ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
There’s no more important time to take care of your vehicle windshield than during the winter, according to Stewart Bichet, who has been operating ASAP Autoglass as a family business in Hillsboro for more than two years now.
“In most cars, and in new cars especially, the windshield is engineered to be a part of the safety structure of the vehicle,” Bichet said. “If you don’t take care of it, the one time you need it, it may not work the way it’s supposed to.
“That’s important year round, but especially in wintertime,” he added. “Now’s the time of year when we do a lot more driving after dark, you go to the basketball game and you have to drive home along a dark road. You want to be able to see out, and if there’s stuff flying at you, you want that stuff to stay on the outside.”
Change those wiper blades
Topping Bichet’s list of tips for taking care of a windshield is to replace wiper blades at least twice a year.
“The biggest thing I run into when I’m out replacing windshields-I’ll bet you 90 percent of the cars I work on-is that the windshield wipers need to be replaced,” he said.
“Especially going into the winter months, when you deal with a lot of snow and ice, it’s important that your windshield wipers be in good working order.
“When you’re trying to drive home from the basketball game on a snowy night and the trucks are kicking road salt and slush up on your windshield, that’s not the time you want to discover that your windshield wipers aren’t working correctly.”
Bichet said the blades need to be changed at least twice a year because the sun’s ultra-violet rays break down the rubber from which they are made.
“Wiper blades are cheap, and I always tell people you don’t need to buy the super-expensive brands,” he said.
Check washer fluid regularly
Making sure your vehicle has adequate washer fluid is another basic maintenance issue many drivers neglect until bad weather hits, Bichet said.
“Before you go anywhere, make sure that reservoir is full,” he said. “Again, that’s something that doesn’t hardly cost anything and you can get it anywhere. But it’s something you’d rather have and not need than need it and not have it.
“It’s an absolute must.”
Bichet added that vehicle owners don’t have to buy expensive washer fluids, but they shouldn’t try the cheap way out either.
“Obviously, you don’t want to use just water, because that will freeze,” he said. “But there are still people who fill the reservoir with water.”
Other de-icing strategies
Bichet said products such as windshield de-icers and preventive treatments can be effect if used properly.
“I’ve used a couple of different (de-icers) on the market and I’ve seen then used,” he said. “Basically, they’re all pretty much the same. The active ingredient in most of that stuff is alcohol. It’s something that will melt the ice or break it loose so you can scrape it away.
“As long as you use common sense when you’re using the product-as far damaging the glass or adversely affecting the glass-it’s probably not going to be a problem.
“Most of the kinds come with a scraper attached, or they’re designed that you put it on and then scrape the residue off,” he said.
“The main thing I always warn people about is that you don’t want to spray it on and then try to run your windshield wipers to get rid of the ice because you can damage your wiper blades.”
Beyond the common de-icers found in most auto-supply stores, Bichet recommends chemical treatments that can actually prevent moisture from sticking onto a windshield in the first place.
“There are a variety of products on the market-I saw one called Aqua-pel-that are actually are rain-preventive,” he said. “You can actually apply preventive treatments to your windshield to prevent ice and snow from sticking onto it.
“Generally, any glass shop would supply it. Also, I know a lot of the quick-lube oil-change places will put that stuff on for you nowadays. It’s a fairly common thing and doesn’t cost very much. I sell it for $20 for an application and it lasts about six months.
“It’s a cheap thing and makes it a lot easier because nobody wants to be out there on a cold morning scraping on the windshield. It really does make it a lot easier to get your windshield clean.”
One de-icing strategy Bichet speaks against strongly is pouring hot water on a frozen windshield.
“Don’t put hot water on it because that will break your windshield right off the bat,” he said. “Dramatic changes in temperature do bad things to glass.”
Use a decent ice scraper
Bichet said it’s good for every vehicle driver to have along the basic, hard-plastic windshield scraper.
“I’ve seen people use a lot of different things (to scrape windshields),” he said. “You see people out there sometimes with the razor-blade type of scraper, like you’d use to take a sticker off or something like that. All you’re really going to do is scratch your windshield up doing that.
“For no more than what an ice-scraper costs, and considering there are a lot of places anymore where you can get them for free, go and buy a good one. You can buy one and it will last you all season.
Fix chips immediately
Although you’d might expect this advice from someone who fixes chips in windshields for a living, Bichet said it is critically important to take prompt action when chips occur in winter.
“This is the time of year when the road crews go out and put down sand and things like that, and you tend to pick up rock chips,” he said. “It is imperative that you get the chip fixed as soon as possible.
“What most people don’t realize is that your windshield is not one piece of glass, it’s actually two pieces of glass with plastic in the middle.
“If you get a chip, a bull’s-eye or a star in your windshield, it’s in the outer layer of glass,” he added. Let’s say you have a break in that outer layer. You go out in the morning and get in the car-and it’s freezing cold because it’s been parked outside all night-so you start it up, turn on your defroster full blast and then go back in the house to drink that last cup of coffee.
“When you heat up the inside of that windshield, the inner layer of glass expands and the outer layer doesn’t. The difference in that expansion-and it’s not much-is enough that if you have any little chip, any defect in the windshield at all, it’s probably going to turn into a crack.”
Bichet said getting a chip fixed is a lot less time-consuming and expensive than replacing a cracked windshield.
“Most of us who do this kind of thing can do it on a same-day basis,” he said. “It only takes 30 minutes and we can do it anywhere. You don’t have to take (the vehicle) somewhere and drop it off.”
“The key is not saying ‘I can tough it out until next month,’ or ‘I’ll wait until the weather warms up to do that.’ By the time you wait, it will turn from a $30 repair into a $200 windshield replacement.”
Replacing windshields in winter
Bichet said if a windshield needs to be replaced during the cold winter months, vehicle owners need to be aware of the effect cold temperatures can have on the adhesive used to hold the new windshield in place.
“The adhesive we use to install your windshield takes a certain amount of time to cure,” he said. “The colder the weather is, the longer that takes (to cure).
“I use a special urethane in the wintertime that will cure all the way down to zero (degrees). I can do windshield replacements virtually all year round, no matter what the weather is.
“But customers need to be aware that when they have their windshields replaced, they need to ask that technician how long it’s going to be before it’s safe to drive the car.
“It’s very important that the urethane cures correctly because if it doesn’t, the windshield may not stay in place if you would be in an accident.”