Aluminum Windscreens

 

 

 

Aluminum windscreens. Yes, you read that correctly, ‘But aluminum is a metal, and a windscreen is made of glass?’ I hear you ask.

To help make this information easier to process, aluminum glass is actually, technically, transparent aluminum. A sample of transparent aluminum say, a tube, looks like a tube made of glass but it’s actually aluminum. Well, an asterisked aluminum; this is not elemental aluminum but rather a material made from it as the core ingredient.

Transparent Aluminum tube

Despite clearly not being a metal (and not a glass either; glasses are amorphous solids while ceramics are crystalline) transparent ceramics demonstrate impressive properties. Transparent aluminum is produced by a process called sintering. Powdered ingredients are poured into a mould, compacted under tremendous pressure, and cooked at high temperatures over long periods. The resulting translucent material is then ground and polished to transparency ready for use.

Aluminium Oxynitride ( “ALON” ) is a ceramic composed of aluminium, oxygen and nitrogen. .

Aside from being optically transparent (≥80%) in the near-ultraviolet, visible and midwave-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, ALON is four times harder than fused silica glass; 85% as hard as sapphire, and nearly 15% harder than magnesium aluminate spinel. Since it has a cubic spinel structure, it can be fabricated to produce transparent windows, plates, domes, rods, tubes and other forms using conventional ceramic powder processing techniques. Tests show that a laminated pane of ALON 1.6″ thick can stop a 50 caliber rifle round, something even 3.7″ of traditional “bullet-proof” glass can’t do. ALON also has better optical properties than regular glass in the infrared wavelengths; where most glasses absorb IR, ALON is essentially transparent to it. That makes ALON a great choice for the windows on heat seeking missiles and other IR applications.

ALON also demonstrates superior scratch resistance.

SHUT UP and TAKE MY MONEY!

While the technology exists, there is currently no demand for automotive windscreens. Unbreakable and damage-resistant glass is undoubtedly a game-changer which could spell trouble for many AGRR businesses. However, in applications such as mobile phones, the increased demand for such a material will drive costs down, but windscreens might take a while longer.

An ‘aluminum windscreen’ presently could cost in the region of £30,000-40,000, a price tag which even Monty Brewster might balk at.

 

 

Audi A3 Windscreen Replacement

 

 

 

 

An Audi A3 windscreen replacement. This particular car was an RS3 (in Catalunya Red).

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Audi RS3 Windscreen Replacement

A-pillar covers. I like to take them off. It reduces the risk of damage, and with them out of the way you can check that the bond is making good contact on both the glass as well as the body. There’s a screw at the top of the cover, but before you go yanking on the moulded plastic, you need to free the bottom; and there’s a bit of trim which needs to be separated from the bottom of the A-pillar cover. In order to dothis, there is a cover on each side of the dashboard. These must be removed. The designers have been very helpful by providing a notch towards the bottom of the curved edge which allows you to slip the tip of a trim tool in as you start to ‘pop’ the covers off.

Removing A-Pillar Trim

Removing A-Pillar Trim

The trim can now be removed.

Screw Behind Airbag Cover

There’s a tweeter to disconnect from the cover too:

Tweeter

With the pillar covers removed, the next step is to remove the rear view mirror and the light (and rain) sensor behind it. The sensor is clipped in with a spring-loaded clasp. With the two sides of it released, the sensor will need to be eased out of the mounting bracket very carefully as it will be stuck to the glass with a sticky gel pad. Care must be taken not to go in from the bottom of the sensor as this is where the de-fogging sensor is hiding.

Removal of Rain Sensor

With the interior parts removed, the wipers and wiper cowl can also be removed. There are also two trims – one either side of the windscreen – which must also be removed in order to expose the windscreen edge.

