Windshields, A Family Health Decision
Tempe, AZ 04/23/2001 - Few (if any) Consumers are still around that remember driving a new production vehicle not equipped with a windshield, but that time did exist. Prior to 1919, "horseless carriages" traveled at 5-8 mph and drivers wore goggles. As speed increased, wind and airborne obstacles became a problem for the driver and passengers. To address this problem, auto manufacturers installed a framed piece of glass above the dash and the name "Windshield" was born. While providing more occupant comfort, early windshields also presented an occupant hazard. Obstacles would shatter early windshield glass and throw debris at vehicle occupants.
. . . Right In Front of You !
Henry Ford is generally acknowledged as the first American auto manufacturer to address this problem by using a (then) new glass laminating technology founded in France. Laminated glass involved two layers of glass which sandwiched an inner layer of (then) cellulose that held the glass together. In 1919, Ford began using laminated glass. By 1929, all Ford vehicles used laminated glass in their windshields. Some 80 years ago, windshields were recognized as a safety related component. Today's windshields play a more Critical roll in vehicle occupant Safety than ever before. Windshields are now essential to the over-all crash survivability of today's vehicles !
The Safety Issue . . .
In the event of a frontal collision, in-dash airbags require a secure windshield to provide the foundation for a cushioned zone of protection. When windshields are not properly installed, a deploying airbag can blow out the windshield. If passengers are not using their belt restraints at the time of impact, they can be thrown from the vehicle through the opening left behind by the missing windshield. If passengers are restrained by belts, they will still have lost the intended cushioning benefits of the airbag and would have lost their protection against outside elements that a secure windshield would have provided.
In the event of a roll-over, today's windshields are a roof-reinforcing structural component designed to resist a vehicle's roof from collapsing down on its occupants. While an important consideration to owners of all types of vehicles, this element should be of special importance to owners of Sport Utility Vehicles. Proper windshield installation has now become, quite literally, a matter of life or death !
Proper Installation . . .
When windshields are installed at the factory, an appropriate adhesive is applied to a clean and viable channel surface and then a robot installs a windshield glass free of any human body oil contamination. By virtue of a new vehicle's production and delivery sequence, the windshield adhesive is provided more than enough time to cure before the new vehicle is put into service.
When windshields are replaced, the molding and lower windshield cowl panel should be removed and then the glass is cut out. The previous urethane adhesive is removed leaving no more than 1/16" of the original urethane bed. The channel area should be primed to inhibit rust. An appropriate (1-part or 2-part) urethane adhesive would then be applied to the replacement windshield (free of any body oil or other contaminates) and the windshield installed. Depending on the type of urethane adhesive used, "cure" time would range from 1 hour (for 2-part urethane) to 24 hours (for 1-part urethane). Moldings, necessarily damaged in this process, are to be replaced. Failure to do any of these steps completely could cause the windshield to dis-bond.
There is also a 3rd type of urethane adhesive (costing 10 times that of 1-part or 2-part) which is appropriate for high performance cars, vehicles equipped with satellite navigation or windshields with embedded antennas.
Short Cuts . . .
Like most appropriate procedures, there are short cuts. Like most short cuts, those used in the replacement of windshields can cause problems. One common short cut in windshield replacement is called "close-cutting". This involves leaving all the original pre-existing urethane in the channel after the old windshield is removed. Then a thin bead of urethane is applied to the replacement glass and it is installed. This short cut leads to leakage, rust and a high probability of dis-bonding. For those susceptible to airborne allergens, you should be aware that a leaky windshield could allow the build-up and circulation of mold, mildew and spores within the vehicle. Water could also damage the in-dash electronic components of your vehicle. The practice of "close-cutting" can be a very expensive short cut.
Then there is the practice of "flush-cutting" which involves trimming off the exposed portion of a windshield's molding, discarding the embedded portion and re-glueing the saved portion to the edge of your new glass. If your windshield molding shows some scaring, chances are good the molding has been "flush cut".
Another short cut is referred to as "jumping the cowl". In this process, the lower windshield cowl panel is not removed. This saves time for the installer. However, by not removing the cowl panel, full contact between the lower portion of the channel and the glass can not be assured. Without full contact in this area, the deployment of an in-dash airbag could blow out the windshield.
ABC News 20/20 . . .
On February 25, 2000, ABC News 20/20 broadcast an in-depth investigation segment looking into the Auto Glass Industry and the techniques employed in replacing windshields. That segment showed what would happen in the event of a roll-over or frontal impact collision if windshields were not installed properly. I-Can strongly recommends Consumers visit that segment. It can be accessed directly online by going to ABC News' web site at . . . http://more.abcnews.go.com/onair/2020/2020_000225_windshields_feature.html .
~ Short Cuts Don't Save . . . they COST ! ~
The Role of Insurance . . .
When insurance pays for the replacement of a windshield, the vehicle owner is entitled to have the insurance company pay to restore their vehicle to its pre-loss condition. Regardless of whether your existing windshield were properly installed or not, your replacement windshield Must be properly installed. Given the potential for disaster in the event of a frontal collision or a roll-over, consumers would be doing themselves and their families a dis-service to accept anything less. If your insurance company declines to fully pay for proper installation, require them to put their position in writing and let us know about it.
Use the information shared with you here to determine who will be replacing your damaged windshield. By law, you DO have a choice. Watch the technician doing the job. Make sure it gets done properly. Don't be bashful, ask your questions. Be sure to get your answers and assurances in writing. If you are not comfortable with the job, tell the insurance company! Express your concerns to them in writing and require their answers in writing!
I-Can gratefully acknowledges the technical support of Scott Owens, owner of Excel Auto Glass in Lake Katrine, New York, in assembling this Consumer Advisory Press Release. Mr. Owens can be reached through the Excel Auto Glass web site at www.excelautoglass.com .
The Insurance Consumer Advocate Network is an InterNet based consumer advocacy effort designed to Increase Consumer Awareness as to Insurance Related Issues, Encourage Consumer Involvement with Insurance Related Efforts and Facilitate Consumer Contact with Pro-Consumer Entities.
The InterNet web site for the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network is www.iCan2000.com.