by Bob Beranek

I was following an automotive glass mobile unit recently and noticed that he was driving erratically. It was the middle of the day and I assumed that his driving was not due to over drinking but due to trying to find a customer’s home or vehicle. I was right. As I passed him to get out of harm’s way, I noticed that he was checking his smartphone and looking at street signs. This reminded me of the good old days when we didn’t have GPS or smartphones to get us to where we were going. We only had the directions the customer gave us and a map on a large, weirdly folded piece of paper.

One of the most dangerous acts a mobile automotive glass technician faces every day is driving his vehicle in daily traffic. Even today with all the technology available, driving is still one of the most dangerous acts performed and we do it while we’re looking for addresses and landmarks. Before technology, we were supposed to map our jobs in a logical manner on a laminated local map, then plot our route around detours and traffic patterns and then memorize our routes and turns to the next job before we left the current one.

Right. That isn’t going to happen.

What really happened was that we plotted our course for the day and took off. We referred to the map and directions written on our work order while driving with our knees. If we couldn’t find the address, we would pull over to a pay phone and call our customer service representative to complain that the directions didn’t match the map. That was sure safe and efficient, wasn’t it? No …

The question is, did it change much with the advent of technology? Sure, we have all this technology available to us but do we use it to its best advantage? GPS systems are great. They can be programed to make numerous stops and announce loud and clear all the turns, traffic hang-ups and detours in advance of tie-ups and delays. Smartphones are also amazing devices for an automotive glass technician. It immediately connects us with our office and our customers. We can take pictures and send them immediately to anyone we want. We can get accurate directions to any location in the world with little problem and see it from space. Wow. The problem? We try to do all of this while we’re driving a vehicle at highway speeds in heavy city traffic.

Having the technology in your hand does not mean that it is being used safely, it means that it needs to be used safely. Utilize the features built-in to help you such as voice activation instead of a keyboard, hands-free microphones, Bluetooth technology. In other words, keep your hand on the wheel. When a conversation becomes detailed and more complex, pull over and deal with the call. Your attention should be on the act of driving and nothing else.

Technology is a wonderful thing and we all find new ways of using it to improve our work product and our way of life. But when used improperly, it can take our life instead of improving it.

What are the safety related features offered on the new vehicles? As stated earlier, some features are performance driven and others are safety driven and some are a combination of both. The safety related features are those that we cannot deactivate, disconnect or eliminate no matter what we are asked to do. We must make sure that these safety features are in perfect working order, either by the technician restoration or by arranging for the repair or replacement of these features by a certified service provider before we release the vehicle to the customer.

According to the National Traffic and Highway Administration Act of 1966, “[N]o repair business shall render a safety device inoperative …” The official document is here. Look in Title 49, Sec.30122 paragraph (b). Page 557.

Okay, what are these devices we cannot render inoperative? Other than the windshield, there are a few new safety features we have to make sure are operable or at least recalibrated.

Lane Departure Systems – Any lane departure camera mounted to the glass or a part of the vehicle that we are altering, must be recalibrated by a dealer or certified calibration servicer. The system mounted to the glass is an easy decision, if we remove and remount a camera or system to a mounting plate, it must be recalibrated. Usually this is done by the dealer servicing that brand of vehicle. If the dealer does not have the recalibration tools and training or it is located in a faraway city, the glass shop still has the responsibility to facilitate recalibration.

The glass shop has two options regarding this responsibility; physically take the vehicle to the calibrating service center and once the calibration is completed release the vehicle to the customer or make an appointment with the service center or dealer for the customer to take the vehicle at a later time. I suggest that you check around your community for local calibration centers. I have heard that there are some Goodyear Tire and Service Centers that have the recalibrating systems to service different brands of vehicles. If there are no local recalibration centers, then the only option is to send the customer to the nearest dealer that can calibrate. Make sure that you make the appointment with the dealer—don’t let the customer make the appointment. If you rely on the customer to make the appointment, they may forget and you are still liable. If you make the appointment for the customer and they don’t show up, then it is the dealer’s responsibility to follow-up with the customer and you are relieved of responsibility.

If the camera is mounted to the roof header, mounted to a center console or positioned behind the front grill of the vehicle, then the glass shop need not worry about recalibration because it did not alter the system while replacing a glass part. I got a call asking about the lane departure system on a BMW vehicle where the camera is located in the side rearview mirror assembly. My advice is that if the windshield was replaced, the need to recalibrate is unnecessary. However, if you replaced the mirror glass in the assembly, then recalibration is called for because you altered the camera’s housing.

Obviously, this lane departure is a safety related item that must be made operable. Not only for the safety of the consumer but for your own liability as well.

