Volume 9, Issue 2 - March/April/May 2007

Off the Line
the oem glass perspective

Installing Safe Materials
by Russ Corsi

How do you know if the glass or plastic that you are installing in a vehicle is safe?

Through the vast expanse of the Internet and through printed media, we are constantly hearing about new types of innovative glass or plastic products that are available for our motor vehicles. If the product is being offered by OE car companies, it’s a pretty safe bet that it should not present a safety issue for the consumer. However, if these new products are being offered through the aftermarket only, both the glass technician and the consumer should make an effort to be sure they are not replacing a defective piece of glass with an unsafe substitute. 

All auto glass technicians should take the time to familiarize themselves with both FMVSS 205 and ANSI/SAE Z26.1-1996. FMVSS 205 is the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) with the stated purpose “to reduce injuries resulting from impact to glazing surfaces, to ensure a necessary degree of transparency in motor vehicle windows for driver visibility, and to minimize the possibility of occupants being thrown through the vehicle windows in collisions.” Under section S5 of FMVSS 205, requirements, S5.1.1, American National Standard Z26.1 is identified as the standard of conformance for these glazing materials. 

Z26.1 addresses testing procedures and specifications for seven general types of safety glazing materials: laminated glass, glass-plastic glazing, tempered glass, plastic, multiple glazing, bullet-resistant glazing and bullet-resistant shield.

Unless the reader is intrigued by poring over voluminous technical documents, here is a quick summary of the acceptable vehicle locations for the various types of glazing materials, and a little bit about the testing requirements for glass, glass-plastic or plastic materials that are being offered for aftermarket replacement.

The Rules
Generally speaking, windshield requirements are stringent. In addition to assuring safe driving visibility, potential occupant impact during a crash is addressed.

Under Z26.1, test groupings cover testing requirements for products that can be glazed/installed any where in the vehicle. The first item addresses the most comprehensive requirements for automotive glazing. This item is the only acceptable testing battery for conventional windshields. (FMVSS 205 excludes all plastic products from the windshield because they do not satisfy stringent requirements for driving visibility, e.g. distortion, scratches.)

Items 2 and 3 indicate testing requirements for laminated, tempered and multiple glazing units (which could include multiple plies of laminated or units with air space separation). Laminated products in these categories undergo several of the windshield testing requirements, excluding light transmission, distortion and penetration resistance. The tempered products focus more on particle size, after breakage, and product strength. The multiple-glazing products require a blend of laminated or tempered tests depending on the class 1 versus class 2 category of the product. Items 4 through 7 address plastic only (no windshield applications). If you think that you would like to use plastics as a replacement in a vehicle, please see the details in Z26.1, table 1. Items 8 and 9 refer to very unique glass products with applications in buses, trailers, campers, motor homes, etc.

Because of the uniqueness of their specific application requirements, bullet-resistant products are addressed by items 10, 11A, 11B and 11C.

Plastic products for slide-in camper and pick-up covers, motorcycle windshields, bus partitions, etc., are found in item 13. Glass-plastic unit requirements are detailed in items 15A, 15B, 16A and 16B.

Z26.1 requires that all automotive glazing materials contain: 
• A DOT number (department of transportation) that is uniquely assigned to the manufacturer;
• An M number (model) that refers to a detailed description of what materials are used to manufacture the product; 
• A date of manufacture traceability code; 
• An “AS” number that is followed by the item from table 1 that is applicable, i.e. AS-1, windshields. 

It’s a good rule of thumb never to install a replacement piece of glass or plastic that does not include the above information. It should be noted that 99 percent of the product that you install will be either AS-1 windshields, AS-2 tempered or laminated door or backlite glass that maintains a 70 percent light transmission, or AS-3 same as AS-2 except for privacy applications (no light transmission requirement). 

Russ Corsi retired as manager, technical services, from PPG Industries’ Automotive Replacement Glass business unit after 31 years in the glass industry. He now serves as a consultant to the industry. Mr. Corsi’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

Are Plastic Windshields Being Installed in the Aftermarket?
A West Coast-based company is marketing plastic windshields for the aftermarket on the Internet. PolyShields is selling units at polyshields.com. According to the company’s Web site, “PolyShields® are molded from space aged polycarbonate material made by G.E. (marketed under the brand name “Lexan”).” The company’s Nikki Scott said that it sells approximately 30 units a month, primarily in North America.

PolyShields are currently available for Jeep, Suzuki, and Land Cruiser and HiLux pickup Toyota vehicles. Sales are handled by the company’s parent Roadless Gear. Roadless Gear is an Internet-based manufacturer and retailer of hard core off road parts and accessories, specializing in the import vehicle market—Suzuki, Toyota, etc.


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