what I was doing now. When I said I was an auto glass technician, I got the feeling he didn’t really respect my career choice. Is the career of an auto glass technician is unimportant?

There’s no doubt a fire fighter’s career is important, they put their lives in danger for our wellbeing. However, during that dinner I wanted to make a point. So, I asked him how many people he’s pulled from a burning building and how many lives he saved during his career? His answer was none. Although he was involved with dozens of fires during his career, all of them concerned property damage and were not life threatening. I then told him that as an auto glass technician we save lives every day with each glass replacement. Unfortunately, I don’t think many auto glass technicians realize their responsibility for protecting their customers’ lives because if they did, they wouldn’t try to short-cut a job because it’s easier. Instead, they would do what was necessary to do the job right and wouldn’t answer an inquiry about a questionable procedure with, “I don’t know, I never had a problem with that.”

I’ll admit when I was a rookie installer, I wasn’t always full of pride for my job. I didn’t brag about putting glass into cars and making them leak-free. However, in 2019, I’m proud to say I am a master certified auto glass technician who saves lives every day and shows others how to too.