Of all the things that can go wrong with vehicles, many fleet maintenance managers think a windshield chip or small crack is the least of their worries. Despite the typical initial reaction that these are minimal damage and no big concern, a chip or crack can be a real problem - for both a fleet's drivers' safety and the organization's bottom line.
Glass damage is increasingly common because of the newer lightweight glass being used for better fuel mileage.
Here are five things to consider in how you select your partners for vehicle glass repair or replacement and how to decide upon the work to be done:
1. Is a chip in the windshield really that bad?
Yes, and it is important that you don't ignore a chip. Studies show that within three years, 90 percent of chips will spread into a larger crack at any time, often when the driver is least expecting it - causing a dangerous distraction for the driver.
Secondly, the windshield plays an important role in vehicle safety. The windshield ensures that the airbags deploy properly and helps maintain a vehicle's structural integrity in the event of a rollover.
Damaged glass is approximately 60 to 70 percent weaker than undamaged glass. This is a risk that can be easily avoided by repairing or replacing the glass.
2. Is a chip repair really a safe alternative to glass replacement?
Absolutely. Repairing versus replacing a windshield maintains the original factory seal. A small chip or crack can often be repaired in just 30 minutes, saving a fleet time and money.
The chip repair process works like this: A vacuum is created over the damaged area. The air and moisture is removed and the resin is injected into the damage area, penetrating and filling the finest micro cracks. The technician pulls off the vacuum and applies a UV light that hardens the resin.
Be advised: Not all auto glass and windshield repairs are equal, nor is the training the technicians receive.
By way of example, an independent and renowned testing laboratory put Safelite AutoGlass' exclusive windshield repair resin through rigorous laboratory testing along with resins used by other vehicle glass companies. The lab confirmed that Safelite's exclusive resin offers higher adhesion for a more durable repair, better aging for a visually superior repair, less risk of shrinkage causing re-appearance of chips and better color stability, meaning less risk of yellowing.
A two-day testing series of 60 windshields by Belron Technical, a leading research and development company in the vehicle glass industry, showed that under high stresses, 90 percent of unrepaired chips will crack out within minutes. Chips repaired with Safelite's exclusive resin had a zero failure rate in the same series of tests.
In addition, Belron Technical tested more than 150 windshields in cold weather conditions over 18 months and found that 80 percent of chips cracked, while those that had been Safelite repaired had a zero failure rate.
3. What if the crack is too large to repair?
If the glass damage cannot be repaired, a replacement is necessary. The cost of a replacement varies, depending on the make and model of the vehicle.
It's important to note that all vehicle glass installed in the U.S. must pass National Highway Traffic Safety Administration baseline standards.
Be sure to work with a glass shop that offers a national warranty on both repairs and replacement for as long as you own or lease the vehicle. The warranty should also guarantee to pass lease turn-back and state vehicle inspections.
4. How long will a windshield replacement take a vehicle out of commission?
The downtime will depend on a number of variables, including how quickly the service can be scheduled, the proximity to a physical service location and availability of mobile repairs technicians.
Service appointments can often be made the same day or next day. And conveniently, many service providers, including Safelite, will come to a fleet or vehicle's location, rather than requiring that the vehicle be brought to a shop.
On average, allow for up to three hours for a windshield replacement. That includes approximately an hour for the work, and then anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour after the installation to allow for the adhesive to dry appropriately. The technician will advise you on safe drive-away times.
5. Are there any risks to my vehicle?
The risk of damaging the vehicle during the replacement has decreased significantly over the years due to enhanced technician training and the development of innovative tools.
In the case of Safelite, technicians go through several months of intensive training. Then, they apprentice with another service technician to gain additional practical knowledge and hands-on experience. Technicians can only work solo when training is complete and they have received certification.