The Difference Between High and Low Quality Windshields
You’re on the road this summer and a rock bounces up and puts a big crack in your windshield. No big deal, you can you wait until winter to fix it, right? No.
A car’s windshield acts as one of its most important safety features during an accident, rollover or collision. In a collision, a properly installed windshield keeps you in the vehicle and acts as a backboard for the passenger side airbag. In a rollover accident the windshield supports the roof of your vehicle and prevents it from collapsing and injuring the vehicle’s occupants.
Okay, so it’s time to replace the windshield, but what are the choices and how important is this really? There are two types of auto glass: OEM glass (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and non-OEM glass, or what many people refer to as aftermarket glass. OEM suppliers are trusted by auto manufacturers like GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Ford, etc. to provide quality controlled windshields that are a perfect match and fit for their vehicles. OEM glass suppliers spend hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development, using computer-assisted engineering and design programs (CAE and CAD) to ensure quality windshields for their vehicles. Each OEM windshield goes through rigorous and thorough surface contour and optical quality checks as it moves down the assembly line. Auto glass parts produced by OEM Manufacturers consistently fit better and adhere to the same standards for fit and finish as the glass that is originally installed when the car is built.
There are significant quality differences between original equipment manufactured windshields and aftermarket auto glass. So why then, would anyone go to a shop that uses aftermarket glass when you need to replace your windshield? The after market shops will tell you that their product is the same quality as an OEM windshield. Wrong. Non-OEM auto glass manufacturers make copies of OEM auto glass parts. These copies have to vary slightly from the OEM part due to the fact that OEM parts are patented and the designs are protected and trademarked. Non-OEM suppliers must make significant differences in their product so that they do not exactly copy the glass used by GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Ford, etc. to avoid being sued for copyright fraud.
Many auto glass shops use non-OEM parts because they are significantly cheaper to buy. These savings are not always passed along to the consumer, nor is the consumer told the parts being installed are of a lesser quality. Aftermarket glass parts also are not accepted by new car manufacturers for warranty claims and violate the repair requirements of many leasing contracts. It is common after installation for non-OEM or aftermarket parts to have fit and finish problems like air leaks, water leaks and stress cracks.
“Almost 70% of the automotive windshields that we see (that have been previously replaced) were improperly installed,” says Nik Frye, Vice President of Sales for Glass America. “This is important to note, because in a front-end collision, the windshield can provide up to 45% of the structural integrity of the cabin of the vehicle. In a rollover, that number can be up to 60%. If customers use OEM glass, a high quality polyurethane adhesive system with a one hour cure time, and a trained, certified technician – then this will greatly improve their chances of getting a safe windshield installation.”