A vehicle’s windshield is a very important design component, as it not only protects the driver but also provides structural support for the vehicle. The windshield performs three important functions in the event of an accident:
- The windshield keeps the passengers from being thrown out of the vehicle, even if they don’t wear a seatbelt. If the occupant is thrown from the vehicle, then he or she is at risk of the car rolling over them as well as sustaining severe impact-related injuries. Did you know that 75% of those thrown out of the vehicle do not survive the accident?
- The windshield provides reinforcement for airbag deployment and acts as a barrier between the airbag and the outside of the car. If an improperly installed windshield pops out during an accident, the airbag is no longer inside the car, where it should be in order to protect the driver and front-seat passenger. Instead, the airbag ends up on the outside of the car, where it is useless.
- The windshield provides up to 60% of the roof crush protection so that the roof of the vehicle does not collapse in a roll-over accident. If the windshield falls out in the event of a rollover accident, the roof of the vehicle can collapse. This situation can be much more deadly for occupants of the vehicle because it makes head trauma more likely.
Before you get your windshield repaired or the entire car windshield glass changed, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re being as safe as possible.
- Make sure the crack doesn’t interfere with your view and don’t drive if it does.
- Put a piece of clear tape over the crack to temporarily keep out dirt and water to prevent more spreading before you can have it repaired or replaced. Don’t get your car washed and try to keep the car out of the rain.
- Avoid extreme hot or cold. Even using your defroster or air conditioner can weaken the windshield and cause the crack to spread. Avoid parking in direct sunlight if possible.
- Make sure you drive on roads that aren’t going to bounce your car around too much. A lot of side to side and up and down motion can cause the cracks to spread.
If your windshield is repaireable and you decide to try to repair your windshield yourself, you can find repair kits at most automotive stores. They usually consist of a special resin and a syringe that you use to inject the resin into the crack or chip. You can also take your car to an auto glass specialist who can repair it for you.
If the damage is rather significant and windshield cannot be repaird it will need to be replaced. This can be done at auto glass repair shop, of course, but you could also do it yourself. If you’d like to try to do it yourself and have access to the proper replacement, there are several things you need to know.
Check with your insurance company. It’s possible that replacing the windshield yourself might cause problems with your car insurance as this is a job typically done by professionals. If done incorrectly, you could be putting yourself in a bad situation. Another thing to consider is that if your car is pretty new and still under warranty, replacing your own windshield might void it.
If you decide to move forward and do the replacement yourself, there’s a lot to consider. Before you can place a new windshield, you’ll need to know how to remove the old one. First, the most common way that windshields are mounted is with heavy-duty watertight glue, although some use rubber weather-stripping and clips.
There are several things you’ll need to get started if your windshield is held in place with weather-stripping:
- Someone to help
- Safety equipment, most importantly gloves and glasses
- Large towels
- Socket wrenches
- Sealable plastic bag or small container
- Silicone putty lubricant
- Pry bar
- Utility knife
- Handle with two suction cups
Once you have all your equipment, you’re ready to start. (take a look at this article for more information on windshield removal tools) It’s important to adhere to the proper safety precautions. If the crack is large enough, there’s always a chance that the glass can shatter and, if that’s the case, you want to be wearing at least protective eyewear and gloves.
- Use the large towel to cover your hood so no damage occurs. The windshield is large and will be a bit awkward to maneuver and you want to make sure you don’t scratch the hood in the process.
- Remove the windshield wipers with the socket wrench. Keep the hardware in the plastic bag or container.
- Locate the clips around the molding, remove and discard them. Then, use the lubricant to cover the perimeter so the windshield will easily slide out.
- Use the pry bar to pull away the molding and weather-stripping.
- Place the suction cups on the windshield to attach the bar.
- With one person in the driver’s seat pushing the windshield with his or her feet and one pulling on the bar, the windshield should easily pop out. Try to put all pressure on areas of the windshield away from the damage.
The removal process is a little easier if the windshield is mounted with glue but it’s difficult to do this without breaking the glass altogether. You’ll need a windshield knife. Work the knife under the glass and rock it back and forth, working your way around the perimeter. You might want to have someone with suction cups and a pull bar to help provide tension on the glass. Again, use proper safety equipment as it’s likely the glass will break as you are manipulating it.
