History of Auto Glass Repair
The history of windshield repair is filled with entrepreneurs and individuals that overcame great
many hurdles to become successful. While this history mainly deals with the companies that
manufacture the tools required to produce a repair, it is not meant to downgrade the activities of
service technicians who actually did the repairs. Without the great efforts of individual
pioneering retailers the industry would not have prospered and grown. People like Pat McClane
(Houston), Bill Batley (Seattle), Bruce Quande (Missoula) and Cindy Rowe Taylor (Harrisburg)
were responsible for talking to consumers and doing repairs. Also, this brief history deals only
with work that was started in the United States. Many of these companies later spread around
the world, forming other companies and associations. Without the efforts of all these people
windshield repair would not be where it is today.
Automobile glass repair or what is generally called windshield repair is a recent innovation
when compared to the history of the automobile. The technology needed to repair glass relates
to the introduction of multiple layers of glass (laminated safety glass) in windshields.
Laminated glass allows the windshield to remain basically intact, and for a repair to be done by
removing the air in the damaged area and replacing it with a resin. Although laminated glass in
automobiles dates back to the 1930’s, real improvements came in the 1960’s with the
improved plastic inner layer of Poly Vinyl Butyral (PVB). Prior to the early 1970’s when the first
windshield repair process was invented, the only improvement that could be done was purely
cosmetic. Typically, an oil-based fluid was poured into the area to fill the damage and to "hide"
the break. It has been said that some used car dealers did this to try to sell a vehicle without
installing a new windshield. It should go without saying that this was not a permanent repair.
The first company to produce a repair system was Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M)
Company in St. Paul, Minnesota. The 3M Company first introduced a system they called "Scotch
Weld" in 1971. This system employed ultra sound vibrations to clean the break and a syringe to
inject a resin, or adhesive into the damage. The equipment successfully repaired "bullseye"
type damage, but unfortunately was very large (filling the bed of a pick-up truck) and was very
expensive to build and thus to lease to others. It is said that 3M did a good job of introducing the
concept of windshield repair to insurance companies, but decided to pursue other products
when the repair equipment failed to attain the volume that they required.
In 1972, Origin Inc., a Research Company founded by Dr. Frank Warner in Jackson Hole,
Wyoming developed a process for repairing stone damaged windshields. Dr. Warner had
personally experienced stones breaking his windshield, and had directed work on a solution to
repair the glass, rather than replace the entire windshield. A key member of Dr. Warner’s
company, was Bill Wiele, a chemical engineer who developed adhesive resins that would be
clear and optically match the windshield glass. Dr. Warner decided to license his invention to a
former associate, Gerry Keinath. Keinath had recently started a small company, Novus Inc. to
market innovative products. Novus was responsible for much of the early pioneering work with
insurance companies and fleet operators to convince them of the merits of repairing
windshields. During the early days of Novus, the efforts were concentrated towards selling
equipment to glass replacement shops and automotive dealers. While a significant amount of
equipment was sold, not many repairs were being done. At the same time, Keinath noticed that
there was a small and growing group of individuals who were offering the service of windshield
repair using the Novus equipment. He decided to concentrate on working with "repair only"
specialists. He began by licensing the process to these individuals, and later in the mid 1980’s
moved into full-fledged franchising of the business.
In the mid 1970’s, as Novus was establishing its "repair only" specialists, another company
began by selling a "vacuum" windshield repair system within the glass replacement market.
Mort Gallub in suburban Philadelphia founded Glass Medic. Gallub owned one of the largest
auto reconditioning operations on the East Coast and found that replacing windshields meant
his profit margins on used vehicles became very slim. He had heard of the early progress of
repair, and experimented with various systems. Mort hired a research engineer to improve on
the system and eventually developed a "vacuum pump" process that he used within his
reconditioning business. Gallub hired, Bill Matles, a young glass replacement specialist to
market the product. In the 1980’s Glass Medic became the largest selling product within the
glass replacement industry.
As the 1970’s came to a close, the word of windshield repair began to spread, a number of
other companies began operations. Many began by first doing repairs, and then by producing
their own equipment. Tony and Gerry Jacino started Clear Star in New York, Hap Alexander
founded Glas-Weld Systems in Oregon and John Surdich started Kemxert in Pennsylvania.
In the early 1980’s two companies that were very big in auto glass replacement produced and
sold repair equipment. Harmon Glass in Minneapolis manufactured a system they called the
"Harmonizer", and Auto Glass Specialist under Bob Birkhauser formed a division called AEGIS
which produced and sold their equipment. In 1984, Walt and Darlene Deines formed Delta Kits
in Oregon. Their son Brent Deines now runs Delta Kits.
In 1981, Gene Curwick started doing windshield repair in Minneapolis and in 1985, he started
marketing his own resins and tools. In the mid to late 1980’s more companies started
producing equipment. Dan Wanstrath produced equipment that was automated and formed
Glass Technology in Colorado. Tom Sloan, Steve Ameter, and Steve Beck formed Liquid
Resins International in Illinois with specialization as an independent supply house with
multiple resins. Joyce Newsome started Tri Glass in Washington State. Ken Einiger,
concentrating on sales to people wanting to start their own businesses, founded Glass
Mechanix in Florida. Rich Campfield started Ultra Bond in California by specializing in
equipment to repair long cracks. Rich later moved his company to Colorado.
In the 1990’s windshield repair continued to grow with more companies entering the business,
and some changing ownership. While we can't list all of the new companies and changes,
here are a few of the more prominent ones. Keith Surdich left Kemxert and formed his own
company Poly-Lite W/R Supplies in Pennsylvania. Dave Casey founded Super Glass
Windshield Repair with Bill Costello and became one of two companies offering windshield
repair as a franchised product and Bill Penrod formed US Windshield Repair in Orange, CA. In
the very early 90’s Glass Medic was sold to its largest international customer, Belron
International, the largest glass replacement retailer in the world. The North American rights
were sold to Dave Schuh, a former manager of Novus. Dave operated the company until the
late 1990’s when Belron purchased it back. It is now operating as Glass Medic America under
the leadership of Paul Syfko. Also in the 90’s, the Keinath family sold Novus to Trans Canada
Glass International (TCGI). And in 1995 PATSCO windshield repair was formed by P. MClain in
Houston, Texas specializing in repairing cracks up to 24 inches and rockchips.
By the year 2000, significant changes occurred in the repair versus replacement marketing.
Although repair had been done by independent replacement dealers, and to a limited amount
by some of the larger US retailers, many replacement dealers, and most large retailers did not
devote a major effort towards repair. While repair was being done by leading replacement
companies in Europe, such as Belron’s Carglass and Autoglass divisions, it was not done to
the same extent in the U.S. In 1998 the marketing of windshield repair changed dramatically
when Safelite Auto Glass, the largest glass replacement retailer in the US, decided to embrace
windshield repair by forming a unit specializing in repair. Safelite’s Repair Medic program was
developed under the leadership of Paul Gross. The Repair Medic operation spread to major
markets in the United States offering repair directly from Safelite. In early 2002 another of the
large US auto glass replacement dealers, Harmon Auto Glass, founded its own repair only
division under the name RepairOne to concentrate on windshield repair.
While companies concentrating on "repairs only service" continue to do the largest number of
repairs, windshield repair has also proven itself as a viable alternative product offered by most
retail service companies in auto glass. And the predictions are that repair will continue to grow
as insurance companies and consumers understand the cost and product benefits. Today
windshield repair is an accepted product, not only in the United States, but also within almost
every country around the world.