Auto Laundry News - March 2012

Windshield Chip Repair — Winter Weather Can Bring Spring Profits

By Keith Duplessie

With the worst of the winter weather over, now is the time to consider adding windshield chip repair to your extra services. Combine a winter filled with salted/graveled roads, tire chains, studded snow tires, and windshields, and you have a perfect recipe for rock chip damage.

We know that in the past, when motorists had a rock chip in their windshield, they had two choices: replace the windshield, or wait for it to crack and then replace it. But today, windshield rock chip repair offers an alternative for the motorist. An alternative that can mean clear profit for the detail shop.

A Simple Concept
The method of repair is quite simple. Windshields consist of three layers: a plastic or vinyl laminate sandwiched between two layers of glass.

When a rock strikes the windshield, it breaks the first layer of glass, creating an air pocket between the layers. This air is what causes the visible distortion. But, as long as the damage is isolated to the first layer of glass, the repair can be made successfully.

The Systems
Windshield chip repair systems come in kit form, and are available through a number of suppliers and franchises, ranging in price from under $300 to over $3,000. However, all use the same basic technological concept. As far as I’m concerned, the least expensive systems work just fine.

The systems all include a vacuum device to remove the air and inject the resin, a UV light to cure the resin, plus a few miscellaneous items.

Process and Pricing
The first step is to clean out the chip, even drill it to ensure a perfect opening. Next, pour the resin into the vacuum chamber. The device is then attached, evacuating all air from the chip. You can see the air evacuating the chip from the bubbles in the resin. This usually takes up to 10 minutes.

When all the air is out, the resin is forced into the chip cavity by pressure injection, using the same device.

To hasten the process, a small UV lamp is included to cure the resin in about 10 to 15 minutes. Once cured, the resin acts like an adhesive to bond the layers of glass, forming a nearly invisible repair.

The entire process takes less than 30 minutes to complete, mostly waiting time. But, for that total of 30 minutes, a shop can charge anywhere from $30 to $50 per chip, a tremendous mark-up considering material costs run about $2 to $3 dollars on average.

Repair prices vary from system to system, but it will always be less expensive than windshield replacement.

Insurance Companies
Because repair is always less expensive than replacement, insurance companies are 100 percent in support of windshield chip repair.

Often, to encourage the motorist to repair rather than replace, insurers will pay from $30 to $50 per chip, and waive the deductible. That means it costs the motorist nothing to repair the chip(s) and it means $30 to $50 in your pocket.

Consumer Awareness
Although glass repair technology has been around for about 20 years, most people are unaware of its existence, still considering replacement their only alternative.

So, if you plan to incorporate glass repair into your business, you must let customers know what it is, that it may be free for them (if they have insurance), and that you can do it in just 30 minutes.

Quick Lubes
Think about it. One study done at a fast-oil-change facility revealed that over 50 percent of the cars had at least one windshield chip. If you process several cars a month, that means a lot of chips.

While the profit potential is not staggering, rock chip repair can still represent big profits to your business, even if you could sell to only 10 percent of your customers.

Promotion and Advertising
All you need to do is to hand out flyers. Have a display in the waiting room using a “before and after” glass model; or simply bring the chip to the customer’s attention.

Be sure to point out that the insurance company will waive the deductible so it will cost the customer nothing.

Off-Site Promotion
Be sure to contact local auto dealers, rental car agencies, taxi companies, government agencies, and companies with vehicle fleets. All are viable customers for rock chip repair.

Also, make sure to get in touch, personally, with all the insurance claim centers in the area, letting them know you have this service available. They’ll refer business to you. Plus, having a familiarity with local claims adjustors will allow you to make a quick phone call to assure clients in the shop that their insurance carriers will pay for the service. It’s really a “give-me-money” situation.

You could even offer the windshield repair as a free service to full service customers now and then as a “special.” This is an amenity that could give your shop the edge you’ll need to set you apart from the competition.

When to Repair Chips vs. Cracks
While the National Glass Association has been studying this issue of glass repair, it still is not settled. It is recommended that you exercise good judgment in determining what to repair.

Insurance companies and auto manufacturers agree that it is best to repair only smaller chips that are not in the driver’s line of vision.

Whether it is advisable to repair cracks or larger breaks is still being debated. Long cracks can be repaired by drilling a series of tiny holes along the break-lines, performing the repair hole by hole until the crack is filled. However, most experts believe that this type of repair should not be performed, since the crack is still there, and often, can still be seen. Moreover, it may also weaken the glass’ structural integrity.

From an economic point of view, repairing larger cracks takes much longer, so the profit is lessened. If you charge too much to compensate, you may make it attractive for the customer to replace the windshield.

Glass repair can be an excellent way to build new traffic as well as provide additional service to existing customers. Regardless of your intentions, windshield rock chip repair will generate profits for your shop.

Keith Duplessie is technical services manager for Portland, OR-based Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems. You can reach Keith at keith@detailplus.com.

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