The windscreen can now be released using a cut-out method. Whichever method is used, the emphasis should be on not to damage the paintwork. Here, a cutting wire is being fed into the car via a wire feeder tube. The tube pierces through the adhesive to allow the wire to pass through; a metal guard is positioned so that the act of passing the feeder through does not scratch the paintwork.

Wire Feeder

The windscreen is removed and old adhesive cut back taking care not to damage the paintwork. After cleaning and inspecting the bond line, the surface must be prepared in accordance with the polyurethane adhesive manufacturer’s guidelines.

Once the new windscreen is prepared for bonding, it’s a good time to reattach the rain sensor. A new gel pad is needed for this.

New Gel Pad on Rain Sensor

Steps must be taken not to trap any air anywhere when sandwiching the gel pad between sensor and glass.

Gel Pad Fitted

The new windscreen can now be fitted to the car. I like to date the inside of the glass and provide product details for the adhesive used. The installer’s name and a code for whom it was fitted may prove useful should there be any issues after fitting.

 

Traceability

Glue on glass or body: opinion is divided. I’m an advocate of applying the adhesive on the glass. You get to discharge the product in one go which means one start/stop point (therefore one join) and the glue gun can be held perpendicular to the glass during extrusion in order to minimise the risk of an effect called tunneling in the glue.

Urethane on Windscreen

The windscreen should be bedded down sufficiently so that when the side trims are refitted, there is no gap between the trim and the glass. If the adhesive is compressed to much gaps can show as the trims are held in on a fixed metal track which does not allow adjustment.

Trims

Audi RS3 windscreen replacement: done.

Comments and questions welcomed.

 

Dealer Approved Car? Check the Windscreen

 

 

Something to consider when buying a dealer-approved, used car.

A returning customer got in touch after he bought an ‘approved’ car from a main dealer. He wanted the non-standard windscreen removed and replaced with a genuine ‘OE’ part. As an engineer, he’s fastidious about most things in his life, especially when it comes to cars; for example his garage wasn’t designed to house his previous car (an Audi S8) so he measured the floor-space and calculated that the car would fit but, it would need to be millimeter perfect if he wanted to a) get of the car after parking it, and b) close the (electric) up-and-over door behind it. In order to achieve this – right first time, every time – he articulated a laser guidance system. It was setup to allow a tolerance of +/- 5mm on one side and 20mm at the front. Aligning witness marks on the driveway, bonnet and door mirrors against the red laser lines as he entered the garage served as checkpoints ensuring he was within tolerances. No tennis-ball-on-a-string for this chap!

Our friend’s keenness to demonstrate how precise his system was sets the tone for why he wanted his new car to be perfect. I watched him approach the garage opening, and the theme for Mission Impossible began to play in my head as he guided the car through an intricacy of omnidirectional lines. The parking was absolute and true to his blueprint. To measure the gap between the nearside door handle and the wall you probably would need a feeler gauge (which no doubt wouldn’t have been far from his digital vernier caliper). Excessive? Perhaps. But his commitment to the cause was wholly admirable. It can also serve as one of the best appraisals of your work when such a customer gives you their approval.

As I noted his latest instructions we discussed the age of the car, “2017” he stated. The mileage – as ultra low as it was – was irrelevant; this car would still be covered by a manufacturer warranty. With this in mind, I suggested that he speak to the seller about what the outcome would be if there was an issue with the windscreen, or an electronic device connected to it such as the rain sensor or Lane Departure Warning camera. In the event of a (device) malfunction, or issue with the windscreen and/or installation, the manufacturer warranty would not entertain any claim if there is a non-genuine part fitted. The workshop will just kick it out, or at least until the ‘fake’ part was replaced with a genuine one.

There was no resistance from the selling dealership as he negotiated the cost of an Original Equipment replacement from them, and a contribution towards having an approved installer fit it. Moving forward, the car now is 100% genuine, with authentic parts throughout, and will now accord with the warranty criteria.