Because replacement is a little more difficult and much more important to do correctly, we urge you to consult a professional before installing a new windshield on your own. If done incorrectly, the windshield can be unsafe and unstable during driving and the results could be catastrophic.
Let’s talk about professional replacement first.
Professional Windshield Replacement
What are the four main elements to a quality windshield replacement? There are four:
- a professional certified technician,
- the right adhesive,
- the right glass,
- a warranty.
What should you remember when consulting a technician regarding a windshield replacement? The first question you should ask the technician is whether he or she is a certified windshield replacement technician. If the answer is no, the first question should also be the last one you ask this technician. Certified technicians have been properly trained on the correct methods for installing windshields, and a properly installed windshield can save your life in case of an accident. You really don’t want to be driving in a vehicle that has a major safety hazard, can put you in the life-threatening danger, and will cost a lot of money in the long run.
Be sure to do some due diligence, and choose a well-established auto glass shop that values your safety, and does not cut corners to save a few dollars. Educate yourself. Don’t be shy to ask questions. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- are shop’s technicians NGA / AGRSS certified?Why is this important? NGA certification has been a gold standard in the industry for over 20 years, and it’s a benchmark for ensuring a properly installed windshield. In 2011, NGA has sold its certification program to Automotive Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS®) Council. The certification ensures that technicians have the right skills to do the job, up to date on industry safety standards, and trained on proper installation practices and procedures. In order for the windshield installation to be successful, it should comply 100% with manufacturer standards. When standards are not followed precisely, this can lead to an unsafe windshield installation which puts the customer at risk in the event of a collision. A less serious, but highly annoying, consequence of an improper installation might be excessive noise when driving at higher speeds. The car maker specifications include things like the size, shape, and thickness of the windshield itself, but also relates to installation techniques. View a copy of the Automotive Glass Replacement Safety Standard.
- does the shop use urethane adhesive recommended by manufacturers? are the technicians trained on a proper use and application of urethanes?Why is this important? One of the most dangerous mistakes that is commonly made in windshield replacements is using the wrong type of adhesive. Materials like bathtub caulking or silicone should never be used. Butyl, a common sealant, is often used instead of urethane as a cost-cutting measure. Butyl tape is an inferior adhesive as it only holds 60lb per square inch. It does not have much strength and just pulls apart in case of an accident. If a shop uses Butyl because it is much cheaper – beware and avoid. Find an auto-glass shop that uses Urethane, a high-quality adhesive that holds 600lb per square inch, and will ensure your safety. If you asked the first question and your shop is AGRSS certified, it’s highly unlikely they will be using butyl. AGRSS requires shops to use polyurethane sealants for vehicles licensed for highway use, even if OEM installation used butyl. This can happen in case of some older vehicles that were manufactured when butyl was widely used as sealant.
- does the shop offer a warranty?Why is this important? Even if the shop is certified, things could go wrong. If the windshield leaks (either water or air), you want to be sure the shop will stand behind their work and fix the problem.
- what kind of glass does the shop use?Why is this important? There is a difference in quality between OEM and aftermarket windshields. OEM suppliers have strict quality controls and you can expect that replacement will be exactly same as the original one. Aftermarket products don’t follow the same quality standards, so it could happen that you’ll end up having some problems after replacement – bad fitment, noise, or air/water leakage. To be on a safe side, make sure the glass shop uses DOT-certified glass.
- how long before the car can be driven?Why is this important? The adhesive used for windshield replacement needs to cure properly before the car is driving, or the seal between the windshield and car could be weak in some areas. The time will depend on the type of the adhesive used to install the windshield and can range from 3 to 24 hours. There are also some fast-cure adhesives that have one-hour drive-away time. It’s extremely important that you follow safe drive-away time recommended by adhesive manufacturer, so check with technician replacing your windshield about the recommended cure time for the type of urethane being used.
