Petty car theft often means broken side glass. Repairing the damage yourself is one way to ease the loss.
You get a pretty nasty knot in your stomach when you discover your vehicle’s side window has been smashed and the interior ransacked; ask me how I know. On top of whatever was taken, there’s the added injury of getting the car repaired. Between the time it requires to file a claim with the insurance company and the inconvenience of taking the car to the repairers, fixing the window yourself can sometimes save a lot of headaches. Professional glass repair, including new glass and labour, has a frustrating tendency to cost exactly a few rand less than an insurance excess, so doing it yourself can save a ton of money. With a few pointers and some savvy parts sourcing, that unprotected hole in the door can be fixed in no time.
Unlike plate glass, vehicle glass is tempered, or heat treated, so it’s very hard, but when stressed past its breaking point it fails uniformly and catastrophically. This results in small pieces that won’t cause grievous harm to passengers, but the debris gets everywhere and will result in tiny, annoying cuts. Grab a powerful workshop vacuum and clean the seats, doors, dash, carpet, and centre console. Do the entire interior even if it doesn’t seem necessary; glass will be in places that don’t make any sense. Safety glasses and good work gloves are a must.
If you drive a luxury car with acoustic panes and special coatings, new glass is crazy expensive and hard to find. Massmarket cars have more affordable and readily available parts. Most car dealers will refer you to a glass specialist for brandnew parts, but if you can locate used glass, the savings can be significant. Hunt through nearby junkyards to find parts for common vehicles at steep discounts. For my 2001 Ford pick-up, used glass cost 11 per cent of a new piece.
Behind door no 1
The basic steps for replacing door glass are common, but the devil is in the details. The inner door panel comes off, the mounting hardware holding on to broken shards must be extracted, and new glass has to be shimmied into place; then everything’s got to be bolted back together. My vehicle is very basic – power nothing with roll-up windows – but as cars get more complicated, inner door panels get more devious in design. Grab a service manual for your car to make the process much clearer. This door panel on my vehicle is one big piece of plastic hung on retainer hooks, held tight by a few screws hidden behind trim. Yours will definitely be a harder repair, with multiple layered components and finicky clips.
If you have power windows, and most late-model cars do, you’ll need to unhook the quick-disconnect plug that delivers power to and from the window switches mounted to the inner door panel.
Remove and replace
With the inner door panel removed, peel back the plastic vapour-barrier sheet carefully, as you will need to reinstall it later. You should be able to see the door’s innards. Raise or lower the window-heightregulator mechanism to its service position; the height where the bolts or screws holding the glass remnants to the regulator align with access holes stamped in the steel. Crank windows make this easy; on power windows, plug in the switches on the loose inner door panel and turn the ignition to the “on” position; operate the window until the bolts align with the access holes. Vacuum broken glass from the door cavity; spending extra time here now avoids rattles later.
Next, remove the seal at the bottom of the window to open up the slot the glass panel needs to fit through. Finally, free one of the window tracks for fore-and-aft play that will make the install easier. These tracks guide the panel’s path and are bolted along the bottom of the door.
Wriggling the new glass into place is tricky. Drop the shorter side in first at a near-90-degree angle and try to catch the long side of the glass in its track; then rotate the short side up. After a few tries the glass will slip into place. Attach the glass panel to the regulator (ask a friend for help) and bolt the window track down, then run the new glass up and down to ensure that the motion is satisfactory. The remainder of the work: put the door together in reverse order. Hopefully you took good photos.
Interior designers work hard to hide the screws and clips holding the door together, so peep under and behind places you wouldn’t normally look.
Tools you’ll need include screwdrivers and a socket set, but a trim-removal tool will help a lot. It makes popping off clips and retainers much easier than with a screwdriver.
Since we’re dealing with glass, wear a heavy long-sleeve shirt, full pants, covered shoes, gloves and safety glasses. Tempered glass is safer than plate, but still treat it with respect.
When handling glass, be very methodical and don’t force anything. If getting something to fit is too hard, you’re not doing it right. Step back and examine the situation again.
Take pictures in sequence to remember how everything goes together. Keep removed parts in a cup or on a tray so they don’t get lost.