auto body glass repair

Looking Clearly Through the Glass Part II

The introduction of collision avoidance systems has made a simple windshield replacement a complex issue.

SLIDER-PA280567It’s late Thursday afternoon. The shop is on target for the delivery of all vehicles that were written for the week. Overall, it’s a pretty good day.

A new Honda Accord sits in the cleanup area waiting to be prepped for delivery. This 2015 model was a pretty straightforward repair. The last thing to do before detail is to replace the windshield. As you look at the car, a nagging thought enters your mind: What else am I supposed to do? The mirror assembly, when removing the glass, caught your attention. The technician needed instructions to remove it. What about reinstalling it? You wonder:

1. Did anybody check the P-pages?

2. Did anyone look up the procedure in ALLDATA?

3. Because there is no code or light on the dash, does that mean I’m done?

4. What is required?

Without the answers to these questions, you could be putting your customer at risk. The liability of not following through or finishing the repair could be devastating to a shop.

Collision Avoidance

The new Honda Accord has Lane Departure Warning partnered with Foreword Crash Warning. This safety electronic system was designed to help prevent the age-old dilemma of driver distraction.

Distracted drivers are the main reason for the majority of all crashes in the U.S. The government, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has been studying how to prevent these types of collisions. In Europe, vehicles began featuring driver assist electronics to avoid these crashes, too. The result is mandated electronics to help prevent or reduce the severity of a crash. These electronics were introduced to the U.S. in limited models. Although not mandated by NHTSA, they’re being considered.

Honda is not the only manufacturer to offer this in the U.S. These electronics are currently an option on many manufacturers’ models. On many European vehicles, they are not an option but have made their way to standard equipment. People purchase vehicles for these electronics in their quest to buy a safer vehicle. They’ve come to rely on the proper operation of these systems. If a person has bought a vehicle equipped with these electronics, we’re governed by the liability of rendering a safety device inoperative during or from a repair. Even though it can be turned off, we do not have the option of not finishing repairs before delivery to the customer. The question of is it a performance feature or a safety feature will be decided by 12 people who could not get out of jury duty.

Two Features

There are two main operations:

1. Driver warning: warns an operator of safety issues in driving

2. Driver assist: Activated counter measures to prevent un-safe conditions

In either type of system, a series of sensors and/or cameras in various parts of the vehicle give inputs to a computer that’s designed to either warn or activate systems such as steering or brakes to control the vehicle.

The electronics are known by names such as Adaptive Cruise Control, City Stop/City Safe, Self-Parking Control Systems and others. Many of these electronic assist systems are part of the autonomous operation of a vehicle. The systems I’m referring to in this article are the systems that have sensors tied into the windshield. Although these sensors may not be directly attached to the windshield, they may go through the windshield, using it almost as a lens. If the lens is distorted, the picture is not going to give proper input.

How to ID Glass Collision Avoidance Systems

1. Inform estimators of these systems. Like airbag seat recalibrations, there will be no light on the dash. The procedure will be mandatory no matter what.

2. Learn to identify what they look like. Take pictures or discuss vehicles periodically to note changes. Make a list or cheat sheet of models.

3. Look up vehicles features and options. Know what the vehicle may have and look for it.

4. Look up the P-pages, one of the most valuable tools for repairs to identify what has to be done.

5. Use ALLDATA. Look up instructions and follow them.

6. Understand that even a windshield R&I may require a recalibration.

7. Train your people to understand this is a network of electronic systems working together. A failure to complete a procedure will impact many other components of the vehicle as well.

Lane Lock/Lane Change systems are a feature that may use the windshield. Another name is Lane Departure Warnings or LDW, or Forward Collision Warning or FCW. No matter what the name, the sensors act similar in that a laser, infrared beam or camera is sent through the windshield. Other sensors may detect light or a beam, or a computer will recognize images it’s seeing and compare them to its database. As long as the system is functional and everything is well, the system operates correctly. If the system is slightly off tolerance, it may confuse the computers and not act as required. If the tolerance is off severely, the computer may shut down and send a warning message that the system is not operational. These computer systems are designed so that if the weather interferes with their function, they’ll disable until the weather cooperates. No matter which outcome, it will not be good for the shop as a very unhappy customer may be calling.


Why can differences in windshields be a problem? Not all glass is the same. There are slight differences in manufacturing of windshields and materials used. A bracket mounted in the wrong location that holds a camera can cause vibration or an incorrect angle. The “frit” or black band around the edges and top of the glass could be different and block the line of view. The plastic or vinyl inner layer between the glass could be different in tint and clarity. The clarity may distort images, fooling the system or shutting it off like bad weather conditions would do. I can add more to the list, but with these differences in glass and installation errors by technicians, you can see the need to verify or recalibrate the systems. Honda recently sent out a bulletin warning service shops of these issues, and explains this to consumers in owner manuals. Rock chip repairs will also be affected as they cannot be done in any sensor area.

The list of vehicle manufacturers that are adding these features is long. The shorter list would be those that don’t offer these systems. It used to be that only the more expensive or top-line models that would these features, but today’s mid- and lower-range priced vehicles are also starting to carry these safety systems as options.


Here is where it gets to be perplexing for many shops. There is no one scan tool that does it all. The process of scanning a vehicle can be as simple as clearing a code, but not all procedures are that simple. A scan tool is the start.

Vehicles such as Audi require a target board to be used, which is placed in front of a vehicle to allow the computer to calibrate its sensors. This sensor board is large and needs to be adjusted specifically to the vehicle orientation, such as ride height and angle. The process can take one to three hours depending on the vehicle. Other manufacturers use a similar device. Check out the video on YouTube from Hella Gutmann Solutions that shows the procedure for an Audi and VW.

Another technique being used is the proper placing of rods or targets in front of a vehicle. A rod or target is measured to a distance and placed in front of the vehicle. A scan is done to teach the system the distance. This is repeated a number of times to orientate the computer. These type of target systems require an open area and a controlled environment. There’s a number of videos you can watch on YouTube to see differences and procedures.

A road test may be required by two technicians to drive the vehicle and teach the computer road signs. This would be difficult without a second person. Also, the weather would need to cooperate. Also, the scan tool would need to have camera capability to see road lines and markers.

Prepare for Change

As you can see, if you were not prepared for change, you should be. The introduction of these devices makes a simple windshield replacement a complex issue. If it’s a required procedure, the computer should be recalibrated before returning the vehicle to the customer. This will add a great deal of time to replacing the windshield, which could affect cycle time. The other side of this equation is, are the dealerships prepared and trained to do this? And how much? The impact this have on the auto glass industry is yet to be seen. This will be covered in Looking Clearly Through the Glass Part III next month.

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