by Bob Beranek

I have recently heard of a problem in adhering urethane to an internally applied frit. What we mean by an internally applied frit is one that is applied on surface 2 or 3 instead of surface 4 where it is usually applied. The frit is the paint band around the perimeter of the glass and acts as an aesthetically pleasing finishing application, but also acts as a protective coating for urethane’s biggest enemy, ultraviolet light. The frit applied to surface 4 also acts as a bonding enhancer. The frit is a rough surface that increases the bonding surface urethane can grip. So, the rougher the frit surface is, the more enhanced bonding there is. 

Glass has a very smooth surface and adhesion is enhanced when there are certain conditions present. They can include a rough surface, a clean contaminant free surface and a primed surface that can interact with different substrates. The issue I see could be all or part of the options above.

If the frit is applied to the inside surface instead of an exposed surface, then an abraded surface must be created to enhance the bonding surface. This is why there are products or procedures that abrade surfaces. Dow’s Betabrade, Sika’s PowerCleanAids and other adhesive company’s wet scrub procedures are used for contaminant removal but also adds an abrasion that would also add adhesion success with increasing bonding surfaces. The more surface to bond to, the better adhesion strength is accomplished.

The next question would be, how well was the surface cleaned? Were the proper procedures used to clean the edge of the glass? Time and again during my training sessions I see technicians cleaning the glass incorrectly, even from technicians that have years of experience. They use improper cleaners, cleaning towels, and procedures that add contaminants rather than eliminating them. Add those improper procedures to a smooth glass surface and you have adhesion failure. Technicians and companies should be seeking cleaning instructions from their adhesive company representatives to fine tune their procedures and insure proper cleaning procedures.

Finally, I have no problem with primerless urethanes. Primerless urethanes work very well and produces a safe and proper installation with the elimination of a step that can save time and effort. However, primerless urethanes demand a clean surface to bond well.  There is no back-up and there is no amount of forgiveness if the surface is not clean or if the surface is too smooth to adhere to aggressively. Primerless urethanes may very well demand abrasion for maximum adhesion when applied to interior applied frits. I suggest that you check that possibility with your adhesive representative for confirmation or instruction for use.

Primable urethanes add an application of primer that also adds a level of increased bonding surface by its application to the glass. When it cures (dries), it leaves behind peaks and valleys that have walls to increase the bonding surfaces even on smooth interior applied frits.

My opinion is that if you use interior applied frit glass, use a product or procedure that abrades the bonding surface of the glass or use primer whether the urethane asks for it or not. Either way more bonding surface is created and the mechanical bond is enhanced.

We have discussed the fact that all adhesives go through three stages of bonding until strength has reached its peak. Last week we started with the first stage, hydroxyl bonding. This week we want to explain and discuss the second stage, mechanical bonding.

Most people think of mechanical bonding as physical attachment, usually with nuts and bolts. To some extent, there are similarities. However, the definition of mechanical bonding is “the use or creation of more bonding surfaces.”

How many times during your career did you learn to abrade a surface to create a more effective bonding platform? If you went to any of my classes, or classes given by most adhesive companies, you have been told that many times. In glass preparation, in paint delamination preparation and in any circumstance where you need a little more strength in a bond, mechanical bonding creates more service area for a tighter seal. Abrade it, prime it and bond it, sound familiar? That is what mechanical bonding is.

When it comes to the glass bonding surface, some of the preparation of the surface is already done for us. The paint band around the bonding edge of the glass (the frit) is many times rougher than the glass surface itself and provides a good surface on which to bond. Of course it must be cleaned and made contaminant-free, but the “peaks and the valleys” in the paint are there to promote mechanical bonding. Mechanical bonding is so important that many adhesives companies are now offering new products or recommending procedures to assure the roughing–up of the surface.


What about the body surface? If you think about the instructions given for bonding, you will understand that the chemistry is the same there as well. If paint delamination occurs, we abrade the surface, clean off debris and prime before bonding. If the vehicle was recently painted, we are instructed to abrade off the paint, clean off debris, and bond to the body primer underneath. If we have some say in the aftermarket paint job performed before installation, we ask the painters to tape off the pinchweld after the primer coat is applied to assure a perfect bonding surface. And of course, the normal bonding is done by trimming back the existing bead of urethane, leaving 1-2 millimeters, and bonding to the remaining bead. All of the preparation above leaves a rough “peak and valley” surface for bonding. The bond will be enhanced by roughening up the surfaces because adhesives work best when they have more surface to bond to.

Let’s put this together with the hydroxyl bonding we talked about last week. When you “wet out” an adhesive to a surface (hydroxyl bond) the liquidity of the adhesive seeps into the “peaks and valleys” of the surface and creates the mechanical side of the adherence (mechanical bond). When the hydroxyl and mechanical bond work together, you have a remarkably strong bond almost instantly. Every tick of the clock that goes by makes the bond between the two surfaces that much stronger until, with the help of the next stage of bonding, it reaches the ultimate strength attainable.