WINDSHIELD REPAIR: WHAT IS IT?
Your vehicle’s windshield is composed of three layers: two pieces of glass separated by a thin layer of “PVB” (polyvinyl butyrate). PVB is the plastic film that essentially holds it all together. Depending on the density of the outer-layer and the force of a rock impact, the glass can flex and break. Unless the windshield is completely shattered, most often the damage is in the form of a rock chip. These are generally in the shape of a star, bullseye, or tiny crack. Although it may appear innocuous, over time, a rock chip will more likely than not spread to form a crack. Studies have shown that over 90% of rock chips continue to grow. Fatigue stress due to temperature changes and road conditions work to accelerate this process.
The first company to introduce a rudimentary system for windshield repair was 3m, with a product called “Scotch Weld.” This system produced an ultrasound vibration to clean the break while injecting an adhesive. It was relatively effective; however it failed to repair many types of damage.
In 1972, Dr. Frank Werner invented a device that could substitute the air within a rock chip with a resin that could prevent a crack from developing. Over time, the science behind windshield repair evolved. Today, windshield repair is considered a favored alternative to windshield replacement in many circumstances. And although the science has evolved, the objective remains the same: to completely substitute the air within the break with an acrylic resin that will improve optical clarity, prevent further damage, and restore the structural integrity of the windshield.
THE WINDSHIELD CONUNDRUM: REPAIR OR REPLACE?
Windshield repair is essentially preventative maintenance. However, most motorists whose windshields suffer rock damage pay little or no mind to it. This is especially true where the damage is outside of the acute area of the windshield – not directly in front of the driver’s view. Hence the saying: “out of sight, out of mind.”
Once the rock chip spreads to become a large crack, windshield repair is no longer a viable option. Unfortunately, the cost of a new windshield can range anywhere between $300 to well over $1000, depending on the vehicle and the type of replacement windshield. OEM windshields, those made by the original manufacturer, are significantly more expensive than their aftermarket counterparts. In addition, many modern windshields offer features such as heating elements, sun coatings, and antennae, which significantly inflate the cost. Even with insurance, the deductible can be so high that it would be pointless to file an insurance claim. Thus, it is easy to understand why a $50 windshield repair is a favored alternative.
But a windshield replacement cost is not the only issue. Once a factory windshield is replaced, other problems can surface. Windshield replacement compromises the factory seal, which is nearly impossible to replicate. Not only can an improperly replaced windshield lead to leakage and possible water damage, it can fail in the event of an accident.
Together with the air bags and seatbelts, the windshield plays a significant part of the vehicle’s safety restraint system (SRS). In an accident, the windshield works to maintain the structural integrity of the passenger compartment. As you can imagine, this is especially important in the event of a roll-over accident. It also cushions the occupant’s impact and prevents the possibly of being ejected from the vehicle. An improperly installed windshield could fail on all of these fronts.
An investigative report conducted by ABC’s 20/20 shed light into the dangers surrounding improperly installed windshields. It found that millions of windshields have not been installed properly and have contributed to serious injuries and even death.
So there are many reasons why a vehicle owner should opt for windshield repair early on. Ignoring the small and seemingly unintrusive rock chip could prove to be a mistake. For more info visit http://thewindshieldguide.com/
WINDSHIELDS: THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
Every year about 15 million windshields – about 600 million pounds of waste – are replaced in the United States. Until recently, much of it has ended up in landfills due to logistical obstacles, difficulties with separating the glass from the PVB, and lack of facilities.
Only recently have companies begun to take up the environmental cause. In 2010, JN Phillips Auto Glass launched its “Green Shield” program and began recycling windshields. To date, over a million pounds of used windshields have been successfully recycled. Still, the process is slow, cumbersome, and expensive. It also involves the transportation of massive amounts of windshields, adding to the carbon footprint.
What is more, windshield recycling is not required by law, so most replaced windshields continue to end up in landfills. The reason is simple economics: lack of incentive to recycle. As of yet, windshield recycling is not subsidized by the government, nor is it given considerable preferential tax treatment. Since the cost of recycling eventually shifts to the consumer, the cost of a new windshield would increase significantly. To compete in the competitive free market world of windshield replacement, recycling is simply not cost effective.
Windshield repair, on the other hand, leaves almost no impact on the environment. Whereas about 250,000 BTU’s are necessary to manufacture a typical 30 pound windshield, windshield repair requires practically no energy. What is more, the amount of waste generated from windshield repair is negligible. Thus, windshield repair is always a greener alternative to replacement.
INSURANCE COMPANIES: THEY GET IT
Insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against risk of contingent, uncertain loss. The insurer agrees to indemnify the insured in the event of a loss. Overall, it’s a pretty simple process. However, a significant portion the claim may not be covered by the insurer. This is known as the deductible – the amount that must be paid out of pocket before an insurer will cover any expenses. The average deductible for both collision and comprehensive claims is roughly around $500. This can be difficult to digest when the time comes to file a claim. In many cases, the insured will simply forgo filing the claim to avoid having to pay the deductible and possibly risk an increase in premiums. Not to mention, if a new windshield costs $400, filing a claim would be pointless with a $500 deductible.
Today, most insurance companies understand the importance of having the windshield repaired before it’s too late. To incentivize motorists to repair rock chips and small cracks, a majority of comprehensive policies carry with it a 100% indemnity on windshield repair. No deductible is required. Insurance companies realize that most rock chips inevitably will require a new windshield if left untreated. In most cases the rock chip will be a certain loss.
So from a risk management perspective, insurance companies benefit by paying the full cost of a windshield repair. First, it eliminates the risk that the insurer will be required to pay significantly more for a new windshield. And second, it eliminates the risk that a damaged or replaced windshield could fail to provide the structural integrity necessary in the event of an accident.
DO IT YOURSELF KITS: DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME
There are many inexpensive DIY (Do-It-Yourself) windshield repair kits on the market. Those that come to mind include “Liquid Glass,” “Pitstop,” and “Fix-A-Windshield,” to name a few. These are simple plastic devices that essentially use the same process. Most cost around $10 to $20 and have a one time use.
Reviews on DIY kits vary greatly. Some report good results, while others regret making their own attempt at repair. The only certainty is that a successful repair is not certain.
According to Edmunds.com, these kits are essentially “inexpensive band-aids” that don’t provide a complete repair. The reason is simple science. The basic idea of windshield repair is to remove the air contained within the rock chip and completely substitute it with resin, which can be up to 2000 times as dense as air. Removing the air is essential to minimize the pressure inside the rock chip, allowing the resin to flow and reach the entire break. Unfortunately, cheap DIY kits simply are ineffective at removing all of the air. What is more, they do not provide the amount of pressure necessary to force the resin to reach tighter areas of the break, leaving much of it untouched. What may appear to be a decent repair job may in fact just be a band-aid that will fail to prevent a crack from spreading.
Finally, cheap windshield repair kits are just that: cheap. It follows that the resin used to fill the break is also cheap. Acrylic resin used by professional windshield repair technicians can range from $50 to $100 an ounce, depending on the manufacturer. So it makes sense that the resin from a DIY kit repair can dislodge over time or become discolored, which has been reported by many users. Also, once the repair is complete, it is impossible to re-repair.
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