Claiming for a Windscreen with Admiral Insurance

Admiral is a UK based insurance company, set up in 1993 to specialise in car insurance. They’ve come a long way since and now offer a lot more than just car insurance.

They are a popular choice in the insurance industry and have managed to rise to household name status without any help from domesticated Russian-speaking African mongooses or Italian-named Welsh tenors. Whether you insure with them or not, like or loathe them, Admiral Insurance take centre stage as the go-to name for a car insurance quote.

Admirable Admiral.

A key component of most comprehensive motor insurance policies is glass cover. What many people do not realise is that windscreen cover, although the same policy, is a separate part of a fully comprehensive policy. It is a different claim process to how say, road traffic collision claims are processed. Same policy, different claims; if you claim for windscreen damage as an Admiral-insured policyholder you are directed to the prevailing ‘nominated’ windscreen replacement company (such as Autoglass or Auto Windscreens). However, if your car is damaged in a collision (or as a result of vandalism) your car will end up in an accident repair centre ‘approved’ by Admiral, usually somewhere close to where you live. In the words of a domesticated Russian (and English) speaking mongoose, ‘simples’. Got it?

Some facts on the two types of claim:

For windscreen repair/replacement claims, the repairer is contractually obliged and duty bound to make an assessment on behalf of the insurer on whether or not the damage can be repaired (or if it meets the repair criteria which is set out somewhere on a Venn diagram of what MOT regulations advise; what British Standards permit, and their own limits of what they will consider as viable). In the event of a replacement, Admiral state that they,

“…may use glass which is not provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer but is of a similar standard and quality.”

However, the stipulation on parts used in the event of the car going in for accident repair appear to be somewhat dissimilar:

” We will repair your vehicle with parts made to the manufacturer’s specification.”

Simplified, if your windscreen is damaged they will only pay for a non-standard – or aftermarket – replacement. However if the windscreen is part of an accident claim, they will replace it – and all other parts – with genuine, OE parts.

Got it?

Oh, remember the bit about the repairer making an assessment on behalf of the insurance company on whether or not it meets the repair criteria? A car was in for repair; rear end damage. The car was returned to its owner who then claimed that the windscreen was damaged in the collision and demanded that it is also replaced. Admiral Insurance approved the work and the car was returned to the bodyshop. No inspection. No assessment. Nothing. Here is the damage:

Windscreen Damage?
Windscreen Damage?

The thumb-print is of the person taking the image sent to Admiral Insurance. It was so small, they had to point at it for the image. What this also means is that the windscreen replacement was approved fair and square; legit. Putting the (very) repairable size of the damage aside, how can a stone strike – on a front windscreen – be connected to a rear-end shunt? Some more on the size of the damage:


Windscreen Repair?

It’s so small it was difficult to get he camera to focus on the damage, and not the tape measure.

Between their policy to replace damaged windscreens with parts not manufactured by the car manufacturer, they’ve approved the replacement of a perfectly repairable windscreen with a genuine, manufacturer-branded part. Questions need to be asked about this disparity. Why? How? Not only that, who is making that correlation between rear end damage and front windscreen stone strikes?

Come on Admiral, this is silly. You’ve been had by a chancer, and you’ve pulled your own pants down before bending over.

Admirable.

The Stress Crack Myth

Bananas do not grow on trees.

Bats are not blind.

Duck quacks DO echo.

Bulls do not become angry at the color red.

Windscreens do not stress crack.

Bananas grow on something the size of trees, but the banana ‘tree’ is not actually a tree. The banana plant, which can grow up to 25 feet, is actually the world’s largest perennial herb. When you carefully inspect a banana plant, you’ll notice that it doesn’t have woody fibers. It has strong stalks and leaves, yet it lacks the trunk and branches that would qualify it as a tree.

Bats see in black and white. At night they see better than we do. They lack color receptors; but in low light, we can’t see colors either.

