by Bob Beranek
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Last week I was invited to tour the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) complex in Ruckersville, Va. All I can say is wow. What an impressive place.

What struck me first was the location of the facility. It is situated in the rolling hills of Virginia, away from urban sprawl. The closest neighbors are a herd of cows grazing in the farm fields. The roads to the facility were in the back country and had no centerline markings and were barely wide enough to handle two SUVs meeting one another. My travel mates were wondering if we took a wrong turn.

Once we entered the campus, the grounds were beautifully manicured and the facility was modern, massive and impressive. As we entered the vestibule, the “art” displayed was of wrecked vehicles. One, marking the 50th anniversary of the IIHS, was an almost unrecognizable 1959 Chevrolet, next to a more modern vehicle with substantially less damage, dramatically illustrating that today’s cars are decidedly safer than the older models.

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We were met by two highly experienced IIHS engineers who were the guides for the morning. The tour began with the history of IIHS. They voiced that it is their ultimate goal to help the driving public determine which vehicles are safest through testing and rating crash results. They explained their testing procedures and how they came about designing them. They showed us the coveted Top Safety Picks board on which a vehicle’s report card is displayed. What impressed me is the high number of good grades. We were told that since they have been keeping records, the safety of automobiles has greatly increased. It really is true that you can’t manage what you don’t track.

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The introduction of airbags, air curtains, crush zones, structural redesign and now the technology boom of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) have made modern vehicles the safest they have ever been. However, we were reminded that safety can always be improved.

The benefits of pre-inspecting a vehicle before beginning an installation are self-evident. ANSI/AGSC/AGRSS™ Standard 003-2015 dictates that you cannot replace a windshield if the body is compromised by corrosion or deformity. In addition, by doing pre-inspections you can document any damage that was there before you touched the vehicle. This can ensure that your customer has a clear understanding about the automotive glass replacement process.

However, how many of you do a post-inspection? A post-inspection critiques the finished job. It includes an inventory of tools and parts, as well as a presentation of the vehicle to the owner and the instructions for the customer after the installation.

It is imperative to look the vehicle over before handing it back to the customer. Forget for a moment that you are the installer and put yourself in the position of the owner. Then look at that vehicle as if you owned it, because for a period of time after the installation, if anything goes wrong, it will come back on you. What should you do before presenting the vehicle to the customer?

  • Clean the vehicle inside and out. Clean and polish the part you replaced and maybe all the glass to show you appreciate the customer’s business. Vacuum the front seat area or at least empty the floor mats. Check and clean in the inconspicuous areas that you may have touched with your dirty- or urethane-covered hands and fingers. These areas can be behind the steering wheel, rearview mirror or exterior door latch.
  • Check for missing or broken parts. Did you lose that retainer? Did you break that clip? Replace them and make sure that everything fits tight and appears correct.
  • Do an inventory of your tools. Do you have all of your tools removed from the inside of the vehicle and from under the hood? Check.
  • Do the wipers/washers and all mechanical items removed or displaced during installation operate properly after the installation? Make sure the wipers don’t slap the cowl panel or the “A” pillar moulding. Make sure the rain sensor works and the mirror doesn’t wobble or vibrate.

Once everything is back to its original position and working properly, show off your workmanship and give the customer after-install instructions. Remember that the customer’s well-being is in your hands. Speak professionally, thoroughly and firmly. Do not equivocate. Explain in no uncertain terms that their health and safety depends on following your instructions. If they chose not to follow the instructions, then their lives and that of their family and friends could be at risk of serious injury or death.

In my opinion, tell them:

  • DO NOT drive the vehicle until the safe-drive-away time is reached. Tell the customer time of day and not the amount of time.
  • Tell the customer to keep the vehicle vented for air escape. It is best for the bonding and performance of the installation if the air in the vehicle has an escape route other than the freshly installed adhesive bead. The customer can stop the venting when the vehicle is safe to drive.
  • Tell the customer to remove any tape used in the installation as soon as the safe-drive-away time is reached. The tape can cause paint damaged if left on too long.
  • Explain to the customer that they should refrain from a professional carwash until the next day. It is not because the high pressure water could wash out the bead. That is a myth. However, the chemicals used in dissolving the tars and road grime from the vehicles painted surfaces could undermine the freshly applied adhesive bead. A carwash in the driveway with mild detergents is not a problem and can be allowed if need be.

I feel that the post-inspection is as important to the safety and well-being of my customers as the pre-inspection. Customers will come back to your company for future automotive glass services because their vehicle is presented in a way that tells them you care about their vehicle and about their safety.

There was a thread on the glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR™ magazine forum in which someone asked how to prepare the pinchweld for a windshield installation on the new aluminum Ford F-150. I found the written instructions from Ford for that vehicle and posted them.

Ford happens to use Dow adhesives, and so the instructions I posted were written by a Dow representative. Of course, dealer instructions must make the assumption that the tech is prepping a pinchweld that was damaged upon the removal of the glass.

However, one reader commented that it should be the goal of every tech to not damage the vehicle at all. I fully agree, and feel this is an outlook that does not get its proper due. Are some of us too careless? You should be actively doing your best not to harm the vehicle.

I know that tools break, blades wander and technique must be mastered, but “no damage” should always be our goal.

Mistakes happen, but I sometimes see technicians fail to take into consideration the tools and precautions needed to remove the glass with minimal body damage. They feel that the primer is there for that reason, and as long as the installation is away from the customer’s immediate sightline—no harm, no foul. I disagree.

Primer is necessary to protect the pinchweld in the short term, but once the bare metal is exposed to oxygen, corrosion has begun. The best way to eliminate corrosion for the short and the long term is not to damage the vehicle at all. It may take a little longer, but it is time well spent.

The potential for problems occur during the removal and preparation steps. In the removal step, the technician must make a decision that is best for the customer’s vehicle, and not for his installation speed and comfort. Yes, the cold knife and power tool would get that glass out faster but they also raise the possibility of more damage to the vehicle if you don’t take measures to protect it. Depending on the vehicle, it may be better to use finesse rather than violence to remove the glass.

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In the preparation step, damage usually occurs during the removal of the old adhesive. If the glass is original equipment, the urethane bead is usually quite easy to strip with little or no damage. The problem comes with the second and third installations. The technician before you may believe in “the more the better” philosophy of automotive glass replacement. There could be urethane everywhere that needs to be removed. Yet, we must at least try to remove the existing urethane with the least possible damage. Buy the right tools, take your time and practice the techniques that make you the best in your area.

In full disclosure, I am not a saint. I do sometimes pick power over finesse, and I’ve been tempted to let the primer “cover up” my mistakes. But I fight that inclination, and so should you. Instead, brag that you didn’t use one drop of pinchweld primer today. If you have no scratches, you will need no primer. That would be an accomplishment that you can celebrate.

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