Anti-pinch Panels – According to FMVSS 118, automatically moveable panels must be equipped with an anti-pinch reverse feature that prevents entrapment or injury to occupants or vehicle operators. What are “automatically moveable panels?” They are door windows, doors, sunroofs, moon roofs, back hatches, etc., that move or close with a touch of a button or intentional body movement. This feature is definitely a safety related item that must be calibrated or re-initialized to work properly before the vehicle can be released to the customer.

Door windows and sunroofs are the items replaced or repaired most frequently that we must be concerned about proper operation. Any window that rises with a single touch of the window switch must be checked for proper operation and reversing action. To check operation after the installation:

  • Touch the “Auto Up” switch. If it goes to the top of the door frame and reverses, then it needs to be re-initialized. If the window goes to the top of the door frame and stops, it should be fine, but you still must test operation to assure performance.
  • To do this, repeat the same “Auto Up” procedure but this time interrupt the movement of the window by placing a rubber mallet between the glass and the door frame. The glass must reverse when it comes in contact with the rubber mallet. If it doesn’t, then re-initialization is required.

Re-initialization is a step-by-step procedure to re-train the window mechanism to recognize the top of the door frame as the door frame and not the head or neck of a child. Each vehicle’s procedures are different, even within the same brand of vehicle. Sometimes the procedure has to be repeated several times to get it to work properly. But there is good news. Most of the newer vehicles, starting in 2014, are going to a more standardized re-initialization. They are going to the simplest of resets.

  • Just pull/depress the window switch and hold until the glass reaches the top of the door frame. Then hold the switch for three to five seconds after the glass is positioned in the door frame.
  • Now open the window by pull/depress the window switch until the glass is fully opened. Then hold the switch for three to five seconds after the glass is positioned in the open position. Repeat if necessary.

The vehicle models before 2014 that have the “Auto Up” feature will require you to contact the dealer for re-initialization procedures or go online to search for procedures. Some of the older resets can be quite detailed and difficult to complete so be aware of time constraints and price accordingly.

P.S. – Here is also a little hint. If you can make contact with the customer soon after the window broke, tell the customer not to operate the mechanism. If the customer moves the door glass mechanism too far in either direction, the mechanism will require re-initialization. However, if the customer does not move the mechanism, the reset may not need re-initialization.

These two features must be considered safety devices and must be dealt with accordingly.

Last week we discussed value added features as they relate to the performance or safety of a vehicle (or both). We began with the discussion of high modulus and low-conductive urethane products. Today I thought we should discuss some new features that add tremendous benefits and modern technology to the cars that we drive. Are these features performance driven or safety driven?

Solar Parts

Solar comes in two flavors, reflective solar-coated and solar absorbing. The purpose of solar glass, as defined by the glass and vehicle manufacturers, is to protect the vehicle and occupants from the ultraviolet and infrared rays from the sun. Ultraviolet rays cause premature deterioration to plastics and fabrics and can contribute to health problems to the occupants. Infrared rays are the heat producing rays from the sun and must be reduced or eliminated to make the vehicle comfortable in warm sunny climates.

Is this performance or safety?

For the most part, it is performance. The reason for the introduction of solar parts was twofold. One, the increased use of glass in vehicle design called for the use of solar glass to reflect those terrible ultraviolet light rays from the interior parts to avoid premature damage. Two, the Environment Protection Agency forced vehicle manufacturers to make a change in the Freon used in the A/C units and the designers had to compensate for the less efficient coolant. When infrared light rays are reflected or absorbed, the vehicle is cooled as well. So performance is probably the main reason for solar glass introduction into the automotive realm.

Now, you could say that filtering out ultraviolet light protects the occupants from skin cancer or the solar coating protects the plastic lamination from separating from the glass surface thus insuring a safe bond, and that would be an interesting debate. It would be an excellent selling point to your customers.

However, it is a stretch to say that the solar glass is truly a safety feature. Who is to say that the skin cancer contracted was from the use of non-solar glass and not from the hours spent on the beach or mowing the lawn?  Who is to say that the non-use of solar glass caused the failure of the windshield bond when non-solar glass was used for decades before with no bond problem or significant lamination separation? So you see that the question can be debated, but I believe solar glass is mainly a performance feature.

As we discussed last week, manufacturers label value-added items as “performance-” or “safety-” related based on the financial benefit it brings to the table. However, the true test of safety over performance is when it is tried in court. If a consumer thinks that an item is added to their vehicle for safety purposes and that item fails, the individual may go to court to voice their beliefs. If a jury is convinced through testimony that an item is there as a safety device, the device now becomes a safety device no matter what the vehicle manufacturer labeled it. This is our system of justice. That is why I recommend that when replacing any glass in a vehicle, it is always best practice to replace the part with the same type of part that was in it from the factory. It is the cheapest insurance against liability that a shop owner can buy.