 

 

 

993 Windscreen Creak Down Under

 

 

 

A very common 993 windscreen issue as illustrated by a frustrated owner via email:

“I was hoping you might be able to help me out, I am in Australia at the moment and just had a new original front window installed in my Porsche 993 (the windscreen was an insurance claim and the car was being repainted at the same time so no issue with the surface as it was all freshly painted and all new seals etc and original Porsche parts).”

A freshly painted 993 and a new windscreen. Sounds like a good start, however…

“The window creaks (both at highway speed and at lower speeds around town). I supplied the Porsche tape with the car and the guys installing tell me they had done plenty of 993s without problem. Since the window was installed and creaks started they tell me they did not use the tape and mine is the first window they have ever had problems with. They are telling me to live with it at this stage which naturally I am not overly pleased with.”

The installer’s  defence of the ‘first window they have ever had problems with’ is quite ambiguous; it could mean:

  1. they have been getting away with it thus far;
  2. none of their previous customers kept the car for any period after the windscreen was replaced, therefore, a new owner somewhere else inherited the problem with the purchase;
  3. the previous 993 windscreen installs were better than this one. The fact that they say this car is the first one they’ve had problems with is pretty much an admission that they have encountered (or are about to encounter) an undeniable problem with the job;
  4. or that the car owner is being overly fussy about something that they don’t identify as a problem.

“They tell me if they reinstall it there is a high likelihood that they will damage the antenna ribbon and then another new windscreen will be required.”

This. Is. A. Fallacy. An utterly mistaken belief, based on an unsound claim. The same can be said about most ‘the glass might break on removal’ caveats. The point in question here is that it is a customer complaint. If the ribbon (cable) is damaged, it is entirely at the installer’s risk: you damage it – you replace it; it’s your problem to fix. Furthermore, this ‘the glass might break on removal’ is a cop-out. If the glass breaks it’s because you broke it, is it not? A good installer will identify a problem before it arises. Yes, there is a realistic chance that it could break but when with the benefit of experience, skill along with the virtue of patience, the failure rate is less than 1%. If the ribbon cable (or antenna which, on the 993, is embedded in the glass and threaded through into the cabin behind the clock) was a casualty the last time you attempted to remove the windscreen, hmm, here’s a thought: try doing it a different way? Experience is knowing the pitfalls of your trade and more importantly, how to avoid them.

“I read your blog again but still had a few questions…”

Time for some concise answers…

“If the window is creaking it is moving and the issue needs to be fixed ?”

Correct. It hasn’t been fitted correctly and needs to be remedied.

“Should the tape be used ?”

No. Nein. Nie.

The VIN number is slightly obscured by the window (to be fair you could not see it at all with the last window so it is better but I read somewhere this is an indication that the install alignment is not good enough) ?

Yes. Sometimes the plate can be misalligned, and the silkprint can also be out on the glass. The combination of the two can obscure some of the VIN (horizontally). There is some scope to adjust by a few milimeters (more vertically) but in any case, all of this can be seen before bonding the windscreen in. Dry fit it. Test fit it. Simples.

ADAS Recalibration After Windscreen Replacement

 

 

 

Have you had your windscreen replaced recently? Is your car equipped with an Advanced Driver-Assistance System? Were you advised (or even warned) about the need to recalibrate that device? Whether your ‘smart’ windscreen has been replaced or not, there is a realistic chance that it might need to be in the future, and this is where you could be faced with more questions… or perhaps not. The subject of recalibrating ADAS devices is a Pandora’s Box full of unsubstantiated claims.

For those new to the technology, some background: ADAS systems are designed and developed to automate and enhance vehicle systems for safer and better driving. These features are designed to help with monitoring, warning, braking, and steering tasks. ADAS relies on inputs from multiple data sources, including automotive imaging, LiDAR, RADAR, image processing and computer vision. These devices are mounted in various places in and around the vehicle; some are mounted behind the windscreen.

