Windscreen need replacement? Beware of substandard parts

Modern windscreens are considered a “life and limb” part of any modern vehicle. The windscreen forms part of the structure of the vehicle. It is one of the most important…

Modern windscreens are considered a “life and limb” part of any modern vehicle. The windscreen forms part of the structure of the vehicle. It is one of the most important safety devices on a vehicle body and is considered a safety-critical component.

If the incorrect glass is used or the windscreen is fitted badly, the weakened structure of the vehicle is highly dangerous to occupants as well as pedestrians in the case of ordinary operation and an accident. The correct fitment and glass standard are areas that the South African Motor Body Repairers Association (SAMBRA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation, believes should be more closely managed to prevent sub-standard parts being fitted by insurer-designated providers, which not only endanger the customer, but also other road users.

Windscreen need replacement beware of substandard parts

In a recent incident, Santie Boshoff, owner of BB Autobody Rebuilds in Bela Bela, a South African Motor Body accredited repairer, explains that she was waiting for an insurance- approved windscreen fitment service provider to replace a windscreen in her customer’s vehicle. When the glass supplier arrived all the way from Rustenburg, the glass was already cracked on the lower right side. It was also not the correct windscreen with the necessary Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) stripes and dots that assist the driver with the safe operation of his/her vehicle.

“It appears that the fitters had in fact put Superglue on the screen to prevent any further cracks. And it does not stop there. The suppliers actually removed the ADAS Sensor from the old windscreen and glued it to the “new” windscreen. They then painted the area around the rear-view mirror with black primer to avoid immediate detection. It is important to note that when an OEM windscreen is purchased/fitted, the windscreen is mostly supplied with the sensors already fitted and calibrated by the manufacturers.

Windscreen painted with black primer to resemble adas stripes and dots

Immediately after the fitment, pop-up warning lights started showing on the cluster which, thankfully, cannot be cleared with diagnostics. So, in this case, the ADAS system would need to be re-calibrated by the dealership itself. They also scratched the right-hand windscreen post during their fitment, which will need to be repainted once this non-compliant windscreen is removed,” says Boshoff.

Boshoff says when the state of the windscreen was explained to the customer by BB Autobody, the customer rightfully refused to drive the car back to KwaZulu-Natal.

“We immediately contacted the insurer to advise that the integrity of the fitment was highly questionable and the workmanship of one of their preferred windscreen fitters very poor,” she says.

Interior view showing paint brush marks

Boshoff says as an Accredited SAMBRA Repairer, who values quality and professionalism, she finds these shortcomings completely unacceptable. She also forwarded the complaint to the dealer directly who confirmed the glass fitted was not considered OEM quality and would certainly not have approved the quality.

Boshoff says windscreen fitters require proper training and need to be trained thoroughly on the dangers of fitting sub-standard glass and the dangers of not fitting glass correctly. “It is concerning that there are so many examples of poorly fitted windscreens that can in fact injure or even kill a motorist.”

Windscreen already cracked and glued

She says another big danger is when an insurer and his client elect to settle the claim in cash termed a ‘cash in lieu’ in insurance terms. “Cash in lieu in vehicle insurance industry parlance refers to where a company exercises the option of giving the insured client cash for repairs instead of repairing it for the client. We are seeing a concerning trend where some insurers are offering clients less cash in lieu than what it would cost to independently repair the vehicle. The impact of this is that motorists unwittingly may go to a cheaper fitment operator or select sub-standard glass to suit the budget,” explains Boshoff. She says this practice needs to be more closely looked at by the South African Insurance Association (SAIA).

Boshoff offers motorists the following advice:

  • Only use highly reputable glass fitment experts. If you are concerned check with your dealer or SAMBRA motor body repair expert who can advise.
  • Remember the glass needs to fit the structure of the vehicle correctly and properly; use a laminate that protects object intrusion and have a proper laminated layer to protect the sealant and electronics attached to the windscreen from UV and heat damage. If the sealer is exposed to UV light, it will allow the windscreen to detach from the structure of the vehicle, weakening the structure and compromise the shield between the vehicle occupants and outside objects. The weakened structure of the vehicle is highly dangerous to occupants as well as pedestrians.
  • It is not always the case that ADAS sensors / sensor mounting brackets, are already attached to the windscreen. There are many versions and variations so to be 100% sure, check with an expert before the glass is installed.
  • If you are considering cash lieu from your insurer, first do your homework before you accept the offer. You will be liable for both the glass and the fitment of that glass, which can sometimes be extremely costly.

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