New Tools, New Ideas and the Tried and True
By Travis Rains
Customers want their windshields installed promptly, and most acknowledge that speed takes a back seat to quality. While shops may take different approaches, choosing their best tools is one of a tech’s most important considerations.
Martin Medina is a co-owner of Pinal County Auto Glass in Arizona, which currently utilizes two tools Medina calls “game changers.
Game Changing Tools
The first is the AirPro Auggie, a forward-facing calibration tool for static calibrations that received a patent in November 2021. Medina purchased the device a few months ago and his technicians are putting it to use on nearly all vehicle makes.
“Instead of having to lug around a recalibration stand or all the targets needed, everything is just in that one unit; and it works well,” Medina says of the Auggie. “We wanted a product where we wouldn’t have to have all the recalibration cords, stands and everything because we don’t have a dedicated vehicle for all that. We wanted to make it super easy for techs to go out and take care of business. That’s when we started looking around for different products, but a lot of that stuff is really bulky.”
Medina found the Auggie to be much more manageable. He was sold on the product after AirPro sent a representative to Arizona for a demonstration and to provide the shop with additional information.
“It was a good fit for us and it’s been working awesomely,” Medina says. “As far as the recalibration rate, we can use the Auggie for about 90% of our jobs. It’s not 100%, but neither are the target boards.”
Medina says his customers appreciate the addition of the Auggie, as it provides additional mobile capabilities due to the product’s compact nature. Technicians like it for similar reasons.
“Our techs like that they can throw the unit in their vans,” Medina says. “Plus, everybody has space for it in their vans. You just take it with you when you need it.”
The other “game changing” product Pinal uses has been on the market for a few years. Medina says the WRD Orange Bat cutting tool is useful on a number of different vehicles and can fit into smaller spaces, such as for quarter panels.
“It’s a lot more efficient and there’s less chance of scratching the vehicles,” he says. “It’s also less strain on the technicians to use. We’ve been able to go more than a year with the first unit and have yet to replace any parts; it even gets used five to six times a day.”
Enrique Enriquez, an installer at Express Auto Glass LLC in Tucson, also favors WRD’s products, such as the Orange Bat and the ever-evolving Spider.
“They’re always coming out with new tools and new techniques for glass replacement,” Enriquez says of WRD. “I have almost everything they sell and they completely changed everything for me as far as my confidence goes on my jobs.”
Enriquez has been in the industry since 1996 and is still surprised at how few technicians utilize such tools.
“The attachments interchange and, if I cutout a windshield, I can switch out the parts and I can set the window with the same system,” he says. “I believe it can turn any regular technician into a great technician.”
Express Auto Glass also just purchased the MA600 calibration system from Autel.
“I’ve dealt with calibration systems since they started coming out,” Enriquez says. “We recently got this new ADAS system, and it sure is something else. It can do everything, all the calibrations on any car; it’s just awesome. Calibrations are really simple with this system. Older systems are like Gameboys and this system is like a tablet.”
Jason Martin, owner at Wisefly Auto Glass in Florida, says many of his technicians like the Terminator cutting tool, a newer automatic windshield repair system from Equalizer. However, Wisefly performs a lot of work on classic vehicles and Martin instructs his technicians to use manual tools for such jobs. In those instances, Martin finds himself returning to the Equalizer Raptor, which has been on the market for the better part of a decade.
“With a Raptor, I can feel it,” he says. “I know I’m not going to cut through anything because I can feel it in my hands. But anything with a drill or screw gun, I can’t feel it.”
That doesn’t mean Martin isn’t taking stock of new developments in the industry, as it’s all about quality for his shop. But some of those newer developments aren’t entirely positive, Martin says. He says plastic is increasingly being used in the production of AGRR products and that the practice leads to tools breaking down faster than their sturdier counterparts.
“A lot of technicians are going out on the road and their tools are in the sunlight a lot, so they break down quicker,” he says. “I understand they do it to make the tools more affordable for technicians and cheaper for the company to build, but I still have some of my tools from when I started doing glass more than 30 years ago. Nowadays, I see the quality basis in tools starting to drop.” Another way to increase quality is to make processes easier for the technicians.
Food for Thought
“Comparing to when I started to now, it’s two completely different games,” Martin says. “The tools that have come into the industry help techs be able to do this job a lot longer without carpel tunnel and other issues with their hands. It’s saving cars and helping technicians, and it’s absolutely wonderful.”
Luis Lopez of Universal Calibration in Florida needed proof that the Quickset Tool from the PipeKnife Company was as easy to use as demonstration videos suggested. With its ease of use, Lopez says the Quickset is another product that goes a long way in keeping technicians safe in the long term.
“I remember looking at a video and thinking that it just looked too simple and that there was no way it could work that well,” Lopez says, adding that he studied the product for a number of weeks before making the purchase. “This is the easiest, fastest tool that I’ve ever used. I do 600 to 700 windshields a week and every single one of my installers has one of these in their vans.”
Lopez says the Quickset Tool can be utilized on 95% of his jobs, is small, lightweight and helps to simplify processes for technicians. He also says the tool can be set up and ready to go in only a few seconds, as opposed to competing products that can take as long as five minutes to prepare.
“Five minutes in auto glass is a lifetime,” he says.
Furthermore, Lopez says the product eliminates the need for a second technician on jobs, which helps with the company’s bottom line. He adds that the Quickset is versatile and can be used as a wire extraction tool as well.
“To me, the advantage is time, money and that it’s very inexpensive,” Lopez says. “It’s the cheapest setting tool on the market and the quality is amazing. I actually get better sets with one person with this product as opposed to two people. I’ve found the tool to be accurate and versatile having several purposes, and it saves your back.”
With more than three decades in the industry, Martin has some suggestions for industry product improvements. For one, he says there’s the issue of mobility.
“A lot of the tools are not made small enough to be organized into a van,” Martin says. “If they would come up with different systems for vans for mobile service, that would make it much easier. These days, some of the best setting tools available are so heavy you’d have to use it in a shop. It’s not feasible to use them for mobile jobs.”
Martin also says companies designing products for the auto glass repair and replacement industry should staff more technicians during the design process.
“You can have a tool made that’s wonderful on the computer, but when you actually go and use the tools you start seeing different issues as a technician,” he says. “Each setting tool out there, and we use a bunch of different ones, has its flaws and positives. But if a company had more technicians on their design team, they could address the issue.”
Travis Rains is assistant editor for AGRR magazine. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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