Duck quacks have no special sonic quality to prevent echoing.

Bulls and other cattle are partially color-blind; they cannot see the color red. They are, however, defensive creatures and will charge when threatened, frightened or annoyed.

Education is the debunking of mis-education. This includes spotting and correcting the many myths emanating from the internet, folk wisdom and word of mouth. We have all been taken in, at some point or another, by a modern myth. The countless ‘stress cracked’ windscreens returned to wholesalers as defects are, 99.9% of the time, rocking horse shit. There is usually an explanation.

Windscreens do not crack spontaneously. This cited phenomenon is usually attributed to bad or incorrect fitting. In some instances the crack will be emanating from an impact, and in some rare cases extreme thermal fluctuations can be a cause. The study of fracture mechanics does not accommodate for laminated windscreens which have, “cracked for no reason”.

Stress-cracked windscreens: a trade fallacy.

A Condemned Windscreen?

According to the repair criteria set out by a national and insurance ‘approved’ windscreen repair and replacement company, this windscreen is not eligible for repair:

Windscreen Front Elevation

Why?

There are too many chips.

Whilst the windscreen isn’t exactly peppered, there clearly are five areas of damage, but they’re spread out and well apart. Would the same company be happy to attend to the same car and windscreen on five separate occasions? We don’t know what their policy is and whether or not they have a way to monitor it, but anyone would think they would for sure. So what’s wrong with repairing all five in one sitting?

A closer look at each chip.

A:

It’s low down and by its position, size and type not intrusive. However, it is still visible. From the image it does look like it may even have had a repair attempted previously and the car owner confirms this is the case. In any case, if it has had a repair, it was a very poor attempt and looks like it can still be improved by re-repairing. The structural element of the damage looks untouched, and only the impact crater has been filled.

B:

This one is in the A Zone. It’s tiny. The diameter of a five-pence piece is 18mm. Some man maths-style deduction suggests the damage is between 3 and 5mm. The permitted repair criteria for an A Zone repair is 10mm making this a viable repair on all counts.

C:

Chip C, by coincidence is in the C Zone. The coin provides a useful scale and in any case, looking at the damage (before or after repair) is obscured by the rear view mirror so the emphasis here would be on how it looks cosmetically from the outside, provided it is repaired structurally. There is an obvious sign of moisture in the break, therefore no issue in why this cannot be repaired.

D:

Chip D. A classic ‘bees wing’ with some ‘daisying’ around the impact mark. It’s low down in the C Zone and repairable.

E:


Chip E is in the perimeter of the windscreen known technically as the D Zone. It’s a tiny ‘half-moon’ style break with more surface damage than structural. There are a couple of minute pit marks next to it which are easily addressed (sometimes referred to as vanity repairs).

Overall, four viable repairs and one re-repair. Chip A was not cited as a reason not to repair. The repair company simply said there are too many. How many car owners/customers would trust the word of a professional making such an appraisal and agree to have the whole windscreen replaced? The reality is, it won’t be long before the new windscreen (which would not be a genuine OE part) to pick up similar damage?

There are no ‘windscreen commandments’ forbidding multiple repairs, nor technical explanations (on the repairer’s website) to validate why their repair criteria is set in this way. Incidentally, they also will not repair anything in the windscreen perimeter yet they ‘proudly’ boast a ‘Repair First’ policy. So what’s the issue here? It’s quite plausible for a motorist to need five separate repairs on five separate occasions (which would obviously mean five separate invoices) but why is it that if there are four or five on the same windscreen they won’t repair on one visit?

Granted, some car owners would choose to replace the windscreen, so who decides? The consumer? But what if the consumer decides against it? A new windscreen? Who decides that? The repairer? Who is the real beneficiary here?

Windscreen Condensation.

Have you noticed that your windscreen is fogging up more than it used to? It may just be something unavoidable, or it could be something much worse.

