by Bob Beranek
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A comment recently made on the glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR™ magazine Forum has raised a question we should all consider. In full disclosure, the comment was made regarding Auto Glass University (AGU), a training program I own, although this post is not meant as a commercial. I am giving you my opinion on the art of automotive glass training. I hope it can be used by everyone in the industry to be more effective in their training of new technicians, no matter where or by whom the training is conducted.

Here is the statement that made me consider the “best practices” of automotive glass training:

“Having gone from glazier to installer to technician in the past 50 years, taking the AGU course and then trying to go out and replace glass is like mastering the ‘See Spot Run’ book and then trying to read an encyclopedia. I trained many people over the years and it takes a minimum of six months of constant guidance and training to get them to the beginner level of doing replacements.”

Of course, no one will “master” automotive glass installation in a week. However, if it takes you six months to get your tech to the “beginner” level, you either have the wrong guy or you’re doing it wrong.

It takes knowledge of basic principles, exposure and practice on specialized tools, experience in different vehicles and skills developed over time. However, the quickest and safest way for a tech to get productive is by working with an experienced instructor who allows the student to study with a specific curriculum in a controlled environment at a comfortable pace and to learn from their mistakes.

I have spent most of my career training automotive glass technicians and one of the biggest hurdles I’ve seen to effective education was managers sending new techs on a “ride along” with experienced people but then prioritizing production over training. You might say, “Hey, the work has to get done.” Yes it does, but if the job completion takes precedence over instruction, don’t expect the trainee to be productive in a timely manner.

If the trainee doesn’t have the opportunity to do the work himself and to develop good habits and techniques because the jobs need to get done before dark, the training that day was worthless. This prolongs the training and the costs involved. It also shows the trainee how to short cut and make improper concessions for the sake of time. Training this way can and will take six months or more to complete.

While new tools and vehicle designs make the art of installation physically easier, the technology built into those vehicles means that doing our jobs right is critical for the safety of our customers. There is a place for riding in a truck with a productive technician, but it is only after the new tech as received a firm grounding in the basics. The ride-along-trainer may be excellent in teaching “how to” install given the proper time, but does he know “why” the glass needs to be installed in a specific way?

When decisions need to be made, the “how to” learner does not have the flexibility to consider options that the “why” learner does. Decisions are harder to make, and a poorly trained tech runs the risk of being wrong. A good training course gives new techs the facts and then backs those facts up with data. If your new tech steps into the field already knowing the “whys” of proper installation and then has the opportunity to practice the “how to” he will become productive in the shortest time possible.

I have been in contact with two different glass shop owners recently who both asked me the same two-part question. Why are there so many bad automotive glass shops and technicians in our industry and how can we stop their dangerous and callous actions?

Both of these gentlemen belong to Auto Glass Safety Council™ (AGSC) Registered Member Companies and practice safe and proper installations. I can understand their frustration. They do everything right but find that time and again customers are choosing to do business with competitors whose standards are not nearly as high. What is there to do?

One owner took his frustration to his state government for help. He cited the recent actions of the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island which licensed technicians and shops. Both states made the effort to assure safe automotive glass installations because they realize the windshield and other stationary glass parts are a part of the structural integrity of the vehicle and improper installation would compromise the safety of their constituents.

Initially, this owner’s state of Michigan doesn’t see it that way. (Currently they may be more concerned with water quality than glass installation quality.) However, through perseverance and strong effort, the owner got his state representative to take a closer look. We don’t know what the results will be but at least owner one made the effort and made his point.

Owner number two complained that local competition passed their compliance audit through AGSC but promptly returned to the high production and lax quality issues as soon as the evaluator left the building. He suggested that audits be unannounced to truly measure installation quality. He wondered how these shops can get away with it.

