Replaced windshield leaks air -- can it be fixed?

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drh
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Replaced windshield leaks air -- can it be fixed?

Post by drh » December 4th, 2015, 9:54 am

I had my windshield replaced a couple of days ago and it wasn't until I did some highway driving (> 60 mph) that I observed some very noticeable noise coming from the lower right passenger corner of the windshield. I can also feel air coming in through this corner.

I called the installer and he asked me to bring my truck to his shop where he has some method of testing/locating leaks and says that it can be fixed by adding sealant.

What is he going to do exactly? Is this a legit way to fix this problem?

My concern is that a spot underneath the glass either was not cleaned properly or did not have enough urethane applied and that the right way to fix this involves removing and replacing the windshield again.

The installer was recommended to me by a mechanic I trust (said he had done several windshields for him no problem). He appeared to take his time (replacement took an hour), but he did not remove the cowl which I am now very suspicious of -- harder to see that bottom edge and make sure it gets cleaned/sealed properly, right?

I understand mistakes can happen so I want to give the guy an opportunity to fix it but I want to make sure it is a legitimate repair. The alternative would be to ask for a refund and get a different place to replace/repair.

Thanks!

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Brent Deines
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Re: Replaced windshield leaks air -- can it be fixed?

Post by Brent Deines » December 4th, 2015, 11:28 am

I moved your topic to the replacement forum as you are more likely to get a response here.

Sometimes there are ways of fixing a small air leak in a recently replaced windshield without removing it.

Not removing the cowl is a fairly common practice and does not necessarily equal incompetence. The windshield is cleaned and primed prior to installing it. The urethane is either applied to the glass or the body of the car prior to installation as well so as long as the metal where that contacts the urethane is properly cleaned and primed, which is typically not too hard to do with the cowling installed, that is not necessarily a problem. Many installations do not have any urethane at the bottom edge of the glass so sealing the bottom edge is not always necessary.

However, If the cowl covers the lower portion of the windshield I personally always remove it when replacing a windshield as I believe it is easier to set the new glass properly. In my opinion that is a better practice and the fact that you can feel air coming up from inside the bottom corner of the glass is not a good sign. When the cowl is not removed you have to slip the lower edge of the glass under it before setting the top of the glass rather than setting the entire glass at the same time. So what sometimes happens is that the urethane is compressed more than it should be at the bottom of the glass and then as the top is lowered into place the bottom of the glass pulls up (think of a lever). If the glass or metal was not primed properly the urethane can be pulled loose or if the urethane is stretched enough it can separate and leave gaps. This is one of many possibilities but fairly common in installations where the cowl is not removed prior to installation.

Everyone who has installed auto glass for a living has had an air and/or water leak to deal with from time to time so unless you have another reason to believe this installer did a poor installation I would be inclined to give him a chance to fix it. The next guy might do a worse job! On the other hand, a second opinion from a reputable glass shop or body shop wouldn't hurt. High end body shops may or may not set their own glass but they are picky and will often be able to point out things a consumer would never notice.

Here are a few things I recommend looking for that will help you determine whether or not to trust this guy.

1) Check all around the perimeter of the glass on the inside of the vehicle. Look for globs of urethane sticking out or any visible gaps in the urethane. Also look for damage to the a-piller moldings and headliner.

2) Ask if he is going to seal that bottom corner from the inside, outside or both. Inside only is rarely the best option in my opinion and much more likely to be visible afterwards.

3) Ask if he will remove the cowl to seal the bottom of the windshield. Maybe he is really good at cowl on installations but now that he knows there is a problem he should not take anymore shortcuts in finding and fixing the problem properly.

4) Check all around the perimeter of the glass on the outside of the vehicle. If there are moldings there should be no lines where the old molding was. A good installer will clean those lines prior to installation and will set the new glass very close if not exactly in the same position as the OEM installation. If there are no moldings check for nicks in the paint, visible primer or visible urethane. Point out anything that does not look normal to you and see what kind of response you get.

5) Check the cowling for nicks in the paint or urethane smudges.

6) Check to see that the VIN number is lined up correctly in the cutout area of the frit band. With the doors open also check to make sure the top and bottom of the windshield are centered side to side. If the windshield is not centered correctly it is often difficult to get it to seal correctly.

