Buyer Beware: Glass Cover

 

 

Are you having difficulty getting your insurance company’s preferred repairer to fit a genuine ‘OE’ replacement windscreen for your car? Is the windscreen company waiting to see if the underwriter will authorise your request?

 

First and foremost, before you go reaching for the latest version of the Consumer Rights Act legislation as you prepare to refer the matter to the ‘Insurance Ombudsman’, you should have a look at what you agreed to before policy inception; it usually states very clearly what the outcome will be be in the event of a windscreen claim.

Should you be paying a supplement for a genuine windscreen?

In a nutshell, no. You should not be making up the difference if your preference is for an ‘authentic’ part, not unless there is an explicit exclusion stated within your Policy Schedule, or Key Facts. Unless you have agreed to pay the difference for OE parts when the insurance terms were proposed, the insurer nor the repairer cannot charge you – the policyholder – the difference between an aftermarket, or ‘copy’, windscreen and one supplied by the vehicle manufacturer.

The onus is on you to ask these questions before you accept the proposed arrangement when shopping around for your motor insurance.

The Cost of Someone Else Paying Your Excess

 

 

 

Insurance companies implemented a policy excess system in order to deter gratuitous claims. However now there is a culture which could be using this deterrent to encourage the very thing it was designed to curb.

How somebody else paying your excess could be costing you.

In insurance, the policyholder contribution, or the ‘excess’, is the amount you have to pay if you make a claim. Without an excess, claims would increase dramatically and, ultimately, the cost of insurance would rise. It is a studious measure to deter people from making frivolous or unnecessary claims for minimal damage which would, invariably, inflate the cost of insurance. It is also helps to prevent fraudulent claims. This article focuses on that small, yet significant aspect of car windscreen (and glass) claims: the excess.

Who pays?

Windscreen Excess Amount

Cash Notes

In a nutshell, a windscreen repairer offering to pay your excess is vying for your business. By offering to cover a policyholder’s contribution, they are trying to attract custom, plain and simple. However, given that the average excess amount is circa £75.00, the amount would seem too great to write off; it would need a claw-back somewhere, surely. Where does the buck stop? If the billing is carte blanch, the repairer might simply add the ‘waived’ amount to the final invoice before billing the insurer. There may even be some creative billing whereby fictitious constituent clips, peripheral parts or out of hours charges will be added to cover the shortfall created by offering the insured party a freebie. Some busier (or even desperate) repair companies may even absorb the impact based on either the volume of work this kind of marketing might be generating, or that it is seen as something doing (and better than standing around scratching their proverbials). Whichever way you want to look at it, or any business attempts to justify it, knocking off around 50-quid distorts the market and ultimately alters the true value of repairing or replacing a windscreen. Per contra, windscreen repair and replacement companies are not the only culprits of this perfidious practice.

Secondhand car sellers.

Selling a car with a damaged windscreen or poorly repaired stonechip could prove to be a deal breaker. It may also take a huge chunk out of the seller’s profit margin as the cost is usually not covered by their car trader policy. Some sellers for example will offer a £50.00 discount suggesting that the buyer could claim for a new windscreen on their insurance after buying and subsequently insuring the vehicle. Others might even promise to pay the excess when – or if – the windscreen is (eventually) replaced. Of course, morality aside, to initiate an insurance claim for damage which occurred before policy inception is tantamount to fraud. The system however, is open to this kind of abuse and much of this type of activity goes on undetected.

Overall, the motor insurance industry is extremely competitive; motor insurance providers are relying more and more on high volume sales which in turn enables them to offer cheaper rates to the consumer. Conversely, every change in an individual’s circumstances will have a bearing on the cost of their insurance; age, car type; postcode, usage, where the car is kept; previous claims; driving convictions and more. These are all significant factors in calculating the cost of insuring motorists. An increase in the number of claims made will also be collated to profile different motorists, and calculate the risk of insuring them based on that data.

Is your claim necessary? If it is, ask yourself what the overall implications would be if someone was distorting the claim amount for their own gain. It would be incredibly short sighted to satisfy your thinking if the answer was for fiscal reasons. If you are saving the excess payment; the repairer is gaining the claim amount, and the insurer ultimately is indemnifying the loss, there can be no complaints when there is a premium hike when the policy lapses. Now rethink the previous statement in reverse. Is the insurer subsidising a transaction?

