Leaking Windscreens are NOT Covered.

 

 

 

A trade customer – an independent garage – had a car in for service. They were also asked to look at a water leak in the front of the vehicle which turned out to be a poorly fitted windscreen. Water was dripping into the cabin from above the rear view mirror. The garage called me in to remove and refit the windscreen.

After a quick pre-inspection, there was also another problem: the windscreen itself was delaminating and was showing severe separation (of the sandwich construction). The glass was also extremely brittle (light pressure on the outer layer was displacing water from within the glass and PVB layers). Whilst the successful removal and refitting of the windscreen was still viable to eliminate the leaking issue, the glass itself was not fit for purpose, and thus unsuitable for reuse. A recommendation that glass should be replaced was relayed back to the vehicle owner.

The car owner contacted his insurer and explained that his car had a leaking windscreen. He claimed that they (the underwriters) were sympathetic and said they would ‘honor’ him with a new windscreen in the circumstances. Unless he has something exclusively written into his policy which covers him for the poor workmanship of a previous windscreen installer (before or during his ownership) leaky windscreens are not construed as damage, and therefore, not covered.

The following day the garage called to let me know that the windscreen was about to be replaced by the car owner’s insurer (or their nominated repairer).

My guess is that the call (from the car owner) to the insurance company would have been diverted to the nominated repairer. If the owner did state that the windscreen is leaking, is the repairer acting fraudulently? Was the onus more on the owner not to initiate contact with his insurer for an issue for which he was not entitled to be indemnified? Or was the insurer negligent?
On paper, the car owner got a new windscreen (worth well over £700) and the repairer delivered according to their service level agreement. However, the windscreen was not damaged. It was leaking. Leaking windscreens are not classed as damage, and therefore not covered by insurance.

Who’s to blame in this instance?

(Insurer’s name, the car owner’s name and the VRN have not been revealed to avoid litigation).

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?

 

Wrong Windscreen Fitted to Car.

 

 

 

Some things are not seen as a problem until they affect us directly. Try to imagine how you would feel if, after buying the car you’ve coveted for a while springs a very wet surprise as you drive through the rain for the first time: a leaking windscreen.

If the car came with a guarantee, the issue will be addressed; but what if it didn’t? What if it has lapsed? What if the warranty does not cover glass and seals? Or perhaps the previous keeper had the windscreen replaced at some point during their ownership, and the guarantee – as it usually is in most cases – ended when the car was sold. Whatever it is, someone is going to have to take the hit; fast forward: remove and refit the windscreen. And this is where the problem goes from bad to worse. Much worse.

The windscreen is removed, and the leak is attributed to poor workmanship by whoever fitted it previously. However, on removing the glass, something doesn’t look right. It’s the headlining; it’s not straight, and looks like there’s something ‘bulging’ between it, and the roof (there is also a rounded cut-out to one side of it on the leading edge).

Wrong Windscreen

What’s this, hidden by the previous installer?

 

Further investigation revealed what appeared to be the end of a wiring loom.

Wiring for windscreen rain sensor

Wiring for windscreen rain sensor

There were in fact, two multiplugs stuffed behind the headlining. At this point, it still did not suggest anything sinister. After all, many car manufacturers will install every car with one ‘fits all’ wiring loom but not the features it supplies (which may be variable options between different models). These two plugs suggest at least a rain sensor and possibly for a photochromic – or self dimming – rear view mirror). One way would be to plug into the car’s computer to see if there is a fault showing as a code on the system. Or, a quick glance at the car itself might tell its own story.

Windscreen Auto Lights Sensor

Auto Lights Option

The ‘auto’ lights setting on the switch all but confirms that the car should have a different windscreen to the one fitted.

Automatic Wiper Control

Auto Wipers

Affirmative. The car is definitely equipped with an auto lights-on feature, as well as a rain sensor. However, and unfortunately for the current owner, the windscreen itself does not correspond with this criteria.