As a trainer who has seen thousands of prior installations, I completely understand the frustrations these two owners are experiencing. The AGSC does have an Accreditation Committee that will investigate Registered Member Companies that fail to practice the guidelines published in the ANSI/AGSC/AGRSS™ 003-2015. The committee can remove noncompliant companies from their membership. However, there is no mechanism to discipline them in other ways, and of course the AGSC cannot discipline non-registered companies. They are not and cannot be the installation police.

The answer then is to take our case to the government, or the consumer, or both. The government can enforce compliance through rules and regulations. The educated consumer can punish bad actors through not buying their defective products or services. Either way, it will take the concerted effort of the members of the industry to do the legwork and spend the money to provide the education necessary to move the dialogue.

My only advice as an automotive glass installer and business owner is to continue on and not give up. Join the AGSC and get active on a committee. Find likeminded owners in and around your market and organize. Numbers equal power, and the more voices there are, the better they are heard. Whether through government involvement or consumer awareness, our only answers are with the shops and individuals out there that do it right and are proud of it. We can move mountains if we work at it together.

I had an inquiry recently from one of our Auto Glass University graduates. His question reminded me that there are some common problems that technicians should address when prepping a windshield with a rain sensor.

There are two types of rain sensor mountings. In one type the rain sensor is attached to a pre-applied lens, and the other is where the lens is part of the sensor and the unit uses an optically-clear pad to fill the gap between the lens and the glass surface. These two sensor mountings demand two different cleaning and preparation processes that must be completed properly or the rain sensor will malfunction.

11192015BobPic1First let’s talk about the easy one, the pre-applied lens. This is easy because the glass comes to us with a lens already applied to the surface so we do not have to worry about pads or mixing compounds. The sensor itself is usually attached to the lens with the help of clips or mounting hardware that is easily released and reattached.

You may think there is little we can screw up here, right? Wrong.

It is possible to disrupt the operation of this sensor by how you clean the glass. Most glass with a pre-applied lens come with protective tape covering the lens. This tape is used to protect the lens from handling mishaps that could damage the lens and cause malfunction. However, be aware of another use for the protective covering; to protect the lens from collecting glass cleaner overspray. If glass cleaner gets on the lens’ surface and air dries, the laser beam that causes the sensor to operate will be disrupted and the sensor will not work. It is impossible to clean the lens after glass cleaner is applied to it due to the rough surface and due to the possibility of scratching it with the cleaning towel. It is best to keep the protective tape on the lens until right before the sensor is reattached after replacement.

11192015BobPic2The next sensor mounting is the pad-mounted type. This type of sensor has the lens incorporated into the sensor itself. The optically clear pad that you obtain for replacement is used to fill the gap between the glass surface and the lens of the sensor. If there are any bubbles or other debris between the lens surface and the glass surface, the sensor will not operate properly because condensation can occur causing drops of water that will be detected by sensor. This leads to a malfunction. This type of sensor usually has a bracket attached to the glass that allows for proper alignment and clip retention. The inner part of this bracket can be cleaned before mounting and this is recommended.

It is always recommended that you replace the pads on every installation. I know. You have salvaged a pad here and there. I have, too, a few times. But, your luck does not always hold true, does it? If you do not want to have your customer inconvenienced, and you don’t want to pay the cost of going back out to do a remount of the rain sensor, then you will get in the habit of changing the pads on every job. Just do it.

To prep for this sensor mounting, it is important to have the pads and the glass at least at room temperature. This will allow the pads to stick properly to the lens and the glass with little or no bubbles. Lay the pad onto the sensor so air can escape out the sides. This is usually done by laying the pad in a bending fashion side to side.

If you choose to use the two-part liquid material, the material must have a convex shape above the sensors outer ridge and not cover the laser window. It is best to have the sensor on a flat surface when applying the material. Once applied it must also be cured a number of minutes before it is applied to the glass surface. Many technicians will attach the sensor to the glass before it is set in the opening.

So there you have it, prepping the glass for rain sensor mounting. I have but one more thing to add, make sure you pre-inspect the sensor before beginning the installation. If it didn’t work before you began the installation, odds are it won’t work when you’re done either.