Some installers reading this are probably going to cringe at telling a car owner to look for these things but an incorrectly installed windshield is a safety issue so you have a right to know the job was done right.

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Re: Replaced windshield leaks air -- can it be fixed?

Post by drh » December 4th, 2015, 12:42 pm

Thanks Brent for such a detailed reply.

I looked closer at the windshield. The VIN appears to be centered in the cutout. On the outside, I also measured the distance between the frit band edge and the molding on both sides, and also the distance from the cowl to the lower frit band edge and everything was even on both sides so it appears to be centered properly.

The inside looks clean. On the corner in question, there is a glob of urethane which maybe you can see in the attached picture. There aren't any globs anywhere else and the headliner, etc. looks ok. You can also see in the picture where the edge of the dashboard meets the glass was nicked a little bit (although who knows if it was like this before). Note the air coming in is from the bottom, not on the side near the glob.

If it matters the truck is 10 years old, and this is at least the fourth windshield. I have replaced it once before and the one that was in there when I bought it was not the factory windshield.

Finally, you mentioned sealing from the inside and outside -- is this just adding more urethane? I honestly can't see how you could do anything from the inside, it seems like urethane would just end up on the dash?

Thanks again.
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Re: Replaced windshield leaks air -- can it be fixed?

Post by Brent Deines » December 4th, 2015, 1:42 pm

The picture doesn't show anything I would be terribly concerned with and considering that is your 4th windshield I would say everything looks pretty darn good. Like you said, the small nicks you see could easily have been done in a previous installation. Sealing from the inside is sometimes an option but typically on the side or top where it is easier to get to without taking half the car apart and as I said previously, not usually the best option in my opinion. I agree that it is very difficult to seal from the inside in the bottom corner and only really mentioned it because if that is how the technician handles the problem you I agree with you that you may very well have a mess on your hands.

No one likes to remove a new windshield to re-seal it because of the risk that it will break but that is not your problem it is the technicians. Sealing from the outside is a possibility if the windshield is still bonded securely in place. It would likely require removing the cowl and running a bead of urethane up under the bottom edge for several inches and up the side as far as they can reach. Again, not the best way to handle it in my opinion for two reasons. 1) Depending on the make and model the original bead of urethane may be several inches from the bottom of the glass so adding a second, or in some cases 3rd bead at the bottom may make removing it the next time more difficult. 2) While the technician may very well be able to pinpoint the leak, he may not be 100% sure of the cause of the leak. It could be just a pin hole in the adhesive or between the adhesive and the glass or the adhesive and the metal, but it could also be because there is a larger area of adhesive failure. How do you know for sure? The technician probably knows based on how he preps the glass and metal, the type of urethane he uses and his skill level, but there is no way for you or I to know that for sure.

Sorry, not much help really. It's a judgement call that only you can make. The only reason I suggested I might give the guy a second chance is because you said he came highly recommended from a friend but I understand your reluctance to trust him if he does not remove and reset the glass.

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Re: Replaced windshield leaks air -- can it be fixed?

Post by benswindshieldrepair » December 13th, 2015, 9:24 pm

With the exception of 3/4 and 1 Ton Ford trucks, I remove EVERY cowl. They're not that hard and the time it saves me in prevention (like the issue you're dealing with) is worth the investment. "cowl stuffing" as it is known, is a short cut, and can result in the glue not properly applying to the frit. I have had some leakers in my experience, but I OWN every mistake I've ever made. Even if it results in removing and replacing. I'd give the guy a chance to make it right, but make it clear that you want it done right. I'd imagine this would include actually removing the cowl to back fill, but perhaps it can be done from the inside.
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Re: Replaced windshield leaks air -- can it be fixed?

Post by jasper custom » March 11th, 2016, 9:50 pm

I agree remove every cowl and I've had such little luck with tryin to fix a leak I just remove the windshield and try again urethane is cheap and my time means very little to keep my customers happy most windshields take less then 2 hours and I'm not mobile so sneakin one in is no big deal I've had the best luck sealing at the bottom when it comes down to it though

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