Volume 8, Issue 2        March/April 2006


New Car Designs Lead to New Tools
Suppliers Fit New Offerings into the Market

By Les Shaver

Car designers are always pushing the envelope, looking for sleeker designs that make automobiles lighter and more fuel efficient. The windshield is one of the places designers look for innovation. 

Unfortunately, this has made life a lot harder for auto glass technicians. In many new vehicles, windshields are squeezed in tighter and pinchwelds are exposed. This presents glass technicians with a litany of issues in not only cutting glass, but also scratching the car. To help these installers, tool and blade manufacturers are developing new products—ones with thinner and protected blades. 

“Having to work hard to cut out a windshield is one thing. Dealing 
with the stress of possibly 
scratching the pinchweld is another.”

Tighter Fits

The tools manufacturers go out of their way to keep close tabs on the market, so that when something new happens they can react with a tool solution. Like his colleagues, Dell Skluzak, owner of PipeKnife Co. Lakewood, Colo., keeps a close eye on the market, and one of the trends he sees is that windshields are being put in tighter than ever before.

“The OEMs are butting the original glass very tightly,” Skluzak said. “It’s almost impossible to get any type of instruments in there to cut the urethane.”
Gilbert Gutierrez, senior technical advisor for Equalizer Industries, a tool manufacturer in Round Rock, Tex., sees much the same thing.

“The tolerances are closer to the body,” Gutierrez said. “The curvature may be closer in one area but it’s not closer in another. It’s the curvature of the pinchweld or the glass that’s causing them to be closer to the metal.”

On top of that, OEMs are using newer urethanes. 

“They’re using different urethanes that are more difficult and harder to cut,” Win Parnall, operations manager for The Extractor, Edmonton, Alta., pointed out. “They’re using wider beads, which makes it extremely difficult to use hand tools.”

To respond to the tighter fits and sturdier urethanes, manufacturers have adjusted the blades they offer. “You need something with a thin blade to get in there and cut the glass out or sheer that urethane away from the glass,” Parnall added.

After learning that many auto glass technicians thin out the blade to pass it through the urethane, A.N. Designs, a tool manufacturer based in Torrington, Conn., decided to save them a step. 

“Our original knife has been around for years, but we came out with our Ultrafit blade to help with the thickness of the cutting tip so that it could pass through the urethane easier without having to be thinned out,” said Bob Nilsson, president of A.N. Designs. “We did that to emulate what they do at the shop.”

Exposed Pinchwelds

Having to work hard to cut out a windshield is one thing. Dealing with the stress of possibly scratching the pinchweld is another. Gutierrez has seen this trend coming for awhile and noted that now almost every vehicle has exposed paint. 

“It has been going on for the past 10 years,” according to Gutierrez. “As the years progress, you’re seeing it more and more. Now, 90 percent of the cars have an exposed painted area, either on the quarter glass, on the backlite, on the windshield or on all of them.”

This means the technician risks making some costly mistakes.

“The challenges auto glass technicians face are one of the biggest drivers in tool innovation. When problems with exposed pinchwelds or tight fits come up, tool designers look for solutions.”

The Nightmare 

“As far as what it required from a technician, it’s a nightmare,” Nilsson stated. “Many technicians are nervous about removing a windshield with an exposed pinchweld. And for good reason. The chance of damaging the paint is high. Obviously, that’s your margin once you wreck the paint.”

In an effort to relieve this stress, manufacturers are coating the blades. 

“We’re coming out with a coated line of blades and have put a special coating on the back and around the bottom curve to give the technician a little more room for error,” Nilsson explained. “The blade will push it up against the paint.”

Skluzak also developed a product for these situations. 

“We’ve responded by creating cold knife blades with powder coating on them,” he said. “Then we put a plastic cap around the deck of the blade so that when the technician goes in to cut the urethane, he’s at least got protection so that he won’t scratch or chip the paint. It gives him a degree of safety he doesn’t otherwise have.”

Stay Inside 

Paint protection is also important with the backlite. Nilsson calls the backlite on both the Dodge Ram and Dakota a “nightmare.” But things could improve. “We’re working on a blade that will allow removal of the backlite from the interior,” Nilsson said. “If I can get the technician on the inside, there’s less chance of damaging the paint on the outside.”

In the long run, that’s the mandate many tool manufacturers think they’ve been given. Not only must they make tools to help technicians become more efficient, but they also must protect them from making costly mistakes. 

“What drives the development of the tool is the ability to cut the windshield out with the fastest, safest method possible,” Skluzak said. “The technician sees a problem and brings it to the manufacturer. Then we work together to fix it.”

Cost Concerns

Yes, the challenges auto glass technicians face are one of the biggest drivers in tool innovation. When problems with exposed pinchwelds or tight fits come up, tool designers look for solutions. But other things drive their innovations as well. 

One thing driving design for The Extractor is the price of steel. “Because of steel costs, we have to increase the costs of our blades,” said Parnall. Even though customers may have to pay more for the new blade, Parnall insists they’re getting more. 

“We’re trying to offer something better,” he explained. “We feel that the new blade will cut more windshields out and ultimately cost the person less because he can get more work done with the same blade.” 

The more care the installers take, the more durable the product will be.

It can get 300 cutouts, according to Parnall. “Some technicians who really look after [this] tool can get 600 cutouts with it.”

Les Shaver is a contributing editor for AGRR.

© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.