“The Thousand Dollar Windshield”

That’s the title of the latest article at Eric Peters’ blog.  He points out that modern technology in our vehicles is costing all of us a lot more when it comes to repairs, even for something as ostensibly simple as replacing a windshield.

Embedded in the glass – part of the “assembly” – is saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety technology. It’s usually part of the rearview mirror, technically – but that’s now part of the windshield assembly in more and more new cars.

It’s no longer the simple – and generic/universal – glue it in place rearview mirror cars used to have.

The rearview mirror is almost an afterthought.

The rest of the assembly – that huge chunk of plastic that’s glued to the glass – contains sensors and cameras, integral to saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety systems such as Lane Keep Assist, Automated Emergency Braking and so on. Some keep track of what’s happening outside the car and some (like Subaru’s EyeSight system) also keep track of what’s going on inside the car.

. . .

The replacement windshield for the 2016 [vehicle] costs say $200; $150 for the functionally identical aftermarket/generic replacement. But the same glass for the 2018 [model] costs twice as much – because it’s no longer just the glass . . . and because there is no generic/aftermarket option.

That stone chip just got a lot more expensive.

Your insurance, too. Both the premium and the deductible. People are beginning to notice – especially after they file that first claim for a replacement windshield. They are fall-to-their-knees grateful when they find out that’s only going to cost them $100 (for the deductible) to get that $1,000 windshield.

A month later, they get the new bill – the “adjusted” premium (and deductible) which – in defense of the insurance mafia – reflects a legitimate cost.

What’s not legitimate is that we can’t opt out – of either.

There’s more at the link.

The entire article is worth reading in full.  For years, manufacturers have been making vehicles that are more and more difficult for an owner or home mechanic to maintain, due to computerization and other “advances”.  It’s getting to the point that if a car’s more than two or three years old, an accident results in an automatic insurance write-off of the entire vehicle, because the cost of replacement parts, and/or the time and skilled labor and equipment needed to install them, is prohibitive.  Cheap repairs aren’t, not anymore.

I’m grateful for many of the advances in automotive technology that make our lives easier today . . . but I can’t help think of my first cars (a Morris 1100 Mk. 1, followed by a Chevrolet Firenza 1300), which were shade-tree-mechanic maintenance specials, and on which I could turn a wrench without fear of unscrewing the inscrutable.




  1. I have a Jeep Wrangler and it doesn't have almost any of this nonsense. Granted it's ten years old but "lane assist" isn't much use when you're off-roading. Sad that you have to look to niche cars to keep some sanity in things.

  2. Old headlights: $20 and 10 minutes elbow grease.
    New headlights: $800, and disassemble the front of the car.

  3. Sometimes I wish I still had my 1992 Jeep Cherokee Sport 2-door. Barebone 5-speed, no AC, and no electronic bullshit.
    And a great motor I could work on.

  4. Years ago I had a '53 Chevy pickup. When I worked on the engine I sat on a fender with my feet down on the frame. Now I drive the '07 version. While it's been pretty reliable, there isn't a whole lot that I can do on it anyway.

  5. As to the $1000 windshield. Got a ride in a new model year Soul the last time I took our vehicle into service. The front windshield had defrost wires in it. Higher end model mind you, but still. I noticed it because my eyes were going buggy even as a passenger.

  6. Replacement cost for Class A motorhome windshields? $5000+, for some of them. I'm told the minimum is $1500. Part of that is the two man team needed for installation of a full span part. Some are two piece.

  7. Ah, the TechnoAddiction!!

    Automotive News ran an article indicating that 64% of buyers did not want, nor do they use, most of the "techno" crap in new cars. If they can, they disable the stuff.

    But they pay for it.

    This is largely driven by insurance companies (the safety institute is their property) so they can reduce their payouts for injuries. As you note, they also increased their premium intake….hmmmmm…..

  8. BTW, some of the increased costs are in the airbag systems that vehicles now have. This, combined with the "crumple zone" design of the same vintage cars (and pickup trucks to some degree), have made them MUCH safer in crashes than older ones.

    However, be aware that an airbag deployment will often lead to your insurance company "totaling" the vehicle. The more airbags it contains, the more likely this will result. There could easily be a dozen in a sedan.

    Some cars have stickers showing an expiration date for the airbags it contains. I'm not aware of how the insurance companies look at this subject, but you might keep this in mind when buying a used car.

    Mercedes has these stickers for sure. ISTR that it was around 15 years life expectancy, but don't quote me on that.

  9. I was an ASE Master Certified technician for 20 years. I quit the industry when you had to remove body parts to perform basic repairs on basic vehicles. I'll never forget the Ford truck that required cab removal to change the diesel injection pump. Or the Ford Taurus that you have to take the bumper off to change the radiator… Yeah, progress isn't really an improvement.

  10. Fred,
    my impression was that the US makers were trying to copy the design philosophy of the Japanese makers, without understanding what drove the Japanese market, especially their domestic market, which underpinned it all.

    If you don't understand the principals involved, the outcome can be less than optimal.

  11. Dad29, ain't it the truth. My wife has a newer Buick with all bells and whistles. The collision avoidance system will occasionally pick up a car sitting on the side street waiting to pull out. It "thinks" there is a stopped vehicle in my lane and will blare an alarm and hit the brakes, hard! The wife automatically blames me and won't believe me when I tell her it's the car. The lane keeping system plays an annoying chime, whether I'm just drifting over, avoiding trash in the lane, or changing lanes on an empty road without using my blinkers. Doesn't matter why, every chime gets me "the look" and a lecture. So yeah, as soon as I get in the driver's seat, all those features get turned off.

  12. A little late here but I want to point out that back in the mid 90's, Ford had this crazy windshield defrost system available on a couple of their higher end vehicles available as an Add On you could get. The system worked by Full Fielding The alternator and bypassing the rectifier in it, essentially causing it to put out a large A/C voltage instead of the normal D/C voltage.
    This large current was then wired into the WINDSHIELD its self, which had ACTUAL Gold embedded in it.
    Even back then a replacement windshield for those was like $1500!

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