No Rain Sensor Mounting

No Rain Sensor Mounting

The image above shows a basic mirror mounting plate (or boss). The ribbon, or tab above it is the ground for the heater elements within the windscreen (heated windscreen) and the break in the line cutting below it is the reason this windscreen was letting in water. A very awkward conversation ensues with the car owner, “Would you like to hear the good news first, or the bad?”

At this point, two questions beg to be answered:

1. How – or why – did this happen? It could be that the previous installer had the wrong windscreen and simply took a chance by decommissioning (and defenestrating) the ancillary device(s). In this example, something a bit more contrived appears to have taken place as the mirror is the correct one (perhaps this car was de-fleeted stock, or at a car hire company and the installer simply raided other cars for the mirror, or even took it from his own van!).

In some cases, the unscrupulous types may have even fitted a cheaper windscreen (cheaper than what the correct screen the insurance company – for example – thought they were paying for).

2. Who pays to put it right? The recommendation is not to refit this windscreen; it’s not the right one for the car and besides, the car’s computer would have registered faults after self-diagnosing that components are missing and wiring has gone open circuit. The windscreen remains ‘quarantined’ and the car has been declared VOR until it is rightfully decided who pays to replace the missing parts.

Your views please.

 

Botched Windscreen Repair.

 

 

Yet another example of the level of incompetence which is rife in windscreen repair. And it’s not rare to see such poor standards. In this instance, the act is nothing but a con.

From a customer, via email:

“He used a heat gun, and it looked alright when I signed it off but when I got in the car later it looked so much worse.”

 

Dilettantisch

Dilettantisch

 

He also says it looks worse now than it did before the insurance nominated windscreen repairer’s technician ‘attempted’ to repair it. His insurer would have been billed for it after he was duped into signing the repairer’s job-sheet. The job-sheet, signed whilst the screen was still hot, is a common trick used by many in the trade. Is it ignorance, or negligence? And who to blame, the employee or the employer?

VW Golf R32 Windscreen Replacement

 

 

You’ve gone through the car with a fine tooth comb and it’s faultless; the HPI report comes back all tickety boo and you exchange money for the keys – and V5 – before hitting the road home. It’s your new pride and joy. But there’s something not quite right, and you won’t know just what that is until it shows up as a costly problem to fix.

Windscreen before removal

Windscreen before removal

Kicking a tyre won’t find a defect just as much as knocking on the windscreen reveal if it’s been replaced or not. Seeing a ‘VW’ logo merely tells you that the glass is a genuine part; it doesn’t tell you if it is the original factory fitted (OEM) one. In all fairness, if the car has a windscreen free of chips, cracks or scratches, the chances are you’ll spend more time looking through it, than at it. Your attention will not be drawn to the glass itself unless there’s a problem with it, and it’s the windscreen that can be hiding those potential issues. One of the most common, is damage caused by a careless windscreen fitter.

Windscreen Removed

Windscreen Removed

A widespread misconception about what the adhesion promoter (in a windscreen bonding kit) is that it is to ‘paint over any scratches’. Even the adhesive manufacturer technical data sheets do not state this, yet this mistaken advice is finding its way into many conversations, “make sure he paints over the scratches!” they will say. Bizarrely, not many people understand that not scratching the paintwork in the first instance is (obviously!) the correct approach. In the image above, it looks as though there’s just a bit of black paint on the paintwork. As innocuous as it might appear, experience has taught me that it is usually there to cover up a mistake. And it will go unnoticed, because the average windscreen fitter (from the cheap, cowboy independent to the ‘insurance approved’ uniformed ‘technician’ representing a national brand) will not see anything untoward about it. I used a fine Scotch-Brite hand pad, and gave it a bit of a tickle…

Black primer removed

Black primer removed

There are many polyurethane adhesives on the market, some are excellent and some are sold purely on being the cheapest on the market. Sika manufactures the best product I have used, and thus, the only PUR I have used in almost a decade. Quoting directly from their Product Data Sheet is a description of when and where the ‘black primer’ should be used:

 

Areas of Application
Sika® Primer-206 G+P is used to give improved adhesion in adhesive bonding applications on substrates 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.
This product is suitable for experienced professional users only. Tests with actual substrates and conditions, especially boundary temperature conditions have to be performed to ensure adhesion and material compatibility.