First and foremost, water vapour in the atmosphere which occurs when your body heats the air inside the car – as does your breath – increases the amount of moisture it can hold. This means when it comes into contact with your windscreen (or glass) it cools and condenses, forming a mist. Simple. Nothing to worry about; it’s science at work. There are several tips (or hacks as they’re commonly referred to on social media) on how to prevent this such as:

  • Use the heater efficiently. Start the heater off cold, then slowly increase the temperature as the air dries out, rather than overloading the cabin with hot, ‘wet’ air.
  • Open one of the windows as you wait for the condensation to clear. The idea is that you’re not raising the temperature inside the cabin which will slow the process [of clearing] down.
  • Coat the inside of the glass with a recognised water repellent which will help prevent condensation.
  • Keep the windows clean. Keeping your windscreen clean will go a long way to stopping it misting up in the first place.

If you still experience excessive condensation, you could be looking at a much bigger problem.

It is still worthwhile noting that glass will mist up more in cold or wet weather. During the colder months the car windows might take slightly longer to clear; even longer so if it’s raining. However if you find that the windows continue to mist up to the point that the water droplets become bigger and more visible, the car is battling a water problem.

Where is the water coming from?

If you’re not bringing the water in on your clothes, or have left a door, tailgate or window open to allow the carpet to soak up rain, something could be leaking. The most obvious culprit usually is the windscreen. Next in line could be the sunroof (if the car has one) or the sunroof drainage; next in line: doors (drainage in the door) or the door membrane (between the door card and door. Some cars will develop a heater matrix leak and is much harder to detect.

Whatever the cause is, get it looked at as a matter of urgency. Driving a car with windows misting up is dangerous as well as illegal. You might argue the fine or even pay it if you’re happy to throw up to £1,000.00 down the drain, but crashing the car will cost you much more. Injuring or killing someone (because you didn’t see them in time) is unforgivable and it is not something most people can live with.

Always clear all windows before setting off.

Lockdown Defiance and Ignorance

Why are we, the British public, so defiant? Is it just us?

Yesterday I went to collect a couple of (pre-ordered) windscreens from a wholesaler. They’re doing all they possibly can as a supplier and this is immediately apparent as soon as you approach the front door:

ONLY ONE CUSTOMER AT A TIME

Also stated on the sign is a further request to use your own gloves, pen and mask. This message is on each of the four panels of the sliding door.

As I approached the door I saw there was a chap from another windscreen company busy collecting his order. I waited; as he came out I asked if he was done. He said, ‘yes’. My way in was clear. It’s a small reception area about 3m by 3.5m. A small serving hatch to the office and and a handover counter where the products are placed for collection. Customers usually go in, sign for their goods and wait for them to be picked from the warehouse.

In the time it took for me to be handed my invoice; sign it, and turn towards the ‘jump’, two guys walked in to the reception area. One chap, from National Windscreens walked straight up to the hatch and the other, from AVG, stood there like a lamppost making the third point of a triangle. “So much for the ‘one customer at a time’ notice on the door eh, chaps?” The fitter from National Windscreens just stood there like with a blank look on his face, akin to an envelope with no address on it. The AVG guy, stood in front of the door, ready to return my serve, “There’s two metres between us. I can’t see what the problem is?”

Therein lies the issue. We are given an instruction in the form of a request yet the general public ignore it and find a reason – a way – to justify why it does not apply to them.

Mr AVG fitter must have seen the signs; you can’t miss them because you have to walk through them to get it. Besides, he knew what I was getting at as he responded directly to it. He didn’t double-take and pop his bottom lip out. He knew exactly what he was doing. The rules did not apply to his sanctimonious self. Brave a supermarket sweep and you’ll see the same attitude and behaviour. Even before the governement update on lockdown restrictions, people were already dusting off their picnic hampers in anticipation of the rules being relaxed.

Is it just us, here in England? Other countries seem to be more respectful of such advice.

