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March/April 2003

Hard at Work
    How to Cope When Installations Prove Difficult
by Steve Coyle

was recently asked to write an article describing difficult auto glass installations. To accomplish this task, I started by asking several technicians what they identified as the most difficult jobs to perform. As you can imagine, the answers ranged from “no job is difficult,” which generally came from newer technicians to “all jobs are difficult,” which came from more experienced technicians. Only a few technicians had any one specific job that they called difficult.
While some vehicles may prove more difficult than others, most are difficult in the same aspects.
A Car is a Car
However, I was able to find a shared thought: once you get to the glass, the installation is the same in difficulty regardless of the vehicle. Most of the technicians agreed that the difficult part of any installation is determining how to remove the parts to get to the glass, including cowl panels, wipers, mouldings, mirrors and, recently, rain sensors. Likewise, technicians must realize that certain vehicles pose this problem based on their designs.

One such design that makes it difficult to get to the glass is a vehicle with an exposed pinchweld. Although the installation itself is not difficult (in most cases, no additional parts are required), the difficulty comes in during the removal process. Nobody has come up with a good solution to removing this glass without having the possible side effect of damage to the visible painted surfaces. 

This glass removal process usually requires a lot of patience and a refined technique when using a cut-out tool. Following are a few suggestions made. 

1) Protect the vertical leg of the cold knife blade with a coating. This will lessen the chances of nicking or chipping the paint when contact is made. The down side of this is that there is not always enough room between the glass and the body for this extra coating. 

2) Make reference marks on the blade of any of the interior power cut-out tools chosen. This mark can be made by measuring the distance between the beginning of the ceramic paint and the edge of the glass. Mark this distance on the blade and then use the ceramic paint and the alignment mark from the inside of the vehicle to assure you cut no deeper than the glass itself. This can be tricky because the distance along the sides may be different than along the top. Be sure to measure several places along the edge of the glass if using this technique. 

3) Some technicians have had success using wire to remove these parts. Again, patience is the key. 

OEM Factors
Another factor leading to a difficult glass removal may include the amount of adhesive used in the original installation. Some may remember this problem with the 1981 Ford Escort. The adhesive on vehicles like this was probably less than 1/8-inch thick, which did not allow for any type of cut-out tool to be used. As soon as you inserted the blade, the glass broke. Some technicians actually removed this glass with a hammer. The edges of the glass were taped (inside and out) and then a hammer was used to break the glass all along the adhesive bond. Once this was done, a utility knife was used to cut the lamination of the glass along the adhesive and remove the majority of the glass. This left an awful mess to clean up, but it worked. 

Then there was the 1984 Audi FW0463, which utilized a metal moulding that wrapped around the edge of the glass and had small metal tabs that were used to set the height of the glass from the pinchweld. These tabs were tight against the pinchweld and set into the urethane adhesive, which did not make for an easy removal. Any tool you used for cut-out would bend, break or cut through the metal tabs and the urethane, both of which were very difficult to do.

Older Vehicles
This Audi project brought back many memories for me. 

When I started my career, the majority of installations were done with either rubber gaskets or butyl tape. When urethane was introduced in 1984, I thought that would be the end of the industry. It was next to impossible to get the window out of those GM vehicles. However, as time went on and the gaskets were phased out, the adhesive sets became less difficult. It was not because anything changed, but because we adapted to the new technology. Now I occasionally get a phone call asking how to install a windshield in an older vehicle. The technician has spent hours trying to figure it out before finally giving in and asking for help. When presented with the problems they are having, I sometimes have to chuckle to myself, knowing that 20 years ago technicians were installing this part in only a few minutes.

We are all creatures of habit and have to realize that we also need to change as the environment does. It’s hard to believe that this would hold true in the auto glass industry, but it does. The important thing to remember is that somewhere there is a solution for all difficult installations. It is up to us as technicians to seek out the advice of others and stay up-to-date with new technology, techniques, procedures and tools. With this information a new vehicle should only be difficult the first time an installation is done. 


Steve Coyle works for the Performance Achievement Group, an auto glass training company in 
Madison, Wis.




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