Why new car technology makes windshield repair more difficult than ever

The job of a windshield is no longer just to keep rain, snow and other elements from entering our cars. Not anymore, even though we still think of the windshield as a simple piece of glass. The days of replacing this element like any other window pane are long gone, folks. Technology is changing things, and changing them rapidly.

First is the integration of a camera or other sensor into the windshield, watching the road with you. “They are becoming really common on a wide range of vehicles,” says Aaron Schulenberg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, the trade group for collision repair technicians. “What were once really simple operations now require complex diagnostics and calibration work.”

The process is not a trivial one during windshield repair, lest the driver get a false sense of security when they get their car back. Scroll through this Honda presentation to learn about the number of systems involved and the calibration procedures involved. In some cases car manufacturers advise against reusing any time the windshield is removed. And it’s spreading to other parts of the car: Ford recently advised that the bumper covers on their cars that have advanced driver-assistance systems be replaced any time they need more than a paint job.

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Brian Cooley / Roadshow

The windshield of a modern car may also have a special display area for a heads-up projector and technology related to automatic wipers or self-dimming high beams. As cars have become more complex, repair shops often turn to good quality aftermarket parts to keep costs down, but Ford, Honda and FCA all advise against using aftermarket windshields. BMW has requested that special electromagnetic compatibility screws be used in repairs so as not to interfere with ADAS features.

ADAS Calibration

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Adequate insurance should cover such procedures, but that doesn’t mean your insurance company prefers it. “A lot of these techniques … have been driven by the insurance industry, which seeks to reduce the frequency of accidents,” says Schulenberg. “Unfortunately, this can also be a challenge because insurance companies lag behind in understanding and underwriting these repair procedures.” Tomorrow’s $500 windshield replacement could run for thousands of dollars today.

Not that it’s not worth it. A recent Reuters analysis of the adoption of various forms of ADAS technology reveals how much it can reduce accident rates and how widely it is spreading through car makes and models as a result. Just get ready for a more complicated repair that can no longer be done in 45 minutes without leaving your driveway.

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