Ask yourself, would you still be making the claim if you were paying the excess yourself? Better still, ask the repairer why they would ‘lose’ or waive a significant part of the final bill in replacing a broken windscreen. If you’re not paying, who does?

 

Look Without Watching

 

Why watching your windscreen fitter may not be a good idea.

 

The moment you have been fearing has arrived. You’re about to have your windscreen replaced, and the thought of a stranger getting intimate with your car is making you feel uncomfortable. What do you do?

An immediate and infinite resource is the internet, and you can always tap into the experience of somebody else who has survived such an event; forewarned is forearmed. However, one commonly offered fragment of windscreen wisdom might just preempt the very thing you fear the most.

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

Popular advice to, “watch the fitter like a hawk” is understandable given the horror stories being recited by those who have had the misfortune of witnessing them. But what if your own actions are to blame? What if your own fear becomes the cause of the fitter fluffing it? Nothing says, ‘you cannot be trusted to do a good job without me watching you’ more than becoming the technician’s shadow during the process. This is not to say that you should not be around, or that you’re not welcome, but discussing your concerns could mean that you may not, after all, have to perch yourself upon the poor chap’s shoulder, ready to Kango through his skull, to peck out his brain the moment he slips up.

Hiding in Garage

Resist hiding in your garage

Relax. If you’ve been diligent in your research you might even have the right person turning up to do the job. In which case, greet him, exchange a few pleasantries and simply get on with your day (offer him a cup of tea as you would do with anyone when welcoming them to your abode). Breaking your new-windscreen-replacement virginity however may require a bit more courting before the fitter starts stripping down (the car, that is).  Do make yourself available, perhaps telling him where you’ll be should he need you for anything.This may also be a useful time to utilise, perhaps in the garage, garden or greenhouse for example.

Windscreen Replacement in Progress

The Stealth Watchman

Is it alright to watch the fitter from start to finish?

Ask him (or her) if they would mind you being nosey. Be honest about it (but without being obvious). Many tradesmen cannot perform if they’re being watched. It makes them nervous, or that they become too aware of the company which throws them off their routine. Replacing a windscreen is a methodology which requires concentration and alertness. An experienced windscreen technician – or automotive glazier – will follow a step-by-step procedure they have in their head, and this (usually) ensures everything gets done, and in the right order. In the circumstances it is probably best to leave him to his own devices; you’re just going to have to trust him, but do try and tap into your own instincts. Does he inspire confidence? Is he well presented? Is his van clean and tidy? How happy (or sad) is his demeanor? Remember, he’s not only working on your car; he’s also your guest and so you should make him feel as welcome as one. If the impression you get is not good, it might just be your cue to become a curtain twitcher.

Windscreen Voyeurism?

Peekaboo! Windscreen Voyeurism?

By all means look, but try not to watch. You could end up maneuvering your gaze into a voyeuristic trespass.

 

 

To See, or Not to See

 

 

Now You See It…

An illustration of Before and After stages of a typical windscreen repair. 

Have you recently had your windscreen repaired? Were you pleased with the results? Was there a discernible between the before and after appearances of the damage? Would you know a good repair if you saw one? A lot of repairers don’t, never mind how to achieve one.

Windscreen Repair c

Windscreen Repair

A recent thread on Pistonheads  highlighted a common, and proliferating issue in windscreen stonechip repair. There appears to be a perceived acceptance in what a repaired chip looks like, and judging by a lot of evidence, not many people actually know what an aesthetically, structurally and technically sound repair should look like.

Generally speaking, if there is no difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ states, it’s not a good repair. In fact, it is likely that the damage – technically speaking – has not been repaired. “It’s been sealed” was the closing line the TVR Wedge owner got on the Pistonheads thread after he questioned the repairer when he claimed to have finished the job. Looking at the end product of the attempted repair, it could be argued that the repairer had little or no grasp of what he (or she) was doing. Irrespective of what the repairer’s assessment of his or her work is, a botch should not be accepted, nor paid for. And as far as assessments go, the repairer – an experienced repairer – can usually anticipate what the likely outcome will be before attempting a repair. In the case of the TVR owner, the windscreen is now potentially ruined, and the car may even fail its next MOT.

What does a ‘good’ repair look like?