ADAS

Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems

Advanced driver-assistance systems are one of the fastest-growing segments in automotive electronics. In terms of car design and evolution, motorists are in safe hands. Ultimately, and until we have autonomous vehicles, the motorist’s hands should however still be on the steering wheel.

Does your camera (or device) need recalibrating after the windscreen has been replaced?

There are a variety of factors to consider, but to cover all bases the blanket response would be to say yes it does. However, before the recalibration apparatus was made available to repair shops, windscreens on cars with ADAS were still being replaced. If the answer is to be yes, why haven’t those vehicles been recalled? The counter argument to that could also be that none of those vehicles needed adjustment, or even, none of them went into default mode after having the windscreen replaced and, worse still, crashed as a result of a misaligned device. There are no reported cases of crashes, injuries or fatalities which were attributed to an uncalibrated camera. Meanwhile, the same cameras are still being recalibrated today.

A motorist emailed me to ask if his device needed calibrating post windscreen replacement. His vehicle featured ‘road sign assist’ which he said he didn’t use anyway. The company who were replacing his windscreen stated that he must drive the car to another one of their sites (30 miles away) to have the camera recalibrated. There was an additional cost implication to this procedure (over £150) as well as his time and fuel to get him there and back. If it was – according the repairer – paramount for his safety why were they sending him on his way, in the compromised car, to another destination 30 miles away? He went ahead and had his windscreen replaced but decided against the recalibration procedure on the basis that he didn’t agree with paying what they were asking for, and then having to embark on a 60-mile round trip in order to get it. Interestingly, he later had his vehicle checked by a manufacturer main agent and there were no flags or faults in the vehicles computer system. Everything worked as it should. The Road Sign Assist device checked out okay.

Traffic Sign Assist

When replacing the windscreen on a vehicle, if the windscreen is a genuine OE product and you are fitting it using the correct bump-stops/trims/damming/mounting components, and within OEM tolerances, as long as you do not disconnect the ADAS device and put the vehicle through an ignition cycle, there is nothing to detect the new part.

Put simply, if you are using manufacturer branded products, fitting them to millimeter precision, and do not put the vehicle through an ignition cycle [with a device disconnected] the car will not know the windscreen has been replaced. It is therefore unlikely that you will encounter any issues. Furthermore, many (if not most) devices are auto-calibrating. They have to be, to allow for constant variables during use. The issues occur mostly (in terms of windscreen replacement) when non-genuine parts are used (referred to as aftermarket parts). Comparing an OE windscreen to an aftermarket copy of it, the differences often become immediately apparent such as misaligned brackets (to which the ADAS device is mounted) or that the material used is inferior. When you mount a camera to its bracket or plate which itself is not positioned correctly, the accuracy of that device is immediately compromised. This therefore, is a scenario where recalibration would be needed. Original parts do not offer any such issues.

The (American-based) Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted testing of windscreen-mounted advanced driver assistance systems in 2017 and found that a misaligned camera [on a test vehicle] led to issues with the vehicle’s autobraking and lane-departure warning functions. Honda Collision Marketing Assistant Manager Scott Kaboos summarised after the research that Honda required OEM windscreens be used and that they had seen “many issues” where aftermarket glass led to a situation where the calibration would not “take properly.” After the [repair] shop replaced the windscreen with an OEM edition, “everything worked fine again.” Kaboos stated.

IIHS senior test coordinator Sean O’Malley stated that this demonstrated the need for calibration rather than a ban on aftermarket parts concluding that, “The bottom line is that it could still be calibrated to work as intended.” While a factory-misaligned bracket was found on an aftermarket windscreen, the IIHS found no real issues with aftermarket glass itself, according to O’Malley. Chemical composition, laser refraction and refractive index testing found largely that ‘glass is glass’.