- do the technicians go over the “do’s and don’ts” of post-installation usage with customers?Why is this important? Once the windshield is installed, there are a few things you should do not to ruin the results of replacement work. For example, you want to wait with washing your car for at least 24 hours so that you don’t damage seals. You want to keep at least one window open (an inch will do) to avoid building pressure inside of the vehicle because it could blow a hole in the seal, resulting in air and water leaks.
DIY Windshield Replacement
Before anything else, prepare everything you need for the replacement. This includes getting all the necessary tools and the replacement windshield ready. For the windshield replacement process, below are the following tools to prepare for the job.
- Glass cleaner
- Cold knife or razor blader
- Rubber gasket
- New OEM or an aftermarket windshield
- Windshield Suction cups
- Auto glass urethane
- Nylon brush
- Portable vacuum cleaner
- Sandpaper or wire brush
- Windshield Removal Tool
Additional tools not listed above may be necessary as needed, but the list shows the basic ones. The original windshield rubber gasket is most likely in good working condition, so there is no need to replace it unless necessary. This way, you will save on the extra cost. If you are planning on keeping it, then you better give it a thorough cleaning before anything else.
Remove the Trim
The next step in the windshield replacement process is to remove the old trim or the rubber gasket at the edges, holding the windshield in place, using a razor blade to remove the old gasket, and gently slit the rubber trim in one corner. Afterward, you can use the Windshield Removal Tool to separate the glass safely. It’s also important to note that you should leave a small urethane layer in place when trimming the sides.
After removing the trim, you must also remove all other attachments to the windshield. In some car makes and models, the rearview mirror is attached to the windshield. In these cases, you may have to remove the attachments. Other attachments may include the sensors and cameras for parking assist, lane change assistant, and more.
Once the rubber gasket and all attachments are removed, you should easily lift the windshield out of the frame. But sometimes, you may need suction cups with handles to pull out the windshield from the frame. The suction cups can also help handle the glass with utmost care to avoid breakage and injury.
Clean the Windshield Frame
Once you are done removing the gasket, attachments, and the old damaged windshield, the next step is to clean the area from dirt, debris, and broken glasses. The small debris could interfere with installing the new glass and could potentially create a space for leaks and noise. Use a portable vacuum cleaner for the job to effectively remove dirt and debris on the sides of the frame. Alternatively, you may use a paintbrush to get rid of the dirt and glass debris.
Prepare the Pinch Weld
The pinch weld is the part of the vehicle located at the front or adjacent to the windshield frame, where various metal components are bonded or welded together. It’s called pinch weld because it pinches the windshield edges through welding to secure it. The pinch weld should be cleaned, as well, from debris and dirt to ensure no obstruction during the installation of the new windshield. You should also apply the primer, primarily if any scratches were caused by removing the urethane.
Apply Adhesives or Urethane
Before installing the new replacement windshield, the frame for the windscreen must be applied with urethane, right at the edges of the pinch weld. Urethane bonds the windshield to the frame, acting as glue to keep the glass well secure. Time is crucial during the process since urethane quickly dries out and toughens. So, once you apply the urethane to the pinch weld, this should be immediately followed by installing the windshield before the urethane settles down and begins to dry out.
Install the Replacement Windshield
Once everything is done and ready, the next critical step is installing the new windshield glass. Extreme caution and proper care and handling must be observed to avoid scratches and damage to the new windshield. The whole process should be performed by not just one person but at least two or more. Use suction cups to hold the windshield and position it properly before fitting the glass within the pinch weld.
Afterward, press the windshield firmly into the frame and adjust the rubber gasket accordingly. After the installation, don’t use the vehicle immediately but wait for at least one to two hours to allow the urethane to set it and harden for the best result.
Clean the Area
After installing the windshield, clean the area and wipe off excess adhesives or urethane, especially around the edges. Ideally, use a windshield cleaner and apply the liquid formulation on the glass for a clean and shiny finish. In the meantime, put off cleaning the interior side of the windshield to avoid pushing the glass out and disrupting the hardening process of the glass adhesives or the urethane.
Having a windshield that is free from cracks is essential to safe driving. If you are unable to repair any problems you have, replacement is the next step. If you know how to remove a windshield, you can get the work started; but we highly recommend calling in a professional for replacement. This is really the only way to make sure you stay safe on the road.