The answer is quite simple. If, by looking at the windscreen, you can easily see the damage you shouldn’t be able to see it without looking for it once it has been repaired. This, however, is subjective to a few important factors:

  1. size;
  2. position on the windscreen;
  3. type of damage;
  4. the age of the chip (or how long it has been exposed to water and contaminants).

Ambient temperature, lighting, equipment, quality of consumable products and the experience of the technician are vitally important aspects which the repairer relies on in order to give prominence to his or her skill. The following image shows a common stone chip on a windscreen.

Chipped Windscreen

Damaged Windscreen

The chip is showing an impact crater (in the middle of the arc shape) and two smaller chips above it. There is one visible crack emanating from the centre of the impact point and threatening to travel southwest; the arc shape is often referred to as a ‘half moon’ although it almost has bears a resemblance to a ‘beeswing’. Underneath the arc shape are two more cracks: one feint crack perpendicular to the southwest pointing crack, and one dissecting the two smaller upper impacts. Placing a mirror behind the break adds clarity:

Mirror Behind Stonechip

Mirror Behind Stonechip

Using a mirror allows the technician to see how the break is responding as various repair techniques are utilised. These are carefully honed skills which enable the break to be manipulated in order to allow the repair resin to penetrate fully into each crack.

Windscreen After Repair

Windscreen After Repair

With the repair complete, and the apparatus removed, the above image shows what the (now repaired) damage looks like with a mirror reflecting light back through the glass. In technical terms (or optics) the light propagating through a medium (in this example, glass) has a refractive index or index of refraction: a dimensionless number which determines how much light is bent, or refracted, when entering a material. With the mirror removed light no longer reflects back through the glass:

Repaired Stone Chip with Mirror Removed

Repaired Stone Chip with Mirror Removed

As good as a repair can look when finished, there is no miraculous vanishing trick. There will always be at least some trace of the damage. This is usually the outline of the impact crater and some visible evidence of the bonded cracks:

A Shadow of its Former Self

A Shadow of its Former Self

It should be noted that whilst there is a mirror present, there is no smoke to trick you into looking elsewhere. Given the nature and definition of glass (it’s transparent!) resolution and focus will always be difficult to replicate from shot to shot when capturing images. A camera will passively focus on an area detected by the autofocus – or AF – sensor(s). The camera in all images was on a standard iPhone 6 device, and by placing it on a predetermined, X, Y and Z axis. The AF was allowed to detect what was in front of it, and the same three manual overrides were used before each image was taken. In no way was it an accurate science. These images were capture in a very basic exercise in order to illustrate the before and after of a windscreen stone chip repair.

As with all posts, comments and feedback welcomed, and gratefully received.

Insurance Questions: Windscreen Cover

 

 

Can I get my insurer to pay for this?

Most comprehensive insurance policies will include windscreen cover as standard. As straight forward as this may appear, there are some grey areas, some of which has been misinterpreted or misunderstood, to cause confusion amongst the insured.

 

Direct Vision through Windscreen

Direct Vision through Windscreen

 

Here are some of the most common questions asked on Internet forums; but first, it should be noted that the onus is very much on policyholder to tell the truth. The repairer’s role is a position of trust and one which requires him or her to make an assessment on behalf of the insurer/underwriter (as well as to present the policyholder the correct diagnosis). Honesty is always the best policy, but there are a few areas which are open to abuse.

 

“I bought a car which had a cracked windscreen,” or that the car had a chipped windscreen which has previously been repaired badly.

This is probably the most asked question, and almost definitely the one which shows the most ignorance and dishonesty among those who discuss it. The reality is, the damage occurred before (current) policy inception. It is not a loss the insurer is obliged to indemnify. The problem with this situation is that the insurer relies on the honesty of the policyholder, and the integrity of the repairer but there is no way of verifying the cause (and date) of the reported damage.

 

“My windscreen is scratched. Am I covered?”

 

A tricky one and very much subjective. How an insurer – or the insurance policy – interprets damage is how this one will be defined. Policy wording seldom identifies scratched glass as damage, although it could be argued that graffiti is vandalism but this may not be covered under the windscreen insurance end of the policy (some insurers have paid out for this under general insurance which will carry a higher excess and will impact the policyholder’s NCD). The only way to ascertain if wiper scratches or general scratches (such as from clearing ice or dirt from the windscreen) are covered by an insurer is to check the policy Key Facts or speak to the insurer. The problem this presents is that the ‘glassline’ number will usually be pointed straight at the prevailing repairer whose role is to make an honest and correct assessment on behalf of the insurer it is representing.

