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Calif. BAR requires disclosure of aftermarket windshields, usage of adhesives, glass to OEM specs

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Business Practices | Legal | Repair Operations | Technology
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California will require auto glass installers to notify a customer whether a windshield is OEM or aftermarket and how long it will take to cure to work as a safety device.

It also compels all glass installers and body shops putting in the panes themselves to use adhesives that meet OEM specifications and apply the glues in accordance with both adhesive and vehicle manufacturer requirements.

Aftermarket windshields must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards — and also OEM specifications.

The regulation takes effect Jan. 1, 2017. The Office of Administrative Law signed off on the rule Oct. 17, and glassBYTEs reported that the Bureau of Automotive Repair adopted it formally Wednesday.

The BAR wrote earlier this year that it “identified a need to proactively clarify in regulation that windshield installers must adhere to certain standards and provide certain disclosures in the interest of consumer safety.”

“The business of mobile windshield repair has grown increasingly popular in recent years,” it continued. “Without a significant investment of capital, people can learn the basics of automotive glass repair and set up a tent to deliver this service at gas stations, car washes, or on the side of the road. While this service model increases convenience for consumers, it also increases risks of unsafe or misleading repair practices. Repairs may not be performed by skilled windshield repair technicians, or may be misleadingly advertised as “free” although they are purchased through an insurance claim. To the extent these businesses are mobile and transient, enforcement of consumer protection violations against them may be hindered.

“The Bureau has determined, given the critical safety function of windshields and risks attendant on the delivery of windshield replacement services, there is an increased need to clarify safety standards and promote informed consumer choice within this type of repair.”

Safelite and the California Autobody Association were among the auto body and auto glass industry entities commenting on the regulation following its proposal last year.

The BAR ultimately agreed with CAA lobbyist Jack Molodanof that auto body shops which sublet glass work might not know the actual adhesive cure time at the time they write the estimate.

“At the time of estimate, the ARD may not know the type of adhesive systems used by the specific vendor, especially if dealing with several trusted repair providers and may not know the specific adhesive cure times,” Molodanof wrote, according to the BAR. “More importantly, factors such as weather/temperature conditions may vary at the time the windshield is actually installed (which could be days or weeks later) as opposed to when the estimate was provided to the customer. Temperature conditions affect cure times and could create a situation where an ARD is simply forced to ‘guess’ at a cure time which wouldn’t serve the shop nor consumer’s best interests.”

Rather than mandating an exact minimum cure time on the estimate, the BAR revised the regulation simply to require the shop to let customers know on the estimate that they won’t be able to drive their cars for a certain amount of time following installation. On the invoice, however, shops will still need to be specific.

“This notification ensures consumers are aware that driving their vehicles immediately following installation presents a safety risk, and can plan accordingly,” the BAR wrote. “The notification required at the time of the invoice (which follows installation) remains the same, allowing the consumer to know exactly when it is safe to drive their vehicle.”

Safelite wasn’t as successful. The BAR disagreed with its request to remove or change several requirements from the regulations, including:

Change “cure time” to “drive-away time.” Cure time referred to the glue completely curing, Safelite pointed out, while drive-away time was what the agency actually meant — the car is safe to drive even if the adhesive hasn’t completely dried.

The BAR agreed that this was probably what it meant, but it liked the connotation of “cure time” even if it only wanted shops to meet “drive-away time.”

“Although ‘cure time’ as defined in the proposed regulation may be essentially the same as the industry term ‘drive-away time,’ the former is used in the proposed regulation to emphasize the safety issue associated with the curing of windshield adhesive,” the BAR wrote. “Regardless of the term defined, auto glass businesses will be required to inform customers of the time it takes the adhesive to cure for the windshield to perform as a safety device, rather than the time it takes for an adhesive to completely cure.”

Cut a requirement that cure time match the duration necessary for the windshield to “properly function as a safety device pursuant to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.”

“It would not be appropriate to remove reference to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications from this provision,” the BAR wrote. “These standards ensure the ‘crashworthiness’ of a vehicle, or the ability of the vehicle to protect its occupants during an impact. As such, they provide a reference point for what it means for the windshield to “properly function as a safety device.”

Cut a requirement that replacement glass meet OEM specifications as well as federal standards. Safelite argued that this was redundant since OEMs must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

“This recommendation is rejected because, even assuming the federal and vehicle manufacturer standards for windshields are duplicative, the Bureau cannot predict at this time whether vehicle manufacturers will provide additional safety standards for windshields in the future,” the BAR wrote. “More importantly, manufacturers are in the best position to provide specifications that ensure the consumer’s safety, as they engineer and test the vehicles they produce and are liable to the consumer for defects.”

Cut a requirement that glass installers apply adhesive in a manner meeting OEM specifications. Safelite argued that OEMs use slow-curing adhesives since cars can sit on a vehicle lot — something that’d be impractical for drivers itching to reuse their repaired cars. Plus, it pointed out, some OEMs use technology like robots which aren’t feasible for the aftermarket. Matching those sorts of items wasn’t the BAR’s intent for the glass repair industry now — but future regulators could decide to change the rules on them and subsequently irritate and jeopardize consumers, Safelite said.

The BAR said that while the aftermarket indeed wasn’t expected to use robots or other factory-level techniques, the agency still expected glass installers to meet some OEM specifications.

“The main purpose of this provision, and the regulation as a whole, is to promote consumer safety,” the BAR wrote. “Vehicle manufacturers do require that the beading of adhesive that is applied to the pinchweld during a windshield installation adhere to certain specifications of thickness. Meeting this specification ensures the vehicle will meet federal crash safety standards intended to hold occupants inside the vehicle. It is not necessary for auto glass businesses to use the exact adhesives and equipment used by vehicle manufacturers in order to ensure the vehicle will meet federal crash safety standards.”

More information:

“California Specifies Windshield Replacement Regulations”

glassBYTEs, Oct. 27, 2016

California Bureau of Automotive Repair Final Statement of Reasons

California Bureau of Automotive Repair, 2016

Glass installation regulation order of adoption

California Bureau of Automotive Repair, 2016

Featured image: If these two stock art auto glass installers were in California, come Jan. 1, 2017, they’d have to meet some new rules. (-Oxford-/iStock)

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