What’s a Hack Job?

Well allow me to let you in on a little inside secret about this industry. There are no certifications, licenses or degrees required to become an auto glass technician. Read that again,
there are NO Barriers to enter this industry.

Know what that means? Yes, that you could buy the tools and go start an auto glass company. Does that bother you? Maybe not, considering automotive in general doesn’t require any either. But would you take you car to any vehicle repair shop?

Would you not spend nearly twice as much to ensure that your car is properly diagnosed, repaired and warrantied? Because of this, there are a lot of Auto Glass companies who are what some of us refer to as “hack jobs”.

So what is a hack job?

It’s a windshield that’s removed and replaced with very little concern for technical details, process, or quality control.

What does it pertain to specifically?

Well there are specific things that SHOULD be followed by everyone, regardless of personality type, background or training. The fundamental result of a windshield replacement is properly bonding your windshield to your car.

This involves 3 main factors.

  1. Proper preparation of the new windshield.
  2. Proper trimming and cleaning of the pinchweld (Where the windshield sits on the body of the car).
  3. Proper application of the urethane, the glue that holds the windshield in place(and holds you in the car in the event of a head on collision).

Quality Assurance and Quality Control are essentially an issue of proper adhesion and the flip side of which is an issue of contamination. What this means is that for the best adhesion of the urethane to the windshield and the body of the car, we need to minimize contamination.

This is where MANY glass shops get things wrong. Dirt, grease, oils, dust, water, and many other harmless things detrimentally contaminate the bonding surfaces of the urethane. So if the technician handles the glass with his fingers AFTER prepping it, BOOM contaminated.

If they don’t clean the body of the car off well or even wipe the body of the car with an overly dirty rag, BOOM contaminated!

What results from contamination?

Leaks, noises and in worst case situations, death. Death?!

Yes because if the windshield was improperly bonded, it will not hold up in a head on collision. Your windshield is designed as a support to keep you in the vehicle and to help keep your vehicle from caving in if you’re in a roll over accident.

Let’s redirect back to hack jobs now.

The ultimate hack job is one who cares more about quantity of jobs done and speed of doing those jobs, than they care about the quality and your safety. Thus they rush through the job, mindlessly taking little shortcuts here and there to get the jobs done faster. Seam the urethane ends together? Takes too long.

Prime the body of the car where there’s rust from the last installer? Take time to wire brush the rust off first before I even prime it? Ridiculous. Follow the urethane manufacturer’s guidelines for any required activators, primers, or other bonding promoters? Too expensive!

Follow Safe Drive Away guidelines from urethane manufacturers? That’s inconvenient! Here’s a picture of a true hack job company: Joe Schmoe comes out in his old 1992 Ford Van. It’s a colorful mix of white and rust. He grabs keys from you and says he’ll get started right away. He takes no pre-inspection photos and performs no visual inspection. Joe goes right into removing the cowling and cutting out the glass. Takes him 5 minutes, which is fine. He’s efficient. He then trims down the old urethane, at least where it’s not as even…if he has time.

He takes an old dirty rag out of his disgustingly messy and disorganized van and cleans the old urethane he just trimmed down. A problem? Potential contamination. Then he pulls out the new windshield to prep it. He realizes that the old windshield had a heating element on the bottom called a deicer. This one seems to be missing it. Maybe it’s just invisible. Magic windshield.

“Well”, he reasons, “most people have no idea what this is anyway. They won’t know it’s not there. They won’t know what part number this indicates I’m using.” He proceeds to use it anyway rather than admit that he should have verified that first and risk making his boss and company look like idiots. Which they are but no one else needs to know that. His boss would actually rather he be shady like this anyway so neither of them have to stress over getting the right windshield and dealing with an upset customer and a bad reputation. Nobody will know.

He wipes the windshield down with some glass cleaner and some used paper towels…They cost money so they need to reuse them! He was also told to use the old molding if he can salvage it to save he company $20 or at least use universal rather than use the required molding that comes with it. The old molding is salvageable so he proceeds to put this dirty old molding on the new windshield. Eh, he cleans it at least to make it look fresh. He does apply some activator to the windshield but misses parts where the urethane actually make contact with the glass.