In the UK there have been no reports or stories in the press about firms – nor individuals – being taken to task over negligence. Why? Is it because there have yet not (and thankfully)  been any incidents? Could it also be that there actually isn’t any requirement for an installer to carry out a recalibration? In the same way that any Fred-in-a-shed-with-a-bag-of-tools can replace a windscreen among all the cries of how important structural rigidity is, and how airbags rely on the windscreen to be adequately bonded in order to be effective (provided the occupants are wearing seatbelts in the first instance) anyone can also replace the windscreen on a car equipped with ADAS technology. Is it compulsory to recalibrate those devices? No. Is it necessary to recalibrate them? Maybe.

Whether recalibration is compulsory (after windscreen replacement) or not, are they being checked correctly? Where are the before and after test results? Who is regulating that part of the industry? Who is policing it? How do we know that the procedure was actually carried out? Where is the second printout showing how much adjustment is or was needed? Proof? Is it merely a box-ticking exercise to distance from blame, or something to staple to the invoice to validate the extra charge?

This is a subject that will run for a while, and during that time the ones making the loudest claims in favour of recalibration are also looking for a return on their investment into what is being sold throughout the motor industry as a revenue stream.

Have you had an experience to do with ADAS and windscreen replacement, good, bad or indifferent? Please get in touch.

 

 

Unskilled Windscreen Fitters

 

 

Many windscreen fitters say they’re experienced, but what kind of experience that really is will show in the end product or in the way they do their job. A windscreen fitter can be judged on how he or she fits a windscreen.

Bonded windscreens: applying the adhesive. 

How Wide?

Compressed, the Polyurethane adhesive (PUR) bead wall usually (should) end up about 10-15mm wide. This can be achieved using a trim and (or) appropriate spacers/paking blocks/bump stops dependent on the application. A ‘V’ shaped cut in the nozzle (of the extruder) will stand the bead up to about 12mm but this is variable depending on the regulation of extrustion, angle of extruder (it should be perpendicular, to the substrate BTW) and generally the combination of the aforementioned togethered with the speed in which you get the whole thing around the glass or frame to which it will be bonded.

BMW E36 Compact

Whoever fitted this BMW E36 Compact windscreen did not get any of that memo, obviously. There’s just no excuse for it.

Why should anyone be concerned about this? There are some technical details which I’ll spare (unless anyone really wants to know) but at some point in the car’s timeline the windscreeb will need replacing, and to do that someone has to come along and cut this windscreen out. And when, in your mind, you think the job will only take you *so* long, and it ends up taking twice as long because Mr Numpy Balloonhead stood the bead up as high as a prison wall, then squashed it down by pushing the windscreen FLAT against the pinchweld leaving barely a millimeter of PUR sandwiched between the two surfaces, your opinion of some [alleged] windscreen fitters is reinforced.

A few sweary words were shouted during the removal of this windscreen.

All this fitter had to do was give a flying proverbial. it would have been easier to whack a couple of rubber blocks against the bead to allow the windscreen to bed evenly.

 

An Appetite for Claiming is Costing Us All

 

 

In the event that you should need a new windscreen, provided your policy indemnifies you for cracked or damaged glass, your insurer may direct you towards their ‘approved’ repairer. Opting for a repairer of your own choosing may not be so easy, and there may be a capped payout on any claim you might make. When a windscreen is repaired or replaced, insurers rely on their approved repairers to make an honest assessment on their behalf but ultimately, the onus is also on the policyholder to make the right call.

