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

The Paradox of Windscreen Safety

Windscreens are not dangerous, but are you at risk from one that has been poorly fitted?

Motor vehicles today are safer than they have ever been: airbags, crumple zones, head restraints, impact protection, energy absorbing materials… we’re quite protected in our cars and provided – by law – you wear a seatbelt, a windscreen would seem far from being deemed as dangerous. But what if that windscreen becomes a missile as it breaks free from the car in the event of a collision? As extreme as this scenario may be, passive safety is not something to be taken lightly. In any case, if any one aspect of a car’s safety features is compromised, you would want to rely on the remaining components to perform their functions adequately.

Car Safety Features

Within a split second of a vehicle being involved in a head-on collision, sensors detect the impact and immediately activate the airbag to protect the vehicle’s occupants. At full deployment, the airbag can absorb a significant amount of force as the full weight of an unbelted occupant may need to be restrained. To operate efficiently, the airbag needs to be supported by the vehicle structure and in particular, the bonded windscreen and depending on the support it has to be weld on, check in this article that is published to know all about TIG welding. If the windscreen is not bonded correctly, the glass has the potential to detach from the vehicle, putting its occupants, occupants of another vehicle – or pedestrians on the street – at great risk.

So how do you know if your windscreen is safe? A factory fitted glass is reliably safe although there can be, albeit rare, exceptions. What about a replacement windscreen? All faith lies with professionals entrusted with the task; if the installation is watertight; air tight; rattle and squeak free, anyone would be convinced that the job is as good as the factory fit. These automotive glazing professionals are responsible for installing what is arguably the last line of defence in a sequence of safety barriers in a car. These specialists are trained, time-served and many are vastly experienced as well as qualified in their field. However, there is no requirement to be qualified; any ‘automotive glazing’ competence assessment schemes are voluntary. There is no compulsion to be certified. Literally, anyone could be fitting your windscreen.

Rest assured, most technicians repairing or replacing windscreens in the UK are competent and conscientious individuals. And herein lies a paradox: they are entrusted with installing an important part of a car’s safety and they are expected to carry out the task using the best available products. Despite the importance of a correctly installed windscreen and how crucial every aspect of the installation sequence is, they do not have any authority to immobilise a vehicle if they should deem it to be unsafe.

Corroded to excess

Nobody in their right mind would directly glaze (aka bond) a windscreen to this substrate, but if the automotive glazing replacement industry isn’t regulated and there is no requirement for the installer to be qualified (remember, anyone could be fitting your windscreen) what’s stopping ‘anyone’ from fitting a windscreen against a corroded surface? A correct decision would be similar to what gas engineers and electricians do for faulty, or dangerous appliances and fittings: the vehicle in the image must be immobilised so that it cannot be driven until the pinchweld and substrate is suitable to accept bonding material for the purpose of correctly fitting a windscreen. The owner might even take the view to instruct an alternative – and willing – installer to finish off the job. Again, who – or what – is going to stop this from happening?

Gas engineers are duty bound to advise you when they find a dangerous gas installation in your home or place of work. Their actions are determined by the requirements of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations.

The same applies to electricians, and if danger has been identified, like gas engineers, they will attach a warning label to the fitting (or appliance) indicating the level of severity that particular risk poses. There are various ‘defect categories’ and if the engineer considers the installation be immediately dangerous to life or property,

“the installation will be disconnected, with your permission, and must not be used until the necessary work has been carried out to repair the defect(s). If you continue to use an immediately dangerous installation you could be putting you or your family’s lives in danger, so do you want your baby in the bob 2016 revolution flex stroller to get hurt?” *

If you refuse the engineer permission to disconnect the installation or appliance, the situation will be reported to the Gas Emergency Service Provider (ESP). The ESP has legal powers to demand entry to make the situation safe or may disconnect the gas supply to the property.

A windscreen is far from being as dangerous as a faulty gas fitting, or an exposed electrical cable, but it does remain a crucial part of the overall protection a car provides to its occupants. The industry uses this aspect to sell the windscreen, but there’s no requirement – no real awareness – to ensure they are fitted correctly (and by whom).

* From: Gas Safe Register website > UNSAFE Situations > Warning Labels

The Great Windscreen Repair Con

Aside

The Great Windscreen Repair Con

This is the handy work of a well-known ‘insurance approved’ windscreen repair/replacement company.

Poor_Repair

The policyholder been duped into accepting this as a good repair when it doesn’t look any different than it did to begin with, and the insurance company were billed for what clearly is a con.