Not to be found in a footnote of every driver’s future on the road, is an unwritten law of averages which suggests that the chances of a getting a vehicle’s windscreen chipped are increased the more a car is driven.
Even parked cars aren’t safe from this kind of damage. Stones trapped in the tyres of passing vehicles shooting out like bullets, or flicked up debris from the road surface can often be the cause of those unexplainable Bees Wings, Bulls Eyes, Half Moons and Star Breaks which appear overnight, contrary to some people convincing themselves it was the work of a sniper. Another misconception is what can happen to a stonechip if not repaired. Aside from ‘having to pay your expensive excess’ and in doing so it having a major impact on your life, some types of damage are more likely to develop into cracks than others, but generally speaking, other than attracting and trapping contaminants (as well moisture, invariably) within the break (and thus reducing the chances of a good repair) the statement, “all stonechips will eventually crack” is inaccurate. In fact, there are many more misconceptions surrounding laminated windscreen repair: from the physics and science of the repair process itself to what is perceived to be an acceptable repair.
Throughout the industry (the supermarket car park repairers, the nationally operated companies, the one man bands, the small independent and the car garages in possession of a basic repair kit) the quality of a repaired windscreen chip is very low; in some examples the ‘alleged’ repair looked no different after the ‘attempt’ to repair than it did before.
Probably the most concerning area of windscreen repair is the ambiguously titled ‘approved’ repairer (or basically, the company an insurance company has an exclusive billing arrangement with). Most repairs are free to the insured party – the insurer picks up the total cost – however some require a contribution from the policyholder (more commonly referred to as an excess) which is predetermined by the insurer. How much the insurer pays is something guarded quite closely. But you can be assured that whilst the underwriters are busy assessing and perceiving risk, the only person to assess that chip on the windscreen of your car, is you. Yes, the repairer should be making an assessment on behalf of the insurance company, but much of that appraisal is determined by his or her experience or level of expertise; some will take the view that rather than waste time trying to repair an awkward looking chip, it would be better for all concerned that the windscreen is changed. It’s when the decision to repair is made that things get interesting, and very much open to interpretation. Taken from an insurance company’s nominated repairer’s website:
“If our engineer decides that a repair is possible, we will normally attempt to repair a windscreen. There is no guarantee on the cosmetic appearance of a repair. Upon completion of a repair some damage may still be visible; this is normal. Our aim is to contain the damage and restore the original strength of the windscreen. If reported within 48 hours, you are not happy with the visual appearance of the repair we can replace your windscreen subject to you paying the required amount for the replacement. We do not guarantee that an attempted repair will be successful in every case; through no fault of our engineer there is a risk of a crack appearing during the repair process and you acknowledge this risk. If this happens, you will be asked if you would like us to replace the glass and you will have to pay any additional amount. We will take into account any excess you may have already paid to us.”
What if the repair was perfectly repairable, and it was the repairer’s lack of experience, or his employer’s failure to provide him or her with the correct training which led to the customer not being happy? Furthermore, if the strength has been restored, by this the visual appearance would have improved too after the break would have had resin worked into it. The same repairer goes on to say:
“If a repair is undertaken and subsequently cracks within 30 days and a replacement is requested, we will deduct any excess already paid. However, after 30 days any excess for the replacement will be required in full.”
And why would something which has had its “strength restored” crack within 30 days? What does this quoted statement actually mean? They want two bites at the same cherry, but at no loss to them? A second gratuitous bite when they should be delivering a better finished product in the first instance? In effect, the repair – if you don’t like it – will be billed as a replacement because they could not carry out an acceptable repair. So what can be repaired? There’s no guide on this either!
Another nationwide ‘insurance approved’ repairer says:
“By agreeing to carry out a glass repair we do not guarantee that this will resolve the relevant problem and, in the absence of damage being caused by our faulty workmanship, any subsequent replacement of the repaired glass will be at your cost. “
This does appear to be quite a belligerent, ‘if you don’t like our repairs, and can’t prove it was our fault, pay for a replacement’.
One of the most common complaints is:
“…the repair wasn’t that good at all. The chip is still there and does not look like it has been fixed. They did explain it could not be fully fixed but it looks like it hasn’t even been touched…”
The reply this complaint got could be applied to a chip which has not been repaired. The evidence is within the repair. If you can still see most – or all – of what you did before the repair, it hasn’t been filled.
“The main purpose of a repair is to regain the structural strength; it’s not cosmetic and can sometimes still be seen.”
Again, if the repair – or break – has been manipulated sufficiently insofar as each little crack, or aspect of damage has been filled correctly with resin (without the use of heat) and subsequently cured in stages, the appearance of the break would definitely have improved. An experienced repairer will also have a fairly good idea what the repair will potentially look like, and in doing so, will point out any likely issues with the repair process, or within the damage (such as discoloration of the PVB layer).
So much emphasis is placed on safety, yet the repair methods – and guarantees – are vague and ambiguous. Above all, it is the repairer’s experience which is the most important ingredient in a good repair. That said, it is that same experience which will determine which repair kit is used (generally speaking, anything automated, or semi automated prevents a better, fuller repair on the majority of the windscreen).
And if the person repairing, your windscreen is using any kind of heat source on the inside of the windscreen, the ‘repaired’ break will return in a few days if not hours. Heating glass from the inside of the glass achieves nothing more than enough time for the repairer to ride off into the distance before the glass cools down.
As always, your comments are welcome, and feedback gratefully received.