Two Ways to Apply PUR

If you’ve watched your windscreen being replaced, you may have noticed the fitter reaching over and across the car to apply the adhesive (PUR). Or did he lay the bead directly to the glass? Only a few installers will extrude directly to the glass. Which way is better?

Unless it’s a hand-built car, when it comes to fitting bonded window units, the overwhelming majority of car manufacturers will use an automated system. Robots don’t need tea breaks or shift changes; they work around the clock increasing productivity. They are also consistently accurate. They have to be. The computer controlling the robotic arm which applies the PUR to a windscreen can be programmed to follow an exact map of where the adhesive should be. The best way to do this is to apply directly to the glass before another arm lifts the windscreen and positions it on the vehicle. Doing this by hand, in principle, is no different. The end result is the same.

Body or Glass?

This question could be paraphrased to: which is right and which is wrong?

Glue on Glass

If the windscreen is bonded in correctly, and does not leak, creak or rattle; doesn’t allow wind noise into the cabin and generally does everything a windscreen should do, it should not matter how the PUR was applied. However, there may be some advantages and disadvantages which could help answer the question of which way is better. There are two main objectives in the application of the best possible bead:

  1. The gun should be perpendicular (90 degrees) when applying. This negates the risk of a ‘tunneling’ effect in the compressed bead and provided the speed of extrusion and movement is consistent, the bead height will remain uniform;
  2. Ideally, one join is optimal. Simply, less joins = less chance of the windscreen leaking.

Tunneling occurs when the glue gun was angled when the PUR was applied. It weakens the bond by reducing the contact made (less PUR adhering) and can also cause stress fractures due to that trapped air expanding.

The darker, shinier appearance in the image is PUR which has not made contact with the glass. The cut urethane either side of it was all that was forming the bond. When the extrusion gun is angled, the bottom of the bead circular (created by the rounded part of the nozzle). Applying directly to the pinchweld means the technician needs to be elevated (higher than the car) and will also need very long arms if he intends to extrude a bead in one start-to-end movement. Some may stand on the door-shut for this, and others may even rotate their body through 360 degrees whilst standing inside the car reaching out to the pinchweld. It’s not impossible, but it is very difficult. For this reason, fitters opt for the easy option: start extruding by standing on one side of the car (the starting point either being as far over to the opposite side of the car as possible, or the middle). The line of the previous install is then followed around the aperture. There will be more than one join as the bondline cannot be followed entirely in one start/stop movement.

PUR application by hand, to bodywork.

Applying the urethane by hand is cumbersome, but many technicians perfect the method and will achieve very good bond lines. Some windscreens which require a push in trim to be inserted after the glass is fitted will use a damming tape. This is to keep the urethane where it needs to be so that when the glass is compressed down onto the adhesive, there will be enough product showing for the trim to push into. The added benefit is that the damming tape will act as a barrier for the inside of the car, preventing ooze on the interior side of the bond line. This will also prevent the PUR making contact with A-pillar trims (if they have not been removed for the install). Applying the PUR to the body for this type of fitment is solely reliant accuracy of a) the positioning of the PUR and damming, and b) the ‘set’ position of the windscreen. Both have to be ‘married’ by the installers eye as there are no reference points for guidance.

PUR on glass – with damming tape

Applying the urethane to the glass gives better control leaving the only alignment issue to lifting the windscreen into place. This is easily referenced by at first, dry fitting the windscreen and marking out witness marks. Applying urethane to the glass in this type of fitment is not only easier, it makes sense.

Ask any fitter who swears by ‘gluing to the body’ and he will say that he does so because there is already a bond line there from the previous windscreen (hey, but what if that was wrong, or that the car has been in for a front end respray) or that applying glue to the glass can go horribly wrong if you get the lift-on wrong (suggesting a confidence problem as the same surely applies to gluing to the body). The case against gluing directly to the glass is not strong. By applying to the glass:

  1. You have better control of the gun; it remains perpendicular as you
    manoeuvre it around the glass edge;
  2. The extrusion will require just one joint which can be positioned in the lower section of the glass;
  3. Most OE glass comes with witness marks indicating exactly where the adhesive needs to be;
  4. Bead height will be consistent.
  5. There is no overstretching to get to hard-to-reach places.

