Replacing a modern vehicle’s windshield can be costlier than some mainstream media reports indicate, as the technology they’re equipped with have made repairs more costly and time consuming.
According to the Insurance Journal, for example, the average windshield replacement claim is $400, while the average cost to fix it is $50.
However, those who work in the calibration or repair industry have noted that fixing a modern windshield isn’t as simple as swapping out one pane of glass for another.
As a general example meant to reflect the discrepancy between models, Safelite’s online quote system indicates it would cost more than $3,000 to replace the windshield on a 2022 Tesla Model X, $950 for a 2022 Toyota Highlander and $880 for a 2022 Honda CR-V.
Conversely, for a 2010 Highlander or a 2010 CR-V, the bill would be just $350.
Josh McFarlin, AirPro Diagnostics president, said part of the cost difference relates to a difference in labor time to remove and reinstall the forward facing camera (FFC) and in some cases, transfer the bracket.
“The larger difference in total cost will be tied to the calibration procedure,” McFarlin told RDN. “This requires the vehicle and space to be prepared, the target to be placed, use of a diagnostic tool to perform the calibration, etc.”
When discussing the additional cost of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) windshields, McFarlin focused his responses on FFCs, which are generally attached to the windshield by a bracket.
He said the bracket normally comes installed on the replacement windshield, except on occasions when it must be transferred to the replacement glass.
“It probably does not come as a surprise that this means it is important to position the glass correctly so that the glass is centered (up/down and left/right),” McFarlin said. “But care must also be taken to have an even distribution of the adhesive/sealant (generally urethane) so that the windshield is sitting at the same height off of the pinch weld all the way around the glass. This is commonly referred to as the decking of the glass.
“If done incorrectly, you can impact the direction that the FFC is pointed in, and this could lead to a failed or improper calibration.”
When asked whether minor cracks might necessitate the need for a replacement windshield with a FFC, he said it depends on where the crack is located related to sensors. Some OEMs, he said, have made statements about how close the damage can be to the FFC before the glass should be replaced rather than repaired.
McFarlin said facility conducting the primary job is responsible for ensuring the windshield is repaired properly, meaning if a collision repair business sublets a windshield calibration to a glass company, the repair facility would still be the first facility blamed if something goes wrong.
“It is worth noting that most sublet vendors are not offering any form of indemnification, but AirPro does this, we stand behind our work,” he said.
As it relates to precision for calibrations, McFarlin said that although there are some common themes, each OEM procedure is a bit different.
“The need for precision also applies to the glass install before the calibration – the glass needs to be installed correctly and the bracket for the camera needs to be in the correct location,” he said. “The glass has been an important structural component for some time now, but with the FFC attached to it, it also a foundation for multiple safety systems.”
He detailed how procedures outline the process for aligning the correct target to the vehicle, and determining who is responsible for pulling the information.
“The procedures outline the process for aligning the correct target to the vehicle,” McFarlin explained. “If the shop personnel are doing this task, they should be pulling the procedure and reviewing it. If a sublet vendor is doing it, then it should be them pulling the procedures.
“When it comes to who is performing the calibration, that really is a little more complex,” he continued. “What I mean is that the calibration procedure can really be broken down into two sub processes. First there is the process of positioning the target(s) correctly in relation to the vehicle. Second there is the operation that takes place in the diagnostic software application to actually trigger the running of the calibration routine in the vehicle software. Who does each of these procedures really depends on the repair facility and what their model is for performing the tasks.”
McFarlin added that when considering the true cost of a windshield, customer satisfaction should also be considered. This, he said, is largely driven by the total length of repair.
“Today, vehicles that require a FFC static calibration are having their glass replaced and the FFC calibrated in dedicated calibration locations instead of coming to you at a location of your choosing,” he said. “Not only that, because of the bottleneck in the process, many of the larger glass installers have a backlog of work meaning that they are scheduling the repair multiple weeks into the future.”
“These are major reasons behind the success of our Auggie in the glass segment,” he said, referring to AirPro’s mobile static recalibration device which displays a target on a digital screen in front of the forward-facing camera. “Auggie allows the repair to be done in a mobile environment again while still completing the FFC calibration.”
Richard Zenteno, national ADAS sales manager with Autel, further reinforced that when replacing a windshield the main issue lies with its bracket mounting.
“It is recommended a glass installer check the windshield and bracket prior to installation,” Zenteno told Repairer Driven News. “Proper environment is critical to any calibration as it can lead to calibration failures. With camera-based calibrations it’s important to watch for lighting and background as these are the most common factors that lead to failures.”
Zenteno added: “ADAS systems are related to safety and accidents so it’s important to calibrate following the manufacturer’s preconditioning instructions while setting a vehicle for calibration. A zero-point calibration allows the vehicle’s ADAS system the maximum adaptability.”
Featured image courtesy of ra-photos/iStock