by Bob Beranek
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Last November I posted an article on the contents of a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). I explained the digits used to identify an automobile and detailed what information the VIN did (and did not) contain. Recently however, I have heard people in the industry tell me that they have a VIN decoder that picks out the right windshield for a vehicle. In my experience, the decoders may not complete the assignment.

It’s true, knowing the complete VIN can shorten the list of windshield options you have to choose from, but it doesn’t necessarily pick the part for you. Let’s take the Jeep Cherokee as it has 51 windshield options. Last week I conducted a training course where we had to replace a 2015 Jeep Cherokee windshield. When we typed the VIN into the decoder on my software, it gave us over 20 windshields to choose from. 

On the same day, we had a Ford F150 that gave us the part we needed via a VIN decoder, so they aren’t useless. However having a decoder will not give you all of the information you need for all vehicles. You may have to contact the dealer.

How can a dealer know what glass is in the vehicle by the VIN and we can’t? It’s because they have access to what is called the “build sheet.” The build sheet is the actual information of what was included in the vehicle at the time of assembly. The VIN does not include the glass part number, but the build sheet does. With this proprietary information the dealer can tell you exactly what glass was put into the vehicle. But will they?

Some software companies have told me that they draw their information from build sheets, which is great. However most still admit they don’t have all of the information required for all makes and models. Some dealerships are happy to help, but it’s to the carmakers/dealers advantage to keep some things to themselves rather than releasing all of the information they have available. If all specifications and information were made public, the carmakers’ dealer base would be undercut and beaten at every turn.

The reality is professional questioning of the customer is still important in having the right windshield for the job. A significant skill of any customer service representative (CSR), technician or owner is the ability to lead the customer through a series of questions that will pare down the information necessary to pick the correct part. If there’s something related to the glass that can’t be seen, heard or experienced by the customer, then the professional CSR can ask about other options that will lead them to features that would differentiate a glass part. For example, if a vehicle has a heated mirror, then it is likely that it would have a wiper park heater as well. 

I have an idea. What if we help our fellow auto glass professionals and send in hints on questions to ask the customer that narrows down the windshield options? Make sure the hints are correct before sharing them. Send them as a comment to this post, I know this would be greatly appreciated and a big help to everyone.  I’ll even bet that the more you give, the more you will receive in new information.