by Bob Beranek
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Photo Courtesy of Trifive.com

I can always tell when a technician was trained by an “old-timer” like me. How? They “spank” or slap the glass into position rather than smooth it in place to make the seal. It comes from the old days when glass had to be spanked and seated into a gasket or when dense butyl tape needed to be forced down to contact uneven pinchwelds. Liquid urethanes call for smoothing the seal, not spanking or slapping the glass into place.

First, let me say it’s not necessarily wrong to slap the glass. It is, rather, ill-advised. There are two negative results that can happen when a glass is slapped rather than smoothed.

  • If the glass is thin, chipped or scratched, then the chance of premature breakage is increased. If the glass is “hot,” the glass is more volatile and can fracture. Some of these issues can and should be caught by the technician prior to installing. However, how hard is too hard to slap the glass into place? It only takes one break to lose your profit and possibly a customer to inconvenience.
  • The second negative issue involves leaking and bonding. Curved glass has a spring to it. It can be depressed as much as a couple of inches before breakage and then sprung back to its original shape or curvature. If the bead of urethane is short and the glass is slapped at its apex, it can make contact and then “string out,” causing leaks and bonding problems. If it is smoothed-out, the urethane bead is redistributed into weak areas, making for a more solid bond and leak-free installation.

If I said I never spanked or slapped the glass, I would be a liar. There are instances where a slight slap is necessary. If you have a large, tall or awkward vehicle where leveraged pressure can’t be applied to the edge of the glass, such as in large service vans, then a slight tap on the top and bottom center may be called for. Of course, this is after a careful inspection of the glass part conducted during the prep stage and that the glass is not exposed to excessive heat.

My advice is to use slapping only when you must and only when the glass was carefully inspected for pre-installation damage. Keep the glass out of bright hot sunlight for as long as possible prior to installation into the opening. Reduce the violence used in past installations as much as you can. The customer will feel less anxious if watching the process and vehicle and glass damage will be reduced to increase profits.

 

Is an auto glass part still “safe” if it’s scratched? Well, it depends on the severity of the damage. A glazing professional will tell you if a glass scratch can be felt with one’s fingernail, the scratch is considered severe. If not, then it’s considered superficial and you can remove it on any glass part with “elbow grease” and some cerium oxide.

Severe damage indicates the removal of the scratch by whatever means, but will cause the glass to weaken, become distorted and be rendered unsafe. When an auto glass part is severely scratched the glass should be discarded. Auto glass parts are considered safe only when they’re not fractured. As soon as an auto glass part is broken it can’t do its job of supporting, protecting and providing clarity of site for the driver.

If you think about it, it makes sense. How is glass cut to size? The simple procedure is to “score” the glass and then break the score. What’s a score? It’s a controlled severe scratch created by a tool that breaches the harder surface of the glass by creating a fissure.

When pressure is applied to that fissure or score, the glass breaks controllably along the scratch that was created. A severe scratch is the first step in broken glass, you just don’t have any control over it.

Can auto glass be installed safely when there is a scratch present? If superficial, yes if it’s removed or accepted by the customer. If severe, no, just throw it away or return it.

Far be it for me to promote or criticize a particular business plan. I know a lot of business owners that are having great financial success as auto glass providers with a diverse number of different business types. However, I feel the need—for the sake of safety—to comment on the practice of subcontracting technicians.

First of all, subcontracting technicians is a periodic necessity if a disaster strikes or if business has a drastic unforeseen increase. You can’t turn down business because of fluctuations in the demand.  However, there is some realizations that must be dealt with by both the business owner and the technician offering the service before entering into the subcontracting relationship.

If you are a business owner employing a subcontractor, there are some issues you must be aware of:

  • The subcontractor is not your employee. He does not have your long term benefit at heart. You cannot control the technician—except by ending the relationship which also ends your extra help.
  • You are responsible for his/her work—good or bad.
  • Does the subcontractor follow your directives once they are out of your sight, or do they do what is expedient for them? If you pay by the job, they will do as many jobs as they can no matter what directives you give. If you deduct pay for warranty or callback work, they will make the job leak free, but is it well bonded?
  • Liability is still yours. Heaven forbid that an accident occurs and the glass installation failed to perform properly. No matter what legal papers were signed, the improper installation will stain your company and good name—not the subcontractor’s.
  • How well do you know the technicians skill level? Did you witness an installation? Did you check credentials and reputation?

What about the subcontractor’s responsibilities? Most, but not all, subcontractors are ex-employees of another auto glass company. They may be excellent technicians but average businessmen.  Or, they can be poor technicians and poor businessmen. Either way, the relationship must be open and above aboard.

  • As a contractor, do you carry your own business insurance? Do you carry your own worker’s compensation insurance?
  • What happens if you damage a customers’ vehicle?
  • A subcontractor is his/her own employer; it is his/her own business. All self-employed business taxes, fees and responsibilities apply.
  • Are installation supplies and equipment provided, or are they the subcontractor’s responsibility?  What do those supplies include, and what do they cost? Is the truck supplied? Is the fuel supplied?
  • What if the glass is broke while installing? What if the wrong glass is ordered and a new glass must be picked up?

There is a lot to consider and discuss when subcontracting is the chosen business plan. However, there is one consideration that must be addressed above and beyond the financial and logistical issues, and that is the safety and provided service to the customer. Can it work to subcontract? Yes. Is it easy to provide safe and competent service? You be the judge.