 

 

It is not a rust inhibitor, and it certainly is not formulated to cover scratches and protect the metal exposed as a result poor workmanship. By using an appropriately sized chisel and with the correct technique, damage to the pinchweld and surrounding paintwork is minimal, if any at all. If any bare metal is exposed, an appropriate treatment process should be followed. Scratches are caused by carelessness, and the use of inappropriate tools such as long blades, Stanley Knife tools and surgically sharp chisels with removable blades.

Cutting Back PUR

Cutting Back PUR correctly

Rust remover treatments, etch-primers, paints and polishes have firmly become part of my tool kit over the recent years; the paint damaged cars (from previous installers) have become a very common problem to deal with on a day-to-day basis. In most cases this type of damage will go undetected until the windscreen (or body-glass) is removed.

Teatment Process

Treatment Process

 

This is not something that can be ignored with a shrug of the shoulders either; and only after any further corrosion is prevented the original task of replacing the cracked windscreen can be continued.

Ready for New Windscreen

Ready for New Windscreen

 

 

 

This carelessness – by the previous installer – added unnecessary time to this job. Shoddy workmanship is unfair on the next installer, and is unquestionably unfair on the car owner especially if it comes at an extra cost. It’s all preventable, and just taking a few extra minutes to do a tidy job can avoid hours of correction work. More images of the job can be found on the Glasstec Facebook page here.

New windscreen installed

New windscreen installed

 

If you have had the windscreen replaced on your Golf, and would like to discuss any issues with it, please use the comments box below.

A good related forum is R32OC.com where there is a thread running on the subject.

What Isn’t Clear About Windscreen Repairs.

 

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.

Poor Quality

Unacceptable standard of 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).

Unacceptable Quality

Chip Repair Fail

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windscreen Woes: Lexus Rain Sensor Fail

 

 

Just when you think you’ve seen it all someone – somewhere – comes up with something so random, and inexplicably wrong, it defies logic. A local Lexus dealer was just as miffed.

“We’re trying to remove the rain sensor from a Lexus IS250, but it appears to be stuck to the windscreen with superglue,” said the  service manager “but we don’t want to damage the glass”. I explained that many rain sensors can be a bit stubborn to separate from the glass, but they do eventually come off with a bit of patience and tenacity.

Superglue? Surely not! I’ve seen many sensors which have been refitted with building grade clear silicone sealant, hair gel, KY Jelly, and even more which were fitted without anything between the sensor and glass. Only a ‘tube’ would remount a sensor with super strength adhesive!

Stuck to Windscreen

Lexus Rain Sensor Stuck to Windscreen

On closer inspection, it didn’t look like it had been stuck in with Dr. Harry Coover’s game-changing invention. Most people who’ve use it would say it was double sided tape in there. Gloves on, and armed with a pick tool, I went in for a closer look.

Rain Sensor Fail

Who Did This?!

There was so much glue and ‘sticky stuff’ in and around the sensor, the cowl and mounting bracket were all bonded together. After a careful bit of picking and scraping, I managed deconstruct the sensor assembly bit by bit to reveal what was only partially visible from the outside.

What a Mess!

Yuck

I wouldn’t like to guess how this happened, or what possessed someone to use double-sided tape and superglue to refit this sensor. The deconstruction continued…

Superglue Crust

Gorilla Glue?

After picking away the tape and blobs of adhesive, I was left with an incrustation of superglue. Taking the sensor apart is fiddly, and even trickier with glue in every nook and cranny.

Deconstructed Rain Sensor

Deconstructed Rain Sensor

Lots of cleaning, scraping and shaving later, the sensor was ready to be put back together and fitted to the windscreen. First, the mounting bracket had to be re-bonded to the screen; then a new gel coating was applied to the ‘lens’ part of the sensor before reconnecting it to the car and initiating a soft reset.

Refitted Sensor

Back Where it Belongs.

Finally, the sensor was tested for effectiveness, and after a fiddly little operation, job done.

Rain Sensor Regenerated

Rain Sensor Regenerated