He applies it to the molding and the glass, going back and forth, which might not seem like a problem at first. Until you remember that the molding was old and used so it has what? Dirt, oils, residues…contaminants! So he applied an adhesion promoter (activator) but then contaminated the entire area. Good job Joe. Then he applies the primer to the ENTIRE PINCHWELD. No Joe, it doesn’t need to cover the pinchweld. Just where you scratched into the paint and bare metal is showing. Oh wait, your coldknife scratched the entire winchweld up.

And there’s rust you just covered up with the primer. Then Joe goes straight into laying the urethane. Except the primer needs to set for 10 full minutes before applying urethane. Dang, bad timing and organizational skills. Joe doesn’t have time to wait 10 minutes so he just goes straight for it. It’ll be fine. But actually the bigger problem is that he doesn’t even know about that technical detail because his company never sent him to get certified by that urethane manufacturer.

Nor is he aware of the technical safe drive away time of at fair weather conditions, or the high and low temperature limits of the urethane he’s using, or the skinover time of the urethane. So Joe’s applies the urethane to the body of the car. He connects the ends of the urethane mostly together but doesn’t seam them together for a solid, seamless line all around. He’s in a rush.

Additionally, the company is only letting them use 1 tube per car so he has to spread it thin all the way around. There’s one little gap about 2” long but he makes sure that’s at the bottom to minimize any leaking. Then he realizes that the windshield still needs tape and he also needs to wipe off some urethane from the top of the car. 15 minutes later he’s ready to set the windshield in.

The problem?

Since he didn’t know the skinover time of that fast cure urethane he’s using, he doesn’t realize that the urethane just skinned over. He sets the windshield into the bead of skinny urethane (Skinny in more ways than one!) and presses it in, tapes the top of the windshield to the top of the car to hold it in place and then proceeds to re-install the cowling and windshield wipers.

Oh and there’s an old wire plug installed on the car for the deicer from the old windshield. He left it there. He cleans the new windshield off and makes it look nice, installs the rear view mirror, places the oil change sticker back on the new windshield, and puts his tools away. A typical job.

He tells the customer they can drive it but to just be careful. Just don’t drive over 70mph and try to avoid things like speed bumps, pot holes, and bumpy driveways. Say what? Oh and leave the tape on for about 2 hours. Does he know why? Not really, that’s just what he’s told to say. Customer pays and he leaves. No post-inspection, no detailed explanations of what work was performed or the rust that was discovered or what glass he used.

He wants to stay as far away from that as possible. 2 weeks later, the clouds dump rain the the city and the customer’s car is now wetter inside than it is outside. Outraged, the customer calls the company up and they say to bring it in. They do a “Leak Test” and find no leak. Anywhere. That’s odd!

Mr. Irate Customer calls a reputable glass company he found on Yelp. They come out and do a leak test for $50. The air spews everywhere they check. They press on the glass from the inside of the car and guess what? It lifts up and out of the car. It’s not even adhered to the car?!

The company has to call the first company to ask what urethane they use. Fortunately it’s the same so they can use the same windshield. Urethane manufacturers can’t be mixed! So he takes the glass, cleans it up, preps it and the pinchweld (all while taking a multitude of pictures) the right way and reintall it.

They have to charge him they’re labor rate at $150 but apply the initial $50 toward that. Now his initial install cost was $165 because that was the lowest cost he could find and that, at the time of shopping around, was his main priority. Now he’s in it $315 plus the cost of time he wasted taking the car into the first shop, then calling around for a new shop and the time for them to come out and redo the job.

This second glass shop would have quoted him $235 for the entire job and given him a $100 backed, no leak guarantee. But he learned his lesson. He takes the pictures and invoice to the first shop but they dig in their heels and claim they did a leak test and the second company was just trying to get his money. What a shame. What a sham!

This happens every day in this industry across this city and across this country. Please, don’t just shop on price! Find a balance between price and quality. Your life may depend on it. Your sanity definitely will!