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If you've recently made the switch from a car or truck with a steel body to one with an all-aluminum body, you're likely already enjoying some of the benefits -- including increased fuel economy and safer crash test ratings. However, one difference you may not have considered comes into play if you develop chips or cracks in your vehicle's windshield or other window glass. Because aluminum tends to chemically react to outside elements far more easily than steel, it's important for technicians to be able to make repairs and replacements to your auto glass without altering the chemical composition of the aluminum surrounding the glass. Read on to learn more about how the auto glass repair and replacement process works when it comes to aluminum vehicles, as well as what you should do if you find yourself in need of glass repair.
Why is the glass replacement process for aluminum vehicles different from steel vehicles?
When a windshield is replaced in a steel-bodied vehicle, the technicians will use solvents or other substances to dissolve the glue that holds the windshield seal to the metal of the frame. This seal (and the windshield) are then removed, and a new seal and windshield are installed. For steel-bodied vehicles, this process creates a windshield that looks, fits, and functions just like the original manufacturer's windshield.
However, aluminum is a much trickier metal, and is much more prone to contamination. In some cases, something as simple as a bit of steel dust on a piece of aluminum that hasn't yet been primed is enough to slightly change the chemical composition of the metal. If a vehicle's aluminum panel becomes contaminated or chemically unstable, it may cause internal and external damage to the surrounding body metal -- including chipping and peeling paint or even structural weaknesses. Therefore, it's important to have your auto glass replaced by someone who has received special training in aluminum fabrication and is aware of the safety and other precautions that should be taken to avoid developing problems with the aluminum.
Although the auto glass replacement process for a vehicle with an all-aluminum body appears similar to that of a vehicle with a steel body, the aluminum technicians must use special solvents -- and a painstaking procedure -- to ensure that no oxidation occurs while the repair is taking place.
What should you do if your aluminum vehicle has a windshield chip or crack?
Chips, cracks, or scratches on the windshield of your aluminum-bodied vehicle should be repaired as quickly as possible. The longer the inside of your auto glass is exposed to air, the more potential there is for oxidation and other damage to the surrounding body panels -- even without replacing or repairing the window. These technicians will be able to sterilize the area and fill in the crack or scratch with a special type of aluminum glass filler to prevent any negative reactions.
If you need a full windshield replacement, you'll likely want to consult a technician that has been specifically trained to work with aluminum vehicles. Some manufacturers have already joined together with insurance agencies to ensure that these technicians are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and tools to successfully replace and repair windshields for these more advanced body styles (without increasing the cost to do so).
Another advantage to using a specially-trained technician is that any repairs performed are likely within your warranty -- and problems that could result from not using a specialist (like corrosion or paint peeling) may not be covered. If your vehicle is covered by a manufacturer's or aftermarket warranty, check with the warranty company to ensure the repair comports with their guidelines.