Perfectionism: Sometimes Even Big Companies Get It Right

During a cruise to Tallahassee with the Bay Mustang Club a little more than a month ago, I was driving on Interstate-10 at about 70 miles per hour when an object hit the upper windshield of the Mustang. The outcome was a four-inch vertical crack. I opened a claim with my insurance carrier (Grundy Worldwide) the next day, and was informed that the windshield would be replaced with no deductible. The recommended vendor was Safelite, a nationwide company that advertises on television. I was not choosy about using an aftermarket brand of windshield, since I’ve already modified the convertible extensively, but I did wonder how a big company like Safelite would deal with an “old school” gasket-mounted windshield in a 45-year-old car.
By coincidence, I had been planning to replace the gasket, which was 17 years old and leaked in the corners, while having some other work done at a local body shop. Fortuitously, the cracked windshield meant the labor would be covered. Thus, while the car was in the shop, a tech from Safelite removed the windshield. Minor corrosion in the frame had led to a couple of pin holes that needed repaired in the recessed area, so that was handled as separate labor from the insurance claim. Once the corrosion was repaired, the tech returned and installed a new Safelite windshield using a gasket that I had already received from an online vendor.
Soon afterwards I drove the convertible to the Mustangs & Mustangs gathering at Fantasy of Flight, an aviation museum near Orlando. It was a great show, but a heavy rainstorm spoiled the afternoon at about 3 pm. While driving back to my hotel in a deluge, I discovered several leaks in the new windshield gasket, even at the top. That led to the discovery of a significant flat spot or cupped area in the glass itself—a noticeable deformity. It also explained why I was getting a lot of wind noise that I had not heard previously.
A major cup at the top of the glass caused both wind and water leaks.
Back in Panama City, I went to the Safelite shop and showed them the problem. They agreed that the windshield was deformed and ordered a replacement. A few days later, Mike Stephens came over to my house with his company van to install the new windshield. But as soon as he pulled the new piece from its cradle in the van, we could see that it was also deformed—probably worse than the windshield already in my car. Mike admitted that the glass was manufactured overseas, and that its quality was poor. He promised to track down a better windshield. Both he and the manager, who followed up with a phone call, made sure that I knew they were going to make things right. I was impressed by their professionalism and attention to customer service.
It took Safelite a few weeks to track down a quality windshield within their system, but eventually a Pilkington windshield was shipped from Michigan. The glass was actually manufactured in Mexico, and it was literally just a few weeks old, with a March 2012 inspection date. Say what you want about NAFTA, but this was obviously a superior windshield. Best of all, it was tinted darker than either my original glass or the overseas replacement. The feds recently mandated a higher UV rating in windshield glass, which should help reduce the daytime heat inside the car—a bonus here in Florida.
Mike Stephens has removed the first replacement glass–brand new, but deformed.
Safelite also provided a new gasket. It proved to be considerably thicker and harder than the one I had purchased, and had a lip at the top where the forward edge of the stainless steel trim would lock in—a feature lacking in the previous gasket. I watched while Mike did a very professional job of roping the windshield in and filling the frame recesses with plenty of sealer, which was allowed to cure for a couple of days. Mike then returned to my house and compressed the still-soft sealer, pressing it in to eliminate air holes. He reinstalled the trim and the job was done.
“Roping in” is old school. Mike uses nylon cord to pull the inner lip of the gasket over the frame
I gave everything an additional day to cure, then took the convertible out on Friday (May 4) for a test run. With the new glass and a much heavier gasket, I’m happy to report that the amount of wind noise has dropped dramatically. I also tested the new installation for leakage. I dumped a lot of water on the windshield with a hose extension in the “shower” setting and also the high-pressure “jet” position. There was absolutely no leakage around the gasket, but I have to admit that’s no comparison to driving in heavy rain at 50 or 60 mph for an extended time. I don’t go looking for such weather, but on long trips it can’t always be avoided. I take the Mustang on lengthy journeys every summer, so I’m certain to  run into another downpour. When that happens, I have every confidence that even in the worst conditions, leakage  will be minimal. 
With a quality windshield and gasket, everything fits as it should
In the meantime, I am pleased that the Safelite franchise in Panama City bent over backwards to make sure my windshield was repaired correctly. It’s nice to see a big, national company take pride in customer relations and service.
Note: This post is completely voluntary. I was not asked by a company representative to write this, nor do I stand to gain anything from it. Just happens to be true.
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