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Volume 7    Issue 6            November/December 2005

Nightmare Jobs
How to Approach Difficult Installations
by Brigid O'Leary

We are having a problem with a 1999 Corvette. The windshield is not leaking, but somewhere in the side mouldings it is. We have replaced the mouldings with new [ones], but it is still leaking. Has anyone had this problem and have any answers? Thanks.”

“Susan” posted that on the AGRR message boards and “Todd” replied the next day advising that she consider water testing the vehicle before returning it to the customer. Todd pointed out that it might not be the moulding that is leaking because “there is a lot of weatherstripping and you are counting also on the side windows to complete the water-tight seal. Any minor disruption of these can have you chasing your tail to pinpoint it.”

Susan is not alone in her plight to find information and help with the installation of a Corvette windshield. Gilbert Gutierrez, director of the Auto Glass Academy, a training facility dedicated to the development of and training in Equalizer® products and frequent guest speaker and demonstration leader at industry trade shows, ranks the Corvette as one of the toughest vehicles on the market today for replacing windshields.

“There’s a lot to remove to get to it. If you’re not careful, you have to replace a lot of stuff,” Gutierrez said. 

What defines a difficult installation? That depends on whom you ask and what that person’s level of expertise is. Still, there are certain jobs and certain aspects of particular jobs that will cause even the most seasoned professionals to pause.

Clip It, Clip It Good
“The actual glass installation is the easiest part of the job,” pointed out Steve Coyle, technical training manager at Performance Achievement Group in Madison, Wis. and Cutting Edge columnist for AGRR magazine. “The difficult part is all the other stuff that goes along with the job.”

The “other stuff” starts with getting the old windshield out, and as the industry has evolved, so has the manner in which the windshield is set in the vehicle and how it is removed by auto glass technicians.

“It would have to be the TR7,” said Gutierrez when asked what the hardest vehicle he’d ever worked on. “It was probably ahead of its time for the way it was constructed. The sealant they used was almost a urethane—and this was the early 1970s. There was no way of getting it out without breaking it or damaging the mouldings. To do the job you had to make sure you had the mouldings [in reserve]. It was a glue-in windshield with mouldings. It was a difficult removal. An easy installation but a difficult removal.”

Now all windshields are held in place with urethane and other aspects of removing windshields have become obstacles for installers. What is the nuisance that currently slows down technicians of all skill levels? In one word: clips. 

“A lot of the clips are not accessible,” said Scott Owens, president of Excel Auto Glass in Lake Katrine, N.Y. “There are several things that snap together and there’s not a way to get to them, so you have to grab the moulding just the right way and do things just the right way, otherwise you break the clips and the moulding. A lot of these new cars have plastic parts. With colder weather, the easier it is for these things to break.”

Weather doesn’t have to be cold for a clip to break, of course. Many aspects of the job factor into the installation and the degree of difficulty it may pose.

“Working under difficult conditions, whether it’s dark, cold or you’re tired, that to me means difficult installation,” said Dale Malcolm, technical service provider at Dow Automotive, who admits that the clips and other minutiae of a job can be equally as difficult.

“I think the other part of a difficult installation, for me, would be [those situations] when everything starts to make sense, everything is working and then you come across some foolish little part that needs to be replaced or you break it because you don’t know how it goes together,” he added.

Sometimes the job itself is conducive for breaking clips.

“The one I’ve heard the most problems with right now is the 2004-2005 F150. The moulding is different than Ford has ever used in the past; the clips, the way the moulding is attached is unique, I guess, and [technicians] are running into a lot of difficulty—breaking the clips or damaging the moulding when taking it apart,” said Coyle.

Cut It Out
Once a technician gets past the clips, however, the windshield still has to be cut out, a part of the job in which obstacles can be equally rife. Urethane, though commonplace, can still create difficulty.

“If the adhesives are flattened down to the pinchweld or what have you, it creates a mess,” Coyle explained. “It has a lot to do with whether the windshield has ever been replaced or not. An installation from the factory could be very easy to do but you could get to the job site and someone from another company or in their garage could have thrown some extra adhesive in there and really messed it up. I’ve seen it when people have a leak and throw in some extra adhesive and bond the moulding to the glass.”

Sometimes, the problem part of an installation is less about the windshield and more about the add-ons and accessories that attach to the windshield. These still must perform correctly once the replacement has been completed.

Taming Technology
Owens noted the Mercedes as one of the more difficult brands on the market to replace windshields in right now because of the rain sensor.

“They’re very time-consuming. You have to take a lot of headliner parts apart, gear assembly is hooked into the headliner and there’s no way to simply pop the mirror off and disconnect the rain sensor as it all has to come apart,” Owens explained. He’s not the only one to feel that way either. Tom Speight posted the following on the AGRR message board:
“Need immediate help on rain sensor on 2005 SLK350. All new design this year. Upon removal of the sensor from its bracket, there was a ‘gel’ type film that remained on the glass and could not be removed without destroying it. Rain and light sensor does not work without it.”

