“Aftermarket glass is made to the same standards as dealer-purchased glass.” These paraphrased words appeared out of nowhere as part of a specific script read by a Safelite Solutions customer sales representative (CSR) to a California State Association (CSAA) claimant after they requested OE glass for a 2012 Acura TSX. I wish I could have remembered and repeated the entire statement but all I could think of as this was being read was: if Pinocchio was that CSR, he would have a very hard time speaking as his nose grew while reading that somewhat scurrilous statement.
Anyone who has read this column consistently knows I am not happy with the overall quality of the product that is sold as “aftermarket” auto glass. Both manufacturers and distributors have responded to the market mantra “if cheap is good, cheaper is better.” In my mind, basic quality as in fit, finish, distortion and hardware integrity, and placement have spiraled downward along with wholesale prices. I can now buy a FW 2011 windshield far cheaper than the OE surround molding from Toyota. That factoid says two things that I happen to agree with; glass is too cheap, often showing up with quality issues, and OE parts from some manufacturers are far too inflated in price. What I would like to relate to you are the issues a guy has to go through just trying to do his job.
On Monday, I went out to do a FD 5472. All I could find was a Chinese-made door glass. I dropped the glass into the hole and found the bonded hardware was almost 1/2 an inch too wide. It took a series of drill bits and widened bolt holes on both ends of the regulator to make up for the production error. The additional time wasted was 20-30 minutes.
This type of installation problem is far too commonplace for me. I would venture to say 1 out of every 15-20 bonded tempered parts have hardware in the wrong place.
On the same day, I did a rear door on a Prius (FD 22246). I used a low-grade American-made brand that is getting far too common in my local distributors warehouses. The bend of the glass left a gap so it would not touch the outer belt molding of the door. The window operated marginally slower than its counterpart but the customer still was not satisfied. I drove back and exchanged the door lite for another brand which did make contact. Time I wasted on this install: about 1 hour, most of it in drive time and warehouse wait.
Tuesday morning I received a call from a customer for whom I had installed a rear door glass a few days back. It seems once he does freeway driving, the glass rattles in the runs, not whistle, but rattles. I had hoped it was a loose division bar but that was secure when I took the panel off. I switched out the glass and have not heard from him since. The first brand was our private equity owned American one. Time I wasted on this job: 90 minutes in drive and job performance. Not to mention, I lost income because I was unable to take on new work.
On Wednesday my last job of the day was a 2011 Subaru Forester with a heated windshield. Once installed, I found that the interior pigtail leads for the de-icer were too short to plug in. They missed by about an inch. I spliced in much of the old lead to make up the difference. I carry a few compression connectors in my truck for situations like this. I got burned badly over a decade ago when I was caught unprepared and it cost me extensive travel time to properly splice in a defective lead. To add insult to injury, during the final clean-up I found four pencil point size abrasions I had missed during my perfunctory inspection and first clean-up. When I pointed them out to the customer he took the $25 discount I offered over a replacement. Here again, I lost time and money.
Friday is the day I fear most. I cannot begin to recollect the number of dramas that unfold within the last day of my work week. You name it: bad glass, wrong glass, mis-sets and mis-steps have all occurred disproportionably during those last 10 or so hours. This Friday started off badly. I met a fellow installer who helped me install a Mazda CX-9 windshield. The glass had been dropped off to my location around dawn. It’s a big bonded part with an attached rain gutter surround molding which is nowhere near as flexible as the original one. Even with temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s, we both fought getting the glass to sit as close to the roofline as the factory one did due to the molding difference and flexibility. In the end, the VIN was not properly centered. But no matter … again upon final clean-up and once properly angled, a light scratch was detected about 1-and-1/4 inch long, well within the driver’s sight line. The client ended up wanting new glass. For the price he paid for it, it’s his right. I might as well acquire polishing equipment because between my aging eyes and the varying degrees or lack of inspection done by distributors, these situations are becoming more and more commonplace.