What happens when the policyholder makes a dishonest claim, or, for the benefit of doubt is unaware that they are about to make a spurious claim? The answer to this is quite simple; they usually end up with a new windscreen. Perhaps the insurers – or brokers – should place greater emphasis on what qualifies as criteria for a claim, or more what constitutes as a fraudulent one? This is where the approved repairer comes in. They are called approved because one of their responsibilities is to make an honest and frank assessment [of the damage] on behalf of their partner, the underwriter, before any loss can be indemnified. Experience tells us that this is a gray area; therefore, and by process of elimination, the onus lies on the insurer – or underwriter – to make clear what they will indemnify, and more importantly what they will not. They’re in the business of compensating loss however by definition they also need to safeguard their financial interests against dishonest and fraudulent claims. Considering how easy it can be to claim for a windscreen which, for example, may have been damaged before the car was insured it would appear that underwriters accept that they will be settling windscreen claims regardless of the facts (or lack of). They’re not helping themselves and in doing so, are leaving the door wide open for insured parties to claim for damage which may not be covered; they are also implicitly trusting the word of the repairers doing the work because  [rhetorical question alert] how many windscreen companies refer customers back to their insurer if they feel the damage does not meet the repair or replace criteria? The reality is, nobody seems to care enough; meanwhile the cost of motor insurance continues to rise and spurious windscreen claims are part of a much wider and cultural problem.

It has been said (usually by those trying to justify it) that fraud is a harsh word to describe deceit or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage when it comes to making a windscreen claim. The act can be described in a variety of ways: cheating, deceit, scam, con etc. It’s being dishonest; exhibiting lack of honesty; fraudulent. Many do so innocently but whilst there is a strong argument for and against ignorance, if the insurer or its representative is not checking the validity of your claim to a claim, those who are well aware of their actions can have their windscreen replaced 23 hours before their conscience kicks in. 

 

“I have just bought a Porsche and the windscreen is scratched. Can it be polished?”

 

Case example. The type of question above is asked a lot on various motoring forums. In brief, scratched glass can be polished but not as a rule of thumb; laminated glass especially if it is the windscreen i.e., forward facing glass, can often lead to other consequential issues such as distortion [in the glass] and cracking (as a result of the heat generated from machine polishing). The real issue here is that none of the ‘approved’ windscreen repairers offer glass polishing as a service. Furthermore, in terms of what you’re covered for, scratched glass is (usually) not indemnifiable or construed as damage or loss. With that in mind, for the scratches which can be polished successfully, insurers can balk at the idea of paying for polishing services which in itself appears to be a bizarre stance given the cost of some replacement windscreens. Conversely, if polishing a scratched windscreen will cost around £100.00, a lesser excess of £75.00 will get the insured party a new windscreen. In this context it’s a no-brainer. Also, fast forward to when the approved repairer rocks up to replace the glass, there is no emphasis on him or her to question why the glass is being replaced: scratched glass may not be an MOT failure, and in any case, if the insurer does not payout for scratched or scuffed glass it won’t be an insured loss. The focus however, is for the windscreen fitter to actually fit the glass as quickly as possible and move on to the next job because that’s what his manager wants: a new windscreen is what the customer also wants. The same culture of replacing exists with chipped windscreens, or glass which is delaminating or pitted.

 

“Accidentally drive into a flying hammer and let your insurance company do the rest… wink, wink”

 

Insurance companies are not doing enough to ensure that claims are genuine and that only genuine claims can be made. Equally, their nominated or approved repairers are too busy to query the validity of questionable claims. They have their own targets to aim at and service delivery agreements to fulfill. The flip-side of this coin is that the policyholders can often place their own demands and ransoms on the situation. “I’m sorry, sir but that chip is perfectly repairable.” “I don’t want a repair; I want a new windscreen!”

As much as consumers are being spoiled by service providers, who in turn are pandering to their, as well as the insurance company’s demands, the insurer rubber stamps invoices and files them as ‘settled’, job done. Easy. And on the basis that any free lunches will be paid for somewhere eventually, the average motorist can look forward to higher insurance premiums further down the road. Yes, there are other significant factors which contribute towards the cost of motor insurance but calculating risk – actuary – is extremely complex and much of the profiling is extracted from claim statistics and calculations formulated from mathematical probabilities. Added to this are injury and fraudulent claims. This article focuses on one of those elements: flaws in the windscreen claims system and the claims culture cultivated by consumers. 

 

Related post: Leaking Windscreens are NOT covered.