An often-forget-about component of every single fleet truck, the windshield is a key safety feature in each vehicle. It is also an easy, and expensive, one to damage. And, many fleet managers may be spending far more money when necessary by over-replacing vs. repairing damaged windshields.
“Many auto glass companies prefer to replace your windshield since they make more money by doing so. They may advertise “repair,” but their intention is to replace. Fleet managers who take the time to thoroughly analyze what is repairable often find they are replacing way more then what’s needed,” said Shiloh Spoo, president of glass repair tool company, GlasWeld.
The Safety Component
The windshield is a key safety feature in every vehicle on the road. A clean, non-damaged windshield not only provides a clear view of the road for drivers, but it’s also a structural component of the truck.
According to the Auto Glass Safety Council, in a front-end collision, the windshield provides up to 45% of the structural integrity of the vehicle’s cabin, and in a rollover up to 60%.
In addition, windshield repair is becoming more and more important with the advancements of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).
“Most new vehicles have lane departure warning, smart cruise control, emergency braking, etc. When the windshields in these cars are replaced the entire ADAS system should be recalibrated or they will not read correctly and could lead to an accident. By repairing the windshield, you can avoid the cost of the replacement and the calibration, not to mention the downtime involved in both,” Spoo said.
How to Act Quickly
When it comes to reducing the number of replacements, using your eyes is the first step.
“Look at all fleet vehicles at least once a week over a few months. Make a note of how many have chips under the size of a quarter and how many have chips or cracks much larger than a quarter. Anything around the size of a quarter or under is easily repairable with good results,” Spoo said. “Remember, most replacements start as a small chip, so the more often you can inspect the windshield, the less you will spend on unnecessary replacements.”
Replacement percentages can be all over the map, depending on the fleet’s mileage (more road time, more damage potential), weather, and road conditions.
“Most replacements are caused by letting small cracks go for several weeks. But, if you have a repair-focused vendor checking vehicles weekly or biweekly, most windshields can be saved,” Spoo said,
Another option is to bring windshield repair in-house, which can drop the number of replacements dramatically.
“By doing this I’ve seen fleets reduce their replacement numbers by more than half!” Spoo said. “Then, consider either investing in the equipment and training from a quality manufacturer, such as GlasWeld, for internal use or finding a vendor that is ‘repair-first’ or ‘repair-only.’ ”
Bringing windshield repair in-house can be an easy service to learn and it does not require constant attention.
“With good tools, the work is done for you, without much interaction from the tech. Besides that, reaction time is key. If a chip is caught in the first few weeks, it can almost always be repaired. Alternatively, using a vendor who checks all your vehicles once a week at a set time and then provides a report of the ones needing repair, can really reduce replacement ratios. Most rock chip repair vendors will happily provide this service and it allows you to stay ahead of the curve,” Spoo said.
How to Spot a Quality Repair
Once you make the decision to focus on a repair over replace windshield maintenance strategy, fleet managers should become familiar with the look of a quality repair.
“The best way to tell if a quality repair job has been done is to use a white card, maybe the back of a business card. Put it on the inside of the windshield and look at the repair from the outside. If the repair has lots of black spots, dark areas, or voids that are visible, that’s a poor repair,” Spoo said.
Poor quality repairs often turn into replacements over time.
“If all you can see is the slight reflection of the crack, but no dark areas or spots, you are getting good quality repairs. Also, ask to see the equipment your vendor is using. Does it look like it’s from the 1970s? Ask if it pulls a strong vacuum, which is essential to getting consistently quality repairs,” Spoo said.