National car care month and windshield safety

Consumers rightly think of vehicle safety features in terms of safety belts, air bags and anti-lock brakes, but what’s relatively unknown is that a vehicle’s windshield is integral to overall automobile safety.

As a safety device, the windshield helps keep occupants inside the vehicle during an impact or rollover, as well as helping to keep the vehicle’s roof from collapsing. An improperly-installed windshield might dislodge during a collision, leading to serious injury or worse.

Most automotive safety experts, including AAA Mid-Atlantic, rank the windshield as the third-most important tool in the safety toolbox. Seatbelts and airbags rank first and second, respectively. All three components are part of what automotive engineers refer to as a vehicle’s safety restraint system (SRS), which is intended to keep vehicle occupants within the relative safety of the car during a collision or roll-over.

What’s troubling and the primary reason behind AAA Mid-Atlantic publicizing windshield safety during October — National Car Care Month — is that according to the National Windshield Repair Association and the National Glass Association, 20-70 percent of auto glass installations are performed improperly each year.

“It’s important that motorists use trusted professionals for auto glass repair and replacement,” said Ragina C. Averella, Manager of Public & Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “National Car Care Month is a good time to reinforce how important the windshield is as a safety device.”

At nearly a dozen free Car Care Month events during October, AAA Mid-Atlantic is offering free windshield chip repair through its Mobile Auto Glass Service. In the Baltimore area, chip repair is available free to the public at Wawa convenience store, 8731 Pulaski Highway (between I-695 and Rossville Blvd.), Rosedale, MD 21237 on October 13 from 8-10:30 a.m.

“AAA’s Mobile Glass Service is certified by the National Glass Association and we use the highest quality glass, which meets the original manufacturer’s standards,” Averella said. “Whether motorists use our service or a competitor’s, getting the job done right is essential, as road and motorist safety is paramount.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends that motorists use only certified auto glass technicians that follow these guidelines:
• Checks for a passenger-side airbag and uses urethane that is rated for that type of installation, if a side airbag is present
• Removes the old sealant leaving approximately 1/16” bonding surface
• Wears gloves to avoid contaminating the bonding surfaces
• Cleans and primes both the glass and the area on the vehicle (known as the pinchweld) where the glass is to be set.

After installation, motorists should inspect the work carefully: You do not need to be an auto glass expert to identify the “tell-tale” signs of improper installation. From outside the vehicle, check to see if:

• The windshield is perfectly centered on the car. The distance between the left side and the right side of the windshield and the auto body should be the same.
• Inspect the molding to be sure it fits around the circumference of the windshield and there are no visible gaps.
• The molding should be flat and not look like a roller coaster.
• Most importantly, the glass should be flush to the vehicle’s body.

Because a windshield is usually bonded into cars with an adhesive, motorists should use experienced installers that have certification of instruction from adhesive companies in the use of their specific products. Find more events in your area.

AAA Mid-Atlantic is based in Wilmington, Del., and serves nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey with personal insurance, financial, automotive and travel services through 53 retail branches, regional operations centers and the Internet.

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