New Gadgets, Gizmos and Glass Keep Auto Glass Technicians on Their Toes
By Leslie Shaver
In one of the most well-attended seminars at the Second Annual Spring Glass Expo™ in Las Vegas, Glen Moses, director of technical quality programs with Safelite Glass Corp. in Snohomish, Wash., and Sam Brownell, West Coast sales manager for Carlite by Visteon in Reno, Nev., spoke about the emerging technologies and trends in the automotive industry and how they would affect the average auto glass installer.
Moses lead most of the presentation, talking about (and demonstrating through pictures) many of the specific trends and innovations he’s noticed in his research and in visiting the Detroit Automotive Show earlier this year. Brownell expanded upon many of Moses’ points.
Here is a look at what they discussed.
Moses began with a look at how different divisions of the same company develop three different vehicles with essentially the same parts. He used the Oldsmobile Bravada, GMC Envoy (formerly the GMC Jimmy) and Chevrolet Trailblazer as examples. “These are three very similar products from one parent company, marketed under different divisions,” Moses said.
But times are changing. “General Motors is now going to great lengths to separate these different divisions,” he added.
In the Bravada, the back glass is colored, but not encapsulated. The glass is independent of the back hatch and the hardware is bonded to the glass, Moses said.
“The hardware will still attach to the glass, but it will be through these bonding points and, quite frankly, I am really questioning the long-term durability of these parts,” he said. “I expect we will see some back glasses that need replacing due to the release of the hardware at the bonding points.
He also noted that the third brake light goes through a cut-out in the glass. The light plugs into the roof area and wire continues above the headliner.
“You can pull the plug apart and you will have to drop the headliner to go in there and fish it out,” Moses said.
The quarter glass in the Envoy, Bravada and the Trailblazer are also very different. The Trailblazer has square quarter glass; both the Envoy and Bravada have a very different shape. This means auto glass installers can’t just order the same part for each vehicle.
“There will be specific part numbers depending on the brand you are installing,” Moses said. “No longer can you just say, ‘I am going to order a quarter glass for a GM compact-SUV product.’ You have to order it specifically for the model.”
Each of the vehicles has its own add-ons. The Trailblazer has an external antenna on the rear quarter glass, while the Envoy will have antennas embedded in the glass on both the left and right sides, depending on the model.
The rear door and vent area on the Bravada and Envoy are shaped similarly, but have a difference in the encapsulation, Moses said.
In the Bravada, the encapsulation includes a division bar and plastic around the vent, while the bottom belt moulding is a separate piece. In the Envoy, double-sided tape bonds an extra length of encapsulation to the door. “You might want to stock some double-sided tape in your truck because you won’t be reusing the existing piece once it’s torn away,” Moses said.
One example of how creative styling can affect the auto glass installer is a special lightweight, high-performance version of the 2001 Corvette called the Z08, Moses said.
“One of the ways they shave the weight is to have a thinner windshield and backlite,” he said.
He warned that car collectors would be the most likely to buy these new automobiles.
“Chances are they are going to want the same glass that came with the car,” he said. “It [the car] is going to be very collectable.”
Since the windshields and backlites are thinner, there will be separate part numbers from the current Corvette, Brownell said.
He also said that there would not be a higher breakage rate during the driving of the car, but there could be more breakage during the handling of the glass.
Moses then went over to the much-ridiculed Pontiac Aztec. He said five months after it came out, its manufacturers made the decision to redesign the vehicle. (See page 16 for detailed installation info on the 2001 Pontiac Aztec, or go to page 64 for a pricing survey on a windshield replacement for this vehicle.)
As with many current sport utility vehicles (SUVs), the Aztec features an extensive use of encapsulation and a very large backlite.
Much of this glass covers more than the window area, meaning the glass overlays the body extensively. This brings some important changes for the glass installer.
“There is either a wide urethane bead,” Moses said, “or the bead can be set well in from the edge. But no matter how you slice it, it means a more difficult installation.”
These larger pieces of glass could also mean one other important change. Moses recommended a two-man set for the installation of the Pontiac backlite.
Moses also spoke about the trend toward large glass sunroofs in cars, pointing to Mercedes’ new hatchback, the C Class Sport Coupe. The latter, which is popular in Europe, has “almost a full-glass roof but not quite,” he said.
It has two pieces of glass in the back window like the Aztec. The lower part is tinted acrylic, while the upper portion is split by interior trim, he said.
Mercedes also has the Panarama SL, which comes with an all-glass roof.
While Mercedes currently offers these roofs, Moses said they will not be limited to up-scale cars.
