Nearly 15 years ago, the automotive glass installation market was going through the kind of turmoil similar to what collision repairers were also experiencing. Independent glass shops were having to close their doors because they could no longer compete with large franchise operations. They simply didn't have access to the cost structures the franchises enjoyed. They often paid significantly more for the same supplies used by franchisees, causing their customers to go elsewhere for lower prices.
During that same time, body shops also were contending powerful market forces, namely insurers who were able to largely dictate labor costs and repair procedures. Shops able to contend with these business parameters were able to survive. Many others, just like many independent glass shops, shuttered their operations for good.
Today, both markets are remarkable stable, with collision repairers actually thriving. The two industries also have diverged in one crucial area: repair complexity. For the most part, as vehicles have become more complex, collision work has become more sophisticated. Glass repair and replacement, thanks greatly improved tools and products, has become more accessible.
Most shops continue to send the majority of their glass work, especially windshield replacement, to outside businesses. Maybe it's time your shop reconsidered and moved these repairs in-house. Refer to the following basic glass replacement steps (supplied by 3M) to help you decide if this work is right for your shop.
Step 1. Glass removal. Apply protection to the interior surface area. This is necessary to prevent damage to the area and the buildup of debris when the urethane is cut and the glass removed. If the glass is already damaged and could break upon removal, you'll need to add additional protection.
Remove both the wiper blades and the cowl panel. Next, remove the window molding. With the appropriate tool, cut the urethane bond. Note: New electric cutting tools can help cutting times and make this step more efficient and potentially less damaging to the repair area. Remove the glass.
Step 2. Prepare the area. Clean the pinchweld area of all loose pieces of urethane.
Dry fit the new glass, using masking tape to mark the proper alignment. Cut the masking tape and remove the glass.
Step 3. Pinchweld inspection and preparation. Close-cut the old urethane down to a thickness of
1 – 2mm. Clean the area with water and a clean cloth. If necessary, apply primer to any bare metal scratches and allow to dry for 5 –10 minutes.
Step 4. Clean and prepare the replacement glass. Clean glass with glass cleaner and a clean, lint-free cloth.
Step 5. Apply primer. First check the expiration date on the primer. Shake the primer can well. Apply a continuous layer of primer to the new windshield. Allow 5 –10 minutes for the primer to dry fully.
Step 6. Apply urethane and install the windshield. Check the expiration date on the urethane to ensure it is still usable. Apply a bead of new urethane to the old urethane on the pinchweld. Apply at a 90 degree angle. at an application angle. Paddle all of the joints/gaps in one direction.
Step 7. Reinstall the moldings and panels, and reconnect any electronics. Clean off any excess urethane. Keep the vehicle out of service until the urethane builds strength according to the manufacturer's recommendations.