by Bob Beranek
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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.

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.