Some glass does not come with witness marks but this can easily be done by the technician.

Witness marks

OE glass provides witness marks according to the blueprint. It is the exact template required to replicate the factory install.

OE Glass with Witness Marks

The only thing left to get right after applying the PUR to the windscreen is the lift-on. There’s only one place that piece of glass can go. For avoidance of doubt, a quick dry fit gives the installer the opportunity to mark out reference points. Removing the A-pillar trims will also help with the post installation visual to ensure adequate contact has been made and that there is no unnecessary ooze or excess product showing.

Range Rover Windscreen
Audi Windscreen

There is no right or wrong in either method. It is down to preference and experience. However, there are better advantages in applying PUR to the glass than applying to the body. The defence of applying to the body cannot be reliant on the previous bondline as the template to follow, nor can it be argued that the lift-on is risky.

All comments and feedback welcome.

It’s Just a Windscreen

Image

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Whilst shaving the excess cured resin during this repair, the solar reflective coating became visible under the light in the workshop.

Layers of Reflection 3
Holograms

This particular windscreen is heated (embedded within the sandwich construction of the windscreen is a mesh of very thin heating wires which you will see in the image if you look closely; another more modern version of this is heated chemically via a silver/zinc oxide coated film within the glass).

Also within this windscreen’s layers is a ‘solar reflective’ coating (also known as solar reflective or athermic). Solar glass will allow sunlight to pass through it while radiating and reflecting away a large degree of the sun’s heat. This windscreen is also a HUD variant meaning it has a ‘wedge piece’ integrated within the PVB interlayer, This effectively is the surface onto which the image is projected. It also negates the ghosting effect you get on normal glass.


The Weather WILL NOT crack your windscreen.

The cold weather will not crack your windscreen.

That chip you’ve had there for weeks or even months will not ‘turn into a crack’ because it’s cold outside. Fast forward to the summer and the same windscreen repair ‘experts’ will be urging you to ‘get that chip repaired’ because of the hot weather. Take a look to the latest Effuel reviews.

We may conclude from this that there is never a good time to have a chipped windscreen. In essence, this is correct however try telling that to the chap who has had a chip on his windscreen for three years (he doesn’t really care too much about the scaremongering because his car has passed its MOT three times since the chip appeared and it’s not in the wiper sweep zone).

Making one small change can potentially help towards preventing your windscreen from cracking.

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Windscreen Defrost Switch Symbol

Once your windscreen has cleared of condensation – or ice – channel the heat away from the windscreen (but keep the cabin warm). It’s not quite as simple, but essentially this is the basis: do not overheat your windscreen.

Thermal expansion.

Direct heat to the inside of the glass will cause the inner layer to expand. While this is going on, the vinyl inter-layer will also soften. Meanwhile, the outer layer (the one with the chip on it) is exposed to a much colder temperature; the heat and movement behind it (plus the torsional forces working through the car’s chassis) could cause the chip to crack. Once the crack extends, it will continue to move until it (eventually) reaches an edge on the windscreen. The same principle works in the summer when you have a much cooler temperature inside the cabin and heat outside the car.

Demist the Windscreen FULLY.

Redirect the blowers AWAY from the windscreen. It’s easy to forget the heater is on and channeling most of the generated heat to the windscreen. In the summer months, leaving the A/C on is great to keep the car cool but be mindful that the windscreen demist/defog is not directing all the cool air directly to the windscreen.

This is not an exact science as there are variables in the type of chip; its position on the windscreen; ambient temperature; temperature changes; the speed of temperature change; terrain (upon which the car is driven) and possibly even style of driving.

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 do this, 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.