New technology makes windshield repair more difficult than ever

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    We often think that a car’s windshield is simply keeping the exterior away from the interior of our cars. That is almost true and hardly a “high-tech” job. After all, the windshield hasn’t changed in decades. In fact, for much of auto history, repairing windshields has been much like replacing glass in any other window pane. However, today’s technology is rapidly changing that.

    Firstly, the integration of cameras or other sensors into the windshield so that you can see the road with you. “They are being used more and more on a wide variety of vehicles,” says Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists. “What used to be very simple operations now requires extensive diagnostic and calibration work.”

    This process is not trivial in a windshield repair, so that the driver does not have a false sense of security when he gets his car back. Scroll through this Honda presentation to get a feel for the number of systems and calibration processes involved. In some cases, automakers advise against reusing a windshield after removing it. And that is spreading to other parts of the car as well: Ford recently recommended replacing bumper covers on its cars with advanced driver assistance systems when more than just a paint job is required.

    Brian Cooley / Roadshow

    The windshield of a modern car may also have a dedicated display area for a head-up projector and technology for automatic windshield wipers or self-dimming high beams. As cars have become more complex, garages often turn to high quality aftermarket parts to keep costs down, but Ford, Honda, and FCA all advise against using aftermarket windshields. BMW even requires special screws for electromagnetic compatibility to be used during repairs in order not to impair the ADAS functions.

    ADAS calibration

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    Adequate insurance should cover such procedures, but that doesn’t mean your insurance company likes it. “Many of these technologies were advanced by … the insurance industry to reduce the frequency of accidents,” says Schulenburg. “Unfortunately, it can also be challenging because insurance companies are behind the curve in understanding and drawing these repair processes.” Yesterday’s $ 500 windshield replacement could cost thousands of dollars today.

    Not that it’s not worth it. A recent analysis by Reuters of the adoption of various forms of ADAS technology shows how much it can reduce accident rates and how it spreads to car brands and models as a result. Just prepare for a more complex repair that may not be done in 45 minutes without leaving your driveway.

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