Getting it Right

ADAS Makes Finding the Right Windshield Difficult

By Tara Taffera

A variety of issues arise for auto glass companies when it comes to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). But a prevalent problem almost all companies are grappling with is how to get the right windshield for the newer models equipped with this technology—on the first try. Failure to do so could result in lost customers, something no company wants to risk.

“This is a huge pain point [for shops] related to the customer experience,” says Josh Schwermer, chief technology officer at Glass Mechanix Solutions. “Having the wrong piece of glass show up is the worst thing in the world.”

To cut down on that occurrence, AGRR breaks down the different options available for helping you pinpoint the correct windshield. Many in the industry refer to these as VIN decoders or VIN look ups. If we missed one that works for you please let us know and we will consider covering it in a future article.

Where to Start

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can provide a variety of information on a person’s vehicle, which of course includes the type of auto glass. While the 17 digit VIN gives some details on the vehicle, it doesn’t outline the exact windshield or parts needed to replace it. In fact, it does not include the glass part number at all. That’s often when an auto glass professional will use a decoder to help narrow down the list of materials needed for their project, and the potential glass needed for the windshield.

Nowadays a particular model can sport up to 16 different windshields with 16 different NAGS numbers. It’s difficult for most consumers to discern the various value-added features of their glass. A vehicle’s unique VIN encodes technical information—including the proper glass part. Vehicle decoders can also help cut down on the time glass shops spend trying to find the correct product.

Time is crucial especially when needing to find the right solutions for your customers. That’s one of the benefits in using a decoder. It allows a technician to get vehicle information at a faster rate. Some in the industry even recommend contacting the dealer to find the correct windshield if it’s not clear after your search.

“Most people don’t know what they have in their cars,” says Larry Diesbach, division manager of Regional Auto Glass in Greensboro, N.C.

Time is of the essence when servicing or fixing customer’s vehicles, calling vehicle dealers for information on the exact windshield you need only adds time to the process. “We can call the dealer anytime because we’re buying a lot of glass and parts from them, so they’re patient with us,” says Diesbach.

But he has industry colleagues who have been cut off by dealers who won’t give this information to shops who call. They aren’t going to waste time when they can make money in the dealership.

Deciphering the Decoders

Even though Diesbach often calls his dealer, he has tried many of the tools available from various suppliers (see box on page 18) and some of the free sites as well.

One company who offers such a product is Glass Mechanix Solutions. The company launched about six months ago and beta tested it for about a year and a half before that. Schwermer describes its product as a VIN lookup tool and helps explain the difference between a lookup and a decoder.

“A decoder will look at the 17 character VIN based on the model year which on its own can identify quite a bit,” he says. “But when it comes to auto glass, the important information is really contained in the last 7 characters of the VIN. Essentially, with our product, we are able to narrow it down. If we can’t we don’t charge you.”

Gary Hart, founder of eDirectGlass, also points out the differences among a decoder and a lookup. His company’s tool, VINSearch, is described as a lookup, and says the big difference is that this type of search will provide make, model, year, etc.

Schwermer says the success rate of is currently at 82 percent and that there are a variety of reasons for why they can’t pinpoint the glass in those 18 percent of the cases.

“It could be due to ambiguity in the NAGS database. It could be that we don’t have info for that vehicle from the manufacturer. At the end of the day the only one who knows is the manufacturer. So your success is based on the data you get from the OE,” he says.

The Glass Mechanix System, and other similar tools, are also very dependent on NAGS Part Numbers.

“We are only as good as the NAGS database,” says Schwermer.

Some dealer part numbers aren’t even in NAGS, for example, the Mazda CX3. “There are 10 different versions of it–all with ADAS,” says Diesbach. “One is smart city breaking, then smart city breaking with rain sensor, then smart city breaking with dual camera, the list goes on.”

Schwermer also says a failure to pinpoint the correct windshield could be due to the lack of one small piece of information, such as whether or not the vehicle has a lane departure system.

“The worst thing we can do is have you order the wrong piece of glass,” he says.

Systematize the Process

He adds that the customers who are most successful are the ones who have integrated the tool into the process and use it for every quote.

“Most shops are going to say that is expensive,” says Schwermer but we advise you to check the VIN on any late model vehicle.

That’s a system Diesbach has employed. “On any call we get a license number, and that gets us the VIN number,” he says.

“I have no billing errors now because I pull the VIN on everything,” says Diesbach. “Some people say it’s a lot of work but once you get in the flow it makes you so much more productive. You lose so much money if you don’t do it. I know people who buy all three windshields for a certain model that way one of them will be right.”

That creates another problem because then that shop wants to return the two incorrect windshields.

“That’s why return policies are so strict,” says Diesbach. “I think we will see distributors go to a restocking fee if you order more than what you need.”

Hart says that one distributor has licensed SwiftVIN so they can check orders when they come in from shops. “They have seen their return rates dip from high levels to 1-2 percent now,” he says.

Whatever method a shop employs, it’s better to spend time on the front end then order the wrong windshield that will lose you a customer.

Decoding the Options

There are various VIN decoders or lookup tools available and AGRR researched some available from industry companies. Following is a look at some of those tools.

Mainstreet, MobilePRO™

Mainstreet says its software has an interface with a third-party manufacturer-build database that helps determine the correct glass for most vehicles. This third-party interface suggests the OE part and from that it is matched to the NAGS data. There is a per vehicle charge for this feature since it queries a third-party’s database, according to the company. Mainstreet also includes a VIN decoder in its software that essentially gets you to the correct vehicle and the MobilePRO™ app scans the VIN and syncs the VIN to the work order in the Point of Sale, the company says.

Glass Mechanix,

Glass Mechanix launched this site about six months ago and boasts an 82 percent success rate. The company charges one dollar per success, and you don’t have to be a customer to use it. For more details on this product see page 17.

GLAXIS (A Solera Company), Right Glass

According to the company’s website, RightGlass enables you to identify exact replacement auto glass for supported vehicles. “The tool taps into an exclusive OEM auto glass and NAGS parts database, sourced directly from auto manufacturers,” says the website. Simply input the VIN and RightGlass will decode the VIN and identify the correct vehicle.

eDirect Glass, Total Shop Management

The Total Shop Management solution from eDirect Glass includes a number of valuable tools and resources, to streamline your work and improve your bottom-line, according to the company’s website. This includes dozens of features, one of them being, “OE Part Verify & SwiftVIN.” Gary Hart, founder, eDirectGlass, points out that this valuable tool can be used as part of the Total Shop Management Solution, or auto glass shops can subscribe to the SwiftVIN system for $19.95 per month, per user. The product was launched in 2014 and the information comes directly from OEM data, and users can start by entering the VIN number or the license plate number, and that will get them the OEM number. Hart says there are a few unique features of this system, including the fact that SwiftVIN queries the manufacturer to find out what technical bulletins related to ADAS are available, as well as what type of calibration is needed, and if that needs to be done in house or from the dealer. The success rate is 90 percent, according to Hart.

Mitchell: GlassMate

Mitchell International, the company that provides NAGS part numbers, also offers Glassmate, a point-of-sale system that provides many features including VIN decoding—all with access to complete NAGS information.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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