The “piéce de résistance” started to unfold while the Mazda was being done. I got a call from a friend of mine saying that his door glass, one that I replaced about a year ago, was tilting while using it. I told him, not to worry; I would see him over the weekend and take care of it. I would order a replacement part and have it delivered to my drop shop.
Here is the back story to this. A little over four years ago, a thief smashed his driver-side door on his 2006 Highlander (FD 21263). He needed a glass ASAP and the insurer would not pay the high price for an OE one. I picked up a PPG part from PPG/PGW and drove into the hills to install it. Other than having to go through the tedious anti-pinch reset process, all went well.
I get a call about 4-6 months later; the glass had fallen down into the door. I called my local PGW warehouse where I am informed that there had been a known warranty issue with that lite, among several others. It seems the outside vendor for PGW hardware had provided parts that were too brittle. I was given a new glass upon return of the old one. No other compensation for labor or the travel time to the customer which by the way is off the beaten track and is at least 30 minutes out of any way I would travel. While doing this re-install, I chipped the finger-pull inset while prying it out and had to return a third time to replace that $20 part.
Another year or so goes by and I get another call from “my buddy” with the same problem. Now, I just can’t go back to PGW anymore. PGW dropped me as a customer because of a specific column I wrote here criticizing them for what I felt was a dramatic drop in overall glass quality after private equity acquisition. The only available part is
Chinese produced so I pick that part up and exchange it. I had the same issue of hardware failure. Now back to the present …
I get another call from the Highlander owner around 2 p.m. With rain in the forecast and against my instructions, my friend uses the window and it falls into the door. It now becomes critical to see him ASAP. He has no garage and a garbage bag door shroud is unthinkable to him. I completed the job I was on and re-scheduled what I had left. I endured even more Friday getaway traffic since it is the start of a holiday weekend. I arrived at his house close to sunset and found that the glass had pulled out of both bonded hardware parts. I just gave him the new glass instead of trying to re-bond the old one. I wish I could blame dirty or sticky glass runs or some outside cause but I really can’t. The exchange went quickly until it became obvious that the anti-pinch had to be reset. For those who are unaware; you must detach the motor from the regulator and cycle it seven times for this model. It’s neither fun nor quick to do. Add installing this under truck headlights; and of course it started to rain …
Now, can all of these situations be blamed on aftermarket glass? I will let the reader make that call. In my extensive experience, OE glass has given me far less warranty issues than aftermarket has. I would opine that the minimum ratio is 1000/1.
Is dealer glass overpriced? You betcha! Vehicle manufacturers, especially Japanese ones, have such a ridiculously inflated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) that they do more harm than good in my view to encourage distribution and purchase of OE products. There is absolutely no logical or moral reason to have a retail price of a FW 2395 to be more than $1500. Sadly my local independent distributor finds it illogical to stock the OEE DOT 376 number in favor of the even-cheaper Chinese replacement part (sigh)!
Which tail is wagging the dog when it comes to replacement choices in the insurance sector? Insurers play a double game. They use OE glass MSRPs to determine rates and then demand aftermarket parts be used. The two major glass administrators have corporate roots tied to aftermarket manufacturing and the effects of that connection appear obvious in attempting to validate the supposition that all glass is created equal. Thomas Jefferson died long before Mr. Pilkington devised a more industrial approach to float glass production. None of the other framers of the Declaration of Independence had to replace their Lexus RX350 windshields through a TPA as well (I do wonder, however, if John Hancock carried proper carriage insurance?).
I just find it reprehensible to have scripts in existence that attempt to justify less expensive and in many cases, purely inferior, product substitutes. There is no doubt that far too many in the auto glass repair and replacement sector care more about product acquisition costs than they do about overall quality and that is as much of the problem as consumer ignorance is.
All I know is this, the stress level in my life would be a lot lower and my productivity would be higher if we had a better grade of products to install. However, I will say this, I haven’t had the issue of dealing with “Pinocchio nose” either. I know why CSRs wear headsets … they can read those scripts and not worry about their noses growing out far enough to interfere with their talking.