There’s More to Replacing a Windshield Than Meets the Eye

It hits you with a SMACK! What was that? If you’re lucky it won’t CRACK! As your heart stops racing you wonder, now what?

It happens, windshields break. It doesn’t matter how it happened, it’ll need to be repaired or replaced. The original windshields were designed to block the wind and make the drive more comfortable. That’s no longer the case. Today’s windshields are critical safety devices. They serve to support the roof in the event of a rollover accident as well as to keep the vehicle’s occupants inside the car. In addition, the passenger side airbag is designed to deflect off of the windshield as part of its deployment. If a windshield doesn’t hold up to these demands, the safety systems have failed and are rendered useless.

If a windshield pops out during a rollover accident, what will happen? The roof could crush and unrestrained passengers could get thrown from the car. As regulations called for lighter cars with better fuel economy, automakers relied more and more on the windshield to support the roof.

What if a windshield pops out due to the force of the passenger side airbag deploying against it? The airbag would continue forward onto the hood and deflate before the passenger lands into it. Instead, the passenger would hit the airbag’s open metal box.

Tapes and gaskets that once held the windshield in place would no longer pass the federal safety regulations that govern the industry. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 212 is a crash test that dictates that a windshield in a vehicle crashed head on into a barrier must retain 50% adhesion of the windshield on each side of the longitudinal center line. A second safety standard, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216, addresses roof strength.

Automotive glass replacement shops understand these standards and the importance of safe windshield replacement. Most use automotive grade urethanes and primers especially designed to bond the windshield to the car and to pass these federal safety standards. The true professionals will take the time to calculate the car’s safe drive away time, the time that it takes for the urethane to cure to the point where the windshield will pass these tests. Be sure to ask when the car will be safe to drive after the installation of the replacement windshield. Depending on the temperature and humidity it could be anywhere from six to twenty four hours. For an additional charge, quick curing urethanes are available. These urethanes are chemically cured and allow for safe drive away within an hour of the installation.

The brand of windshield depends on the car you drive. You can usually get the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) glass for a comparable price as a generic brand but it might not have the dealer logo on it. If you choose to go with the dealer, you will pay a premium and if you have the work done at the dealership, understand that they will most likely hire a local auto glass shop to do the work.

Most auto glass shops offer a choice between mobile service and an appointment at their shop. Both have advantages. Mobile service is usually free and can be done at your home or office. The downside to this is the large block of time waiting for the technician to arrive and the length of time before the urethane is cured. An in shop appointment is great for those who need an exact time and are willing to spend an hour or so waiting for completion of the job. Again, safe drive away time is an issue; you may have to spring for the quick cure urethane or drop the car off and pick it up later.

If you drive a Chevy truck, you can expect a competitive price and a straightforward, same day installation. However, if you drive a Ferrari, expect a pricey, special order windshield, special order replacement moldings and an installation that may take several hours with the shop’s best technician.

Depending on your insurance coverage, you may want to give your agent a call. Glass breakage is covered under the comprehensive portion of your policy which is considered no fault in most states. Call around for quotes to see if you can replace the windshield for less than your deductible amount. For example, if your comprehensive deductible is $250 and you can get the job done for $199, it’s cheaper to pay for it yourself. But if the job will cost $425, then you’ll want to place a claim and simply pay the $250 deductible. An exception to this would be if the windshield is repairable in which case most insurance companies waive the deductible and pay for the repair. State Farm is phasing out this policy on a state by state basis and the rest of the industry may follow.

Most states also protect consumer choice meaning that your choice in glass companies should be honored and you won’t be forced or steered to another company. That being said, many insurance companies use networks to handle their glass claims. You will be told to call an 800 number who will take the claim and assign a local glass shop to do the work. Most glass shops belong to these networks. Be sure to specify the shop of your choice otherwise the network will assign one to you from their rotating list.

After the installation, you will have a nice, new windshield free of pits and blemishes. Most companies warranty the windshield for life against air and water leaks and defects in the glass. Keep a copy of the warranty in your glove box should have a problem or if you ever need their services again.

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