HOW TO: FIT AWINDSCREEN
Not as difficult as you might think. We show you how...
It is easy to under-estimate the importance of your Porsche’s windscreen. It is, after all, entirely transparent. Or it should be, anyway. Something that you spend your many hours behind the wheel looking through rather than directly at. Whether it qualifies as the single most important part of the car is open to debate, but you won’t be going very far (or fast) without it. Even if you could withstand the wind in your face above about 30mph, modern cars depend on the presence of their bonded-in glass, front and rear, for their structural integrity.
Your windscreen is also vulnerable to damage – but at the same time resistant to complete destruction. There can be few drivers who have never heard a loud bang and/or witnessed the appearance of a characteristic starburst on the glass in front of them, the result of a piece of gravel flung up by the vehicle ahead. This writer’s VW Passat has half a dozen such scars (small enough to pass an MOT); one of my 5-series BMWS has a crack across the lower right-hand corner (ditto, because it is just outside the area swept by the wipers); and even though the 944 has only a few bigger stone-chips, it looks as if the entire surface has been sand-blasted.
Sooner or later, however, the time may come when you have no choice but to replace your windscreen, either on cosmetic grounds (and scratches can be as much of a problem as impact damage), or to pass that annual safety inspection. Surprisingly, and perhaps uniquely within the car world, the windscreen industry – which you might imagine would try to sell us ever more
‘product’, regardless of whether or not we need it – has evolved some sophisticated and effective repair techniques (no doubt under pressure from the closely associated insurance industry), and with luck those can stave off that evil day until perhaps the car itself reaches the end of the road.
This ‘how-to’ story notwithstanding, that replacement is not really a DIY task. It requires few tools, and the principles are simple. It can be quite awkward and timeconsuming, though – not least to remove exterior and interior trim – and as with any procedure that involves large, heavy and inherently fragile pieces of glass, as well as some of the stickiest adhesives and sealants known to man, there remains the danger of making a complete hash of it. What we are aiming to do here, then, is to show how a professional goes about it, we hope leaving you with the knowledge not necessarily to do it yourself, but to be able to seek out your own specialist, and assess whether he or she is up to the job.
We say ‘seek out your own specialist’, but that is not always possible – or not if you want your insurance company to pick up even part of the bill. (Most motor policies include the now familiar ‘excess’ clause, which requires you to pay the first, say, £50 or £100 of any qualifying claim.) The majority of mainstream and on-line, pricecomparison-based insurers will require you to have any windscreen replacement (or repairs) carried out by one of their approved suppliers, and only by opting for a possibly more expensive specialist policy – or paying for the entire process yourself – can you be certain that you will be free to choose.
One such insurance scheme, here in the UK, is offered by Lockton (for more details go to locktonperformance.com). It’s recommended by the Porsche Club Great Britain (porscheclubgb.com) to its now 19,000 members, but the company is also happy to consider enquiries from Porsche-owning non-members, albeit on perhaps slightly less favourable terms. ‘We always offer a free choice of supplier,’ a spokesman told us, ‘whether it’s for bodywork and paint, or for windscreen repairs or replacement. We can’t claim that to be unique, but it is certainly quite unusual, and something we feel people
ought to be aware of before they commit to taking out a policy elsewhere.’
Should you find yourself in the position of being able to select your own repairer, then we think you will struggle to find a better man to replace your Porsche’s windscreen than Paul Ralhan of north London-based Glasstec (glasstecauto.co.uk). Undoubtedly there are many other equally skilled and conscientious fitters out there, working for the mainstream repair and replacement companies. But the fact is that having one of those work on your cherished Porsche, rather than some slapdash and bonus-focused clock-watcher, is going to be more a matter of luck than judgement.
Such is Paul’s attention to detail that we met for no fewer than three photo sessions. The first was for me to observe him fitting a brand-new front screen to a 993 – the one in the car at the time was a poorly installed after-market item; Paul always uses OE glass (and seals) whenever possible – and then to replace the same car’s rear window (or the backlight, as it is known within the trade). That was the original factory-fitted glass, but as was – and still is – all too common in 993s, was generating a loud creaking noise as it moved against the very slightly flexible structure of the body shell. Unsurprisingly the front windscreen was beginning to creak, too. (See also the panel on page 90.)
It soon became obvious that whoever had installed that front screen had either ignored the corrosion within the aperture in the body, or had created the conditions for it to start in the first place, and Paul rightly told the owner that needed to be addressed first. ‘I can fit the glass today,’ he told him, ‘but that’s just setting a pile of trouble in store for the future.’ It was a similar story at the rear. The glass may have been the original, undisturbed since installation at the Porsche factory, but it appeared to have been fitted too high within its rebate (at least partly the cause of the creaking), and Paul had to use all of his expertise and ingenuity to extract it without breaking it. And, no less crucially, without damaging the adjacent paintwork.
Our second meeting was a fortnight or so later at independent specialist Tognola Engineering in Datchet: another 993 – a red one this time – in for a new front screen, and although still showing the perhaps inevitable slight traces of corrosion within the rebate, treatable on the spot. The third time we met was back on the blue 993 owner’s driveway – a month after the initial attempt, and primarily because Paul had correctly rejected the bodyshop’s first efforts at repainting. And there is no doubt in my mind that, having now watched an expert in action over so many hours, I am confident that not only might I feasibly tackle a car like my 944, but also that I know enough about the process to check, as I have suggested, whether anyone else will do it to my satisfaction. I hope it gives you the same confidence and knowledge, too. PW
A good eye and a steady, confident hand with a sealant gun are among the required skills for successfully fitting Porsche (and other cars’) windscreens, and Paul Ralhan of north London-based Glasstec has both – plus patience, many years of experience, and not least the desire to get it right
The blue 993’s front windscreen was a poorly installed aftermarket item that was not only leaking but also creaking loudly – the latter a common problem in the cars even when they were new, and caused either by movement within the adhesive, or even by the glass and the body actually touching each other. The uneven outer trim/sealing rubber (near right) told its own story – and it was a similar picture at the rear (far right). Removal process begins by extracting clock from dashboard for access to antenna wire (right), and then pulling off both that outer trim and the rubber on the inside. Both items can be used again if in good enough condition, but unsurprisingly this car would require new ones
Some windscreen fitters will use an angled knife like this vicious-looking device (right) to cut through the adhesive – as will Paul Ralhan if in certain sections of the joint there is genuinely no alternative, but his preferred method is the traditional wire and ‘T’-handle. What amounts to a long needle is pushed through the adhesive bead from inside the car, and used to pull back into the cabin a specially profiled stainless-steel wire. Easy when you know how; impossible when you don’t