 

Pitted Windscreen 2

Pitted Windscreen

 

Pitted Glass

“There is surface pitting on my windscreen. When I’m driving into direct sunlight, or oncoming headlamps, I can’t see through the glass. It’s like the windscreen has been shot blasted and is covered with millions of tiny chips about the size of a pin head.”

 

First and foremost, the windscreen is a forward facing piece of glass in a vehicle. In other words, the driver’s direct view of the road is reliant on the windscreen being in good condition, or being fit for purpose. For vehicle to be legally roadworthy, the MOT Testers Manual states that a reason for rejection is:

“a combination of minor damage areas which seriously restricts the driver’s view in the remainder of the [wiper] swept area”

With this in mind, does this correlate and fit into what the insurer will construe as damage, or an indemnifiable loss? Some insurers will allow some discretion whilst others may not be so accommodating.  Most pertinent to note is that this is all open to interpretation whichever way you were to look at it and the system (in the absence of a better noun) is open to abuse by all parties.

 

“Will claiming on my insurance impact my NCD?”

Probably the most enigmatic and undefined areas of windscreen insurance is what subsequent impact a claim will have on any future insurance. The majority of policies will state that there will be no impact on NCD following a windscreen claim, however, some policies clearly do. Furthermore, there is no definitive statement from any insurer whether – regardless of how NCD may or may not be affected – the premium will be increased on renewal. Is there a claw-back somewhere? The nature of the business suggests there might be; is it a factor in the rising cost of motor insurance? There is no official word on this and insurance industry representatives remain reticent.

 

Windscreen Replacement

Windscreen Replacement

Have you had one of these windscreen claim experiences with your insurer? Please use the comments section to tell us all about it; your contribution may be useful to others. Thank you!

 

It’s Only a Joint?

 

 

 

When butting up the PUR adhesive, most windscreen fitters are taught to run past the starting point and overlap the joint. This technique envelops the join, and is the easiest one to program the OEM robots with. Is this the best way? Why does it matter?

Wide

Overlapped PUR Joint

This joint measured about 50mm in width, more than double the industry average. So what’s the issue? It’s a joint, and other than the somewhat abstract appearance, it looks like it ‘did the job’, right? Here’s what it looked like on the other side after cutting through it with a sharp blade:

FullSizeRenderTunnel

Tunneling

As you can see on the left hand side, there was very little adhesion; about 4mm in fact. The shiny bit to the right of the image is cured PUR which was not making any contact with anything. If it’s not making contact, it’s useless; superfluous. A waste of product material, and potentially a catalyst for a defect in the windscreen, or glass performance.

 

 

 

Paint it Black

 

 

A question often asked amongst motoring enthusiasts is, “I’m having my windscreen replaced today. Is there anything to look out for?” Generally, the advice will be pretty good, and mostly based on experience. However some responses are the work of fiction; a fallacy; an internet fable.

“Before the fitter puts the new windscreen in, make sure he paints over the scratches with that black primer!”

Porsche 991 Windscreen Removal

Paintwork scratched by windscreen fitter.

This statement highlights an important issue, and just how easily vital information can be grossly misinterpreted and misrepresented. Three of the most used aftermarket polyurethane bonding systems used in the automotive glass replacement ( “AGR” ) industry in the UK are Betaseal (Dow Automotive) Dinitrol and Sika. All three are also used by vehicle manufacturers on the assembly lines all over the world. From their respective websites:

Dinitrol 530.

“Black, solvent based physical and chemical drying primer designed to prepare the cleaned automotive glasses and the flange for direct glazing. DINITROL 530 promotes the adhesion of the polyurethane sealer to the substrates, but also prevents the degradation of the polyurethane due to Ultra Violet radiation.”

Betaseal 43532

“BETASEAL 43532 primer is recommended for use as an adhesion promoter between BETASEAL™ urethane adhesives and automotive paint coatings”

Sika 206 G+P

“Sika® Primer-206 G+P is used to give improved adhesion in adhesive bonding applications on sub-strates such as glass, ceramic-coated glass and painted surfaces. Sika® Primer-206 G+P can also be used on other substrates such as plastics and some metals.”

