ConsumerWatch: Dangers Of Faulty Windshield Installations

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Traffic is seen backed up on westbound Interstate 80 in Emeryville. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) – The see-through barrier we all use every time we get in a vehicle could have an invisible danger. One industry expert says as many as 70-85 percent of windshields are not installed properly.

Jeanne Fransway was killed in 1999 when her windshield popped out during a rollover accident in the Midwest. Her brother Jon said the glass wasn’t properly bonded and she wasn’t wearing her seat belt causing Jeanne to be ejected. Her body was found seventy feet from her car lying on top of the glass.

“She was laying face down,” Fransway said. “Her body was cut up and slashed everywhere, from all the shards of the windshield.”

Jeanne, who was just 25-years-old, died in the hospital in the arms of family members.

“It’s just something you never would want to experience if you don’t have to. It’s tragic,” he said.

Find a Certified Auto Glass Installer

California Bureau of Automotive Repair investigator Dan Povey took CBS inside an undercover lab showing us improperly installed windshields his agency has taken into evidence. Some did not have enough glue, others weren’t given the appropriate amount of time to bond.

Four days after one installation, when an investigator slammed a door shut, state video shows the glass pops right out from the frame.

“I mean, this is crazy. That thing can come out on you just driving down the freeway,” he said.

CBS’s Sacramento affiliate has learned anybody can become a windshield installer. The state does not require any special training. All you have to do is pay the state of California $200 a year to register, and you are a state-registered installer. It raises the question, how would any of us know if our windshield was installed correctly?

Povey suggests you may not know unless you remove the glass.

CBS viewer Laura Overbay learned when her windshield installed by Mike’s Mobile Glass of Sacramento immediately started leaking. She drove us through the car wash to show water dripping through the top part of the windshield.

“I’m really pissed off,” she told us.

Dozens of others have complained about the company’s shoddy work to the Better Business Bureau. One customer said their newly installed windshield “leaks rainwater real bad.” Another said, “Air was coming through a gap in the windshield and the windshield was shaking.”

We wanted to see for ourselves, so we went undercover hiring Mike’s Mobile Glass to install a windshield on an SUV. A person who identified himself as Tony came out to do the installation. What “Tony” didn’t realize was we were recording his every move from all angles. We played the video for well-respected industry expert Bob Beranek of Automotive Glass Consultants, Inc. He’s a board member of the Auto Glass Safety Council and serves on the organization’s standard’s committee.

“It’s a dangerous installation,” he tells us.

After watching the 45-minutes video, Beranek said he sees serious problems from improper priming and preparing of the glass, right down to “Tony” the installer not using gloves. Beranek says oil from the installer’s hands could keep the glue from properly bonding.

One of the bigger concerns he sees, is “Tony” improperly applies a bead of adhesive. Our cameras caught him leaving a 2-inch gap in the glue on the passenger side of the vehicle. If a passenger air bag deployed against that windshield, Beranek fears it could cause the glass to pop out.

“I don’t understand why he didn’t see it. It’s so obvious,” Beranek said.

When we pulled off the glass, there is glue missing in the same spot.

“I would not let anyone drive that car,” Beranek said.

CBS learned Mike’s Mobile Glass has not had a valid state registration with the Bureau of Automotive Repair since July.

We paid a visit to a business address we found on El Camino Avenue in Sacramento where we met a friendly installer who identified himself as E.C. Despite wearing a Mike’s Mobile Glass shirt and driving a truck that promoted a website for Mike’s Mobile Glass. He insisted he doesn’t work for the company.

He claimed he works for a company called Tint Time, but couldn’t produce the required registration number for whichever company he works for as a windshield installer. E.C. admitted he’s heard quite a few complaints about Mike’s Mobile Glass.

He then admitted he’s had to fix leaks caused by Mike’s Mobile Glass. He told us he planned to find another job and didn’t want to be associated with Mike’s Mobile Glass. CBS later confirmed Tint Time does exist, but the owner told us E.C. has never worked for his company.

Several sources have since told us ”Tony” the installer is actually the owner of Mike’s Mobile Glass who goes by a variety of names including Muhammed, Mike, Tony and George. We never heard back from him despite repeated attempts to reach him for comment. Two sources say he’s treated our investigation like a game and is pleased to get the publicity.

Jeanne Fransway’s family will tell you it is no game. They know what can happen with a faulty installation.

“It was difficult to let her go,” her brother Jon said.

After her death, he pushed for industry standards now followed by more than ten thousand windshield installers across the country. He hopes his efforts to honor his sister will save a life.

“I think it’s really given her life a lot of meaning.”

The State of California says the benefit of going with a registered installer is the state knows how to find the installer if something goes wrong. They also have the power to go after them if they are doing poor work. You can check for an installers valid registration at www.bar.ca.gov

The Auto Glass Safety Council has this advice when finding a windshield installer.

When the need to have auto glass replaced arises, ask these questions of the shop before giving them the job.

Are you an AGRSS-Registered Company?

Do you use o.e. (original equipment) or o.e.-equivalent glass?

Do all the materials you use meet or exceed ANSI Z 26.1 and all pertinent Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards?

Does your adhesive manufacturer certify you, and who is the manufacturer of the adhesive?

What type of warranty can I expect?

How soon after my glass is replaced will I be able to use my vehicle

You can search for an AGRSS-registered installer at www.Safewindshields.org

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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