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Volume 7    Issue 6            November/December 2005

What Not to Repair
Units with Electronic Capabilities Such as Rain Sensor
And Heads-up Display Require Special Consideration

by Charles Cumpston

Anyone in the windshield repair business can give you a number of reasons why repairing a windshield, when possible, is preferable to replacing it.

But not every windshield should or can be repaired. 

The Repair of Laminated Auto-motive Glass Standards Committee (ROLAGS) is currently working on development of an ANSI standard for proper windshield repair. Part of that effort will include information on what cannot be repaired.

The National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) has a list of Do Not Repairs in its Recommended Practices.

Some of NWRA’s don’ts apply to the more technologically advanced value-added windshields that have recently come on the market. Even though these sophisticated multi-tasking units make up a very small portion of today’s units (perhaps one percent according to estimates), they are sure to become more common in the future. 

The industry is taking a pro-active approach and starting to provide information on repairing units with rain sensors, heads-up displays, global satellite positioning and other options to make technicians aware that special consideration is needed whenever they work on a unit like this.

Paul Syfko, NWRA president, explains, “With the new windshields that are coming out with electronic capabilities, we’re trying to get a head start on educating people that they need to pause and think whether or not these can be repaired.”

He points out, for example, a repair could be made in a unit with a rain sensor, but not in the location of the sensor because it could impede the performance of the unit and its operation.
“What people need to do is use common sense when working with these types of units,” he added, “and if there is a concern they need to follow the OEM manufacturer’s recommendations, if any.” At this point, his experience has been that the windshield manufacturers don’t really address the issue of repairing these units, and “nine times out of ten if you ask them they’ll land on the side of caution and say, ‘no, replace it, don’t repair.’”
In fact, no windshield manufacturers were willing to comment on this subject. A search of their literature also found no mention of repair.

Syfko, who is president of Glass Medic America of Westergate, Ohio, recommends taking it on a case-by-case basis when the unit has technology such as a rain sensor, HUD or GPS. “You have to know where the technology is located so that you don’t do a repair that interferes with the operation of the special feature,” he advises.

Yvan Lacroix, president of Glass Mechanix Canada, Parent St-Al-phonse de Granby, Que., echoes that advice. He points out that this type of windshield has different configurations and newer models are different from older ones. He says that a technician has to be aware of what windshield is involved and how it works. 

For example, he says that the rain sensor and the heads-up displays on newer BMWs and Audis are on the interior of the glass so that repairing these units has no effect. Lacroix says that, in fact, BMW won’t guarantee the rain sensor will work on a replacement because it is actually located under the windshield and the thickness of the urethane can affect its operation.

In the Jaguar and Land Rover, as well as some other high-end European vehicles, he cites as another example, saying that the technician must be extremely careful with a heated windshield not to get down to the laminate because that is where the wire that heats it is located.

Consultant Russ Corsi, who recently retired as manager of technical services for PPG Industries Inc., also advises caution. 

“The biggest issue is the drilling,” he explains. “When you penetrate into the second surface you have touched the coating on the glass and that can cause problems such as hot spots.” But he says that a value-added windshield can be repaired as long as the technician does not drill through the outer lite of glass.

Steve Coyle, technical trainer for the Performance Achievement Group in Madison, Wis., echoes this advice. He states that any time the technician goes through the outer lite of the windshield to the laminate, there is the risk of discoloration from the resin touching the interlayer.

“For the majority of heated windshields, I don’t think repair is recommended,” he says. “If the coating is between the interlayer and the outside lite, it can discolor if the resin gets in and the repair will not be satisfactory,” he explains. “In units that have the heating in the wiper rest area, the technician can do a repair as long as it is not in any of the functional areas,” he adds. 

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