As a matter of fact, Volkswagen is looking at them for the Beetle.
Larger sunroofs and moveable lites of glass “will be an area we have to expand into and be ready to tackle,” Moses said.
The Buick Regal Celieo, which is a year away from production, will be a hardtop convertible with three sections—a backlite and two roof panels that drop down behind the rear seat. The cost will be about the same as a traditional convertible.
“It would modify how we work on a backglass, especially with the runners and motor mechanisms that operate it,” Moses said.
The Buick LaCrosse, a 2005 replacement for the Park Avenue, will have roof glass that moves down to give a sunroof-type effect or up to provide a tailgate that could drop down and give the car owner a hatchback.
There is also a company called Meritor Automotive working on a modular roof structure made of plastic, steel or aluminum, which would be the last piece bonded onto the car.
Moses noted this could ease car assembly tremendously, while also opening up the possibility for an all-glass roof. The product will first be seen on an SUV.
Finally, there is the Chevy Avalanche, which is built out of the Suburban. It will have a four-door cab with front and rear seating and a plastic pickup box with a midgate dividing them.
When the midgate is up and the glass is installed, it provides four-door seating. But there is another option.
“When you need the benefit of a full-length pickup box, you can fold the midgate into the cab and it gives you a full bed,” Moses said.
There also is a gasket around the interior of the window opening and there are toggle latches that clamp the glass in place, Moses said.
Because it is a fully-encapsulated removable unit, installation will be easy. “You can install the part faster than the customer can sign the invoice,” Moses said. “Drop it in place, throw the latches and then you are done.”
One of the main electronics features Moses noted were sensors that tell the sidelites on a vehicle if there is something in their way. These systems are designed to protect the occupant in the vehicle because the window will back down if it meets resistance.
However, the sensor can cause problems for installers when they put the glass in the window, because it might move down six inches on its own, Moses said.
When this happens the installer will need to contact the specific vehicles manufacturer, since each manufacturer has a different way to fix this problem.
The installer also needs to be careful when reinstalling the window.
“Be darn sure you have gotten it correctly and it operates smoothly because if anything gets in there, now it’s going to trip the system and its going to stop on you,” Moses said.
While Global Positioning System (GPS) antennas and satellite navigation are becoming more popular, their impact on the glass industry will be limited.
The Cadillac Night Vision system has a projector that fires a beam and allows the user to see down the road by flashing a black and white image on the windshield.
But the OnStar system, which can report a car stolen and is expected to become more prevalent on vehicles, could pose problems for installers.
When an installer removes the windshield, the car can report itself as stolen or vandalized. “It is not uncommon to have police show up halfway through your glass replacement,” Moses said. “Disconnecting the battery will prevent an OnStar mishap.”
One new technology—laminated side glass—is actually an old glazing used in 1950s-era cars, according to Brownell and Moses. “You will be reacquainting yourself with working on laminated side glass in the future,” Moses said.
However, Brownell and Moses both cautioned that these sidelites still have a way to go because of concerns with harder head impact values and difficulty getting occupants out after an accident.
Airbags are widely accepted, but that does not mean they are without problems, Moses said. Cadillac’s side airbag is experiencing inadvertent deployment, as Moses cautioned attendees.
“If you come to the car and the airbag light is on from the get-go, don’t work on it,” Moses said.
He also talked about new airbag technologies such as ones in Ford SUVs, which have curtains above the door, and in the BMW, which has ten airbags inside the X5 SUV.
“We have to embrace side airbag technology,” he said.
Finally, Volvo is working on a concept car that Moses says is “wrapped in glass.” It eliminates the blind spot in the A-pillar by putting six small lites of glass there. It can even read the driver’s eye level and adjust the seat so he is in the proper viewing zone.
The final topic Moses touched on was the increasingly longer warranties provided by automotive manufacturers and their affects on auto glass installers.
Volkswagen has a 15-year rust warranty and Mercedes has 30-year warranty in Europe, he said. This puts even more pressure on the technician to do a safe installation that does not damage the car. To demonstrate this, he used an example of paint being scratched by an auto glass installer. When the car owner notices rust in the windshield area and takes the car to Volkswagen, the dealer will immediately ask if a glass replacement was done. If this was the case, the customer will be told to send the car back to the glass dealer, Moses said.
They will “come back to us and have that fixed,” Moses said. “It’s a lot better to not damage the vehicle than try to fix it later,” Moses said. “[We need to] develop techniques and a working style where we don’t damage glass in the first place.”
Leslie Shaver is a contributing editor for AGRR magazine.
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