When your windshield cracks and you need a replacement, there are two types of auto glass available to you—OEM and aftermarket glass. Which of these options is best for you?
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. OEM auto glass is fabricated by the same manufacturer that provided the original glass the automaker placed in your vehicle. In essence, you should be getting an almost identical piece of glass as to what your vehicle came with when it rolled off the assembly line. OEM glass also has special automaker branding on it.
Aftermarket parts are made by a company other than the original glass fabricator. Or by the same company on a different production line from the OEM manufacturer. Some of these parts are similar quality to OEM parts. Others are not. If you’re paying for your glass replacement out-of-pocket, this could be the cheaper option.
However, there is a debate in the auto glass industry as to whether aftermarket glass is of the same quality as OEM glass.
Several years ago, Consumer Reports cautioned consumers not to let insurance company pressure you into using aftermarket collision repair body parts, especially safety-related parts. With your windshield supporting the structural integrity of your vehicle, particularly in a rollover situation, it is definitely a safety-related part.
The real question: Is an OEM windshield safer than an aftermarket windshield? There is no general consensus in the auto glass industry. You need to speak with educated auto glass personnel who can discuss the options available for you. They can help you make the best choice for your vehicle.
To find a knowledgeable auto glass company, visit Glass.com and enter your ZIP code. In a few easy steps, you can have a customer service representative on the line. He or she can also conference call in your insurance representative to see what type of part your insurance coverage covers for a replacement. Never make a decision without consulting both an auto glass company representative and your insurer.
Some manufacturers require OE glass in replacements.
For many years, those in the auto industry were tight-lipped regarding the safety of OEM glass versus aftermarket glass, however, the advent of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems has resulted in big shift., Many automakers are now requiring or recommending that windshields with cameras or sensors located on them be replaced with OEM glass when broken.
One prominent example is Honda.
“While non-OEM parts may look the same and fit in the same physical space on the vehicle, their use may present unforeseen circumstances causing the driver assist or other safety systems to operate abnormally or not at all,” according to a statement by Honda.
Many of Honda’s newer models feature one or more of the following systems: Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System and Road Departure Mitigation.
These systems use either a camera or a combination of a camera and radar. Replacing the windshield with anything other than OEM parts might result in errors according to Honda’s statement.
Not just windshields are affected by the new technology. Honda’s 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD requires OE side glass.
“The model listed above uses acoustic front side door glass for sound isolation on some trim levels,” according to the automaker’s statement. They claim using anything other than OE glass could diminish the effects of the acoustic glass and crease cabin noise.
Mercedes-Benz USA has also announced that it strongly recommends using OEM glass for windshield replacements.
The automaker’s position statement says, “Aftermarket glass often does not account for complex electrical components [involved in ADAS] and may interfere with your vehicle’s electronic systems, or cause these electronic systems to not function properly.”
Subaru has joined the list of automakers that are now supporting OEM glass usage in replacements. The automaker strongly recommends this glass be used on models that are equipped with the EyeSight Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS).
The EyeSight system includes adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, as well as lane departure and sway warning. It also features lane-keep assist function, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert.
“Always use Subaru genuine windshield glass specifically designed for EyeSight,” reads a notice placed on windshields for new models equipped with EyeSight. “If windshield glass other than glass specifically designed for EyeSight is used, the visibility of the camera can be blocked or the distortion of the glass can prevent the correct measurement of an object resulting in abnormal EyeSight operation.”
OEM glass should be used for windshield replacements due to the complex technology now available in vehicles, particularly on the windshield, says Nissan.
Automotive glass plays an important role in vehicle safety by providing structural rigidity, ocular clarity and “integration with advanced vehicle technology,” according to Nissan’s statement.
The companies that fabricate OEM and aftermarket glass, some who provide products to both markets, are cautious in taking a stand.
There is a wide separation between OEM and aftermarket parts, according to a Chevrolet glass engineer.
“Some are very good and some are not very good,” he said referring to aftermarket products. “OEM, to me, sets a very different standard on the parts. I cannot control the aftermarket so I cannot say whether it meets OE standards.”
Another industry veteran, Russ Corsi, who worked with PPG, a manufacturer and fabricator of auto glass, for many years, notes that OEM products typically have very strict inspection criteria and very tight tolerances.
“So you can make an aftermarket product, but it won’t necessarily meet the original-equipment specifications,” he says.
Corsi also pointed out that some large glass manufacturers make both OEM and aftermarket products, so they have more tools in the arsenal for their products to be quite similar across both markets.
If you drive a higher end luxury model, it may be wise to consider OEM glass. However, if you drive an older model with less technology embedded in the glass, then aftermarket glass may work well for you.
Ensure you educate yourself by talking with an experienced technician and your insurance agent before making the decision on what type of glass to use.