The product descriptions are condensed, and a fuller technical data sheet furnishes us with all the finer details, but notwithstanding, the single paragraphs – at a glance – tell you what you need to know. The common denominator in all three: black primer is an adhesion promoter. Applying it provides a suitable substrate to bond to. There is no mention of it being suitable for coating bare, or bared,  metal. The emphasis of its use – by its users – is largely misplaced, and anyone using black primer – adhesion promoter – to paint over scratches is missing the point: avoid scratching the paintwork to begin with. The long term damage can be very expensive and often does not manifest itself until the car has moved on to a new owner.

BMW E46 M3 Windscreen

BMW E46 M3 Windscreen Removed

None of us are exempt from making an innocent mistake, but when we do, we learn from it; we gain knowledge. Experience is knowing all the pitfalls of your trade and more importantly, how to avoid them. We don’t paint the mistakes black with primer. We consciously avoid making those blunders in the first place. The prevention is a critical part of eliminating the risk of corrosion. Like in the image of the BMW E46 M3 above, sometimes there is no excuse to scratch the pinchweld on removing the windscreen and there is no justification whatsoever for the pinchweld to be bared of its paint when cutting back the old Polyurethane ( “PUR” ). Steve Allard of Western Windscreens in Launceston shows us just how futile covering a scratch with black primer really is. The car: a Mercedes-Benz SLK had come into his workshop for a new windscreen. It should have been a routine replacement, but the job turned into much more when he found some scratches which had been hidden with something that was not designed to protect bare metal from oxidising.

Merc Windscreen

Picture courtesy of Western Winsdcreens in Launceston.

Nobody in their right mind could claim the car is a rot box as the metal around the scratch has not rusted, therefore negating the claim or suggestion. The black primer is clearly not sufficient, and does not inhibit the corrosion of the metal beneath the paint.

Merc Windshield

Image courtesy of Steve Allard, Western Windscreens, Cornwall

Black primer is not for painting scratches. Its use is for preparing a freshly painted surface to promote better adhesion; it is used to provide a better a substrate to bond to; it is not designed to be used as a rust inhibitor, or to ‘fill in’ scratched paintwork. Even accident, or crash repair centres can be guilty of thinking that the windscreen fitter’s black primer is some magical cure, and an excuse for the painter not to put in the effort:
Windscreen Fail

Unsuitable for bonding

A Porsche 996 (pictured above) had a new roof skin replaced prior to the windscreen being removed after it cracked on a track day. Cutting back the PUR revealed some pretty alarming evidence of what was supposed to be a repair by a Porsche ‘approved’ bodyshop. There was evidence of black primer under the PUR but it had not adhered to the metal at all, and just lifted off the pinchweld like the floating thin layer of brittle black primer that it was. There was no chemical bond between to the two materials.

Those who are engaging in such practices will not be around to witness the damage in time to come. The car may even have since exchanged hands, and thus voided any warranty however subjective it may appear to be in the circumstances. The perpetrators of such careless and shoddy workmanship cannot be held culpable for the consequential loss which will invariably have been caused by their negligence, and this is as much of a crime as the act itself.

Removing a windscreen, and cutting back the adhesive that held it in is easier today than it has ever been. There are a variety of removal apparatus and cutting implements readily available whilst finely honed techniques remain the most important tool of the fitter’s repertoire. Yet there are so many who neglect to use them or are ignorant to the fact. In some ways, the windscreen fitter skills and mindset has perpetuated its own paradox. Added to this is an incessant need for speed; there appears to be so much emphasis on cheaper, easier and quicker ways to get the job done. Not many have the time nor the inclination to do a good job, or take pride in their work.

Windscreen Replacement

Appropriate and correct treatment of bare metal

It is inevitable that at some point, you are going to bare some metal as you cut back old PUR. It might be a raised spot-weld, or it might be a slip with your chisel. Within reason, and after careful assessment, you may be justified in ‘dotting’ a small mark in the bondline with primer, but if you want to be thorough, and offer a guarantee which is as robust as the work you’re aiming to complete, or is in line with the car manufacturer’s warranty, you have to spend a little bit more time than just dabbing on something which is not fit for purpose. A little more application – literally – is in order.
Windscreen Replacement

Treating bared metal with a chemically bonding agent

 

 

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As always, comments most welcome, and ‘likes’ gratefully received. Thank you.