Speight went on to write that the gel appeared to hold the sensor in place though a metal clip actually secured it to the windshield and that a call to his local Mercedes Benz dealership yielded no technical information to share. He received several suggestions and later posted an update to share with others how the situation was ultimately resolved.

Is There a Help Desk?
So what should a technician do when staring down a particularly difficult installation? The consensus is to take your time and ask for help.

Coyle, an industry professional who has both performed many installations and taught countless others, has seen what can happen when a technician rushes a job and doesn’t ask for help. He related the story of a technician who, still fairly green in the industry, was assigned to replace a windshield with rubber gaskets and chrome moulding. Unfamiliar with this sort of installation, he had to change out the windshield on an F150. Coyle even remembers the part number—DW687.

“He worked for a couple hours before calling the shop and we sent someone out and in 15 minutes had it out and back in again,” Coyle said.

When asked what he believed the hardest vehicle to work on in the market today is, Malcolm said “the one I’ve never seen before and no one else I know has seen before that I can ask,” expressing the importance of seeking assistance form industry peers.

Owens agrees, noting that industry-wide events such as trade shows and conferences are great ways to meet others and build working relationships for just those occasions when you need to bounce ideas off of someone else.

“Network with as many people as possible, collect as many business cards as possible. When you come into a jam, pull out those cards,” he advised. “People in different parts of the country see different cars more often. I have a friend in Nebraska who doesn’t see the cars I do. He’s called me for help on Jaguars, etc. [They are] very valuable tools, trade shows and associations. The Internet is helpful, too—posting boards and message boards can also be a lot of help.” (See box below.)

Whether turning to others in your shop, calling peers across the country or doing research of any sort requires a technician to step away from the job and slow down; better yet, it forces a technician to take time with the job, an overriding sentiment from those in the field as to what is necessary for getting through difficult installations.

“What has been beneficial to me is to walk away for a minute, stop and have the attitude that when it’s coming down the assembly line they have 30 seconds to do it, so I might be doing something wrong,” said Coyle.

Coyle isn’t alone in this kind of thought-process, either. Malcolm does the same thing.

“I always keep in mind that the assembly line workers aren’t any better, technically, than the auto glass installer. The cars are designed to go together easily and you have to figure out how to get the car apart easily. If you’re struggling to get the door glass into the door, you have to remember that the fellow in the factory is doing it in six seconds … all you have to do is find the right combination,” he said. 

Brigid O’Leary is a contributing editor for AGRR magazine.

Don’t Get Rusty
Even the easiest installation can be derailed by the complicating factor of corrosion. When the vehicle has corrosion, the cut out may be much more complicated than ensuring a proper and safe removal of adhesives and moulding. Sometimes, it means not being able to do the job at all.

Corrosion is the one, surefire thing that will make Gilbert Gutierrez, director of the Auto Glass Academy, think twice before taking a job. 

“If a job came in and had rust, that would be a challenge. There is the question should I do the job, should I take the job? Can I fix the problem?” Gutierrez said. “If the problem is beyond my expertise, I’m not a body man, so that would be one of those questions in my mind. Can I complete the job and walk away and feel the job is going to be 100-percent satisfaction to myself. I’m either going to walk away satisfied or I’m going to stay until I’m satisfied, or I’m going to get it to where it needs to be to make me feel satisfied that it’s going to be done.”

That’s the sort of outlook on corrosion that some in the industry are trying to promote across the board.

Dale Malcolm, technical service provider at Dow Automotive, is one of several industry members leading a campaign to make more auto glass technicians aware of the range of problems that corrosion presents.

“It’s a two-sided coin. It creates an obstacle in scheduling and customer relations but it’s equally offset by the opportunity to make some money treating it and the opportunity for customer relations to teach them and go the extra mile and truly fix their car,” Malcolm said.

Corrosion creates an unsafe surface, and while its existence doesn’t mean the job is automatically a lost cause, it does mean that the installer bears a significantly different burden of responsibility when it comes to a safe installation.

“The AGRSS standard says you can’t install glass over a compromised surface. You can’t get any more definite than that,” Malcolm explained, stating that working corrosion into a company’s business must first come from the management (because doing so requires the support of the whole company) and working with the customer directly is imperative.

“It’s important to talk to every customer about what you’re going to do if you encounter corrosion and as soon as you find it, you must stop and get the customer involved. A lot of installers just remove the glass because they’re good at it and then you have a hole in the car and you’re committed. It’s best to handle it before you’re committed and the car becomes un-driveable,” Malcolm said.

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