by Bob Beranek

Why do people often fight change? Is it because change is uncomfortable? Is it because people are convinced their way is better, despite all of the evidence to the contrary? I think it is a little of both. I have personally witnessed heated discussions that rarely change minds or beliefs.

In my interactions with technicians over the years, there seems to be a competition between installation procedures. Two perennial favorites are the arguments over “tucking” or “stuffing” the glass without pulling the cowl panel versus pulling the cowl panel, and squabbles over the benefits of round bead versus triangular bead urethane application.

When it comes to “tucking” or “stuffing” the glass, I always thought that even those who do it realize that it is an improper practice. I believed that if they were given enough time to get the job done right, they would practice safe sets. However, recently I heard a technician actually brag about the great job he did using the “stuff” method of install.

From his description, the bead was applied above the top edge of the panel and the glass is set into a cowl that uses hooks for support and panel attachment. This does make the “stuffing” installation possible because the glass can be set onto the bead and not into the bead. However, the seal and bond are hidden from the tech by the panel. This is not visual confirmation of a bond or a seal being made. If the glass is not set properly, even by a fraction of an inch, the bead will be displaced and the bond compromised. If it oozes out and the cowl is adhered to the glass, the cowl may be damaged upon removal by the next installer. If the glass is inserted into the bead, the chances of air leaks are increased.

The kicker here is that none of the issues described above will be known until the glass is replaced again or if someone is seriously hurt due to a bad bond and installation. Yet the technician bragged about “stuffing” the glass and holds it up as proof that his method is better and faster than everyone else’s. I don’t get it.

In the same vein, triangular beads are recommended and in some cases required for use with adhesives.  Every adhesive company, (automotive, structural or architectural) instruct the application of triangular beads. Every vehicle manufacturer instructs the application of triangular beads. Every assembly plant using adhesives uses triangular beads. Every physics teacher can explain the benefits of the triangular shape and how it is superior in distributing product on a surface. Yet, some auto glass installers continue to believe that round bead distribution is better. Again, I don’t get it.

I know that change is not an easy thing. We all feel more comfortable when the procedures we use are familiar and we all believe our methods work. I remember a time years ago when my boss instructed me to use a plastic stick to put in gasket jobs from then on instead of a metal hook tool. Even worse, he told me to teach this new method to all our technicians. I fought the concept tooth and nail at first because I felt that all technicians needed to know how to use the hook tool. However, if I wanted to keep my job I had to learn and master the “stick-in” style of installation and forget the “hook-in.” How did that workout? Glass breakage dropped by over 75 percent and our company saved thousands of dollars. I learned something new.

I would like to propose a challenge to all who “stuff” and apply round beads. Give change a chance, it will bode us well to be a little less rebellious at times and to try new things that experts tell us work. It may save you money and hassles down the road. What could it hurt?

In July 2012, I wrote a blog post about the debate between pulling cowls vs. tucking the glass when replacing windshields. The question came up again recently.

As someone who has been training in the automotive glass industry for many years, I have learned firsthand that safety can never take a back seat behind margins and productivity. Instead of saying, “I put in the glass safely every time,” some techs say (and I hate this) “I never had a problem.”

My question to the people who say they never had a problem is, define “problem?” Is it that you rarely have a comeback or is it that you never maimed or killed anyone? Buddy, if you had a “problem,” by my definition, you would be forced out of the industry by a civil lawsuit or in jail because you killed someone and were charged with negligent homicide. The odds may be against that happening, but I have personally witnessed several court cases where the vehicle owner was injured (or killed). It does happen and the companies that did the installations (not to mention the vehicle owners) had to pay the price.

As I noted earlier, I don’t pull every cowl. There are some vehicles, like the Jeep Wrangler, and older Cavaliers and Sunfires that don’t require it. However, the safety of the installation cannot be compromised ever. What does this mean?

I pull or displace the cowl in every vehicle where it is necessary to make sure the glass is on the bead and not in the bead. The lower glass bead that is behind the cowl panel is the most important for the support of airbag deployment and the support of the firewall in a front end collision. If you compromise or guess on the bonding of the lower bead by not pulling the panel, maybe you will save a few minutes and possibly get in one more job that day. Some will say, as long as there is no complaint from the customer, it must be okay, right?

However, how do you know that you created a solid bond if you did not pull the cowl to see? Making sure your bond is secure is the only way that you can be protected in the event of an accident. Maybe you will get away with cutting corners 99 percent of the time, but your odds decrease the longer you put in glass. That last one percent can get you in real trouble or kill your customer, literally.

Minimizing comebacks and keeping productivity high are important aspects to a successful automotive glass shop, but making sure your installations are 100 percent safe is the only answer to keeping it viable for the long term. Improper installation will hurt you sooner or later, either through customer dissatisfaction due to noise or air leak complaints, through lawsuits connected to injury or through legal action due to the death of your customer because you needed to save a few minutes.

Pulling cowls is not an all or nothing proposition, and as I’ve said, it is not necessary in all vehicles. However, it should not be a debate. Safe installation is the only answer. If pulling the cowl is necessary to that end, get on with it.