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OEM vs. Aftermarket Windshield Glass: What You Need to Know

When your windshield cracks and you need a replacement, there are two types of windshield glass available to you—OEM and aftermarket glass. Which of these options is best for you?

This article is going to cause some controversy within the ranks of those who do auto glass manufacturing as well as those who do auto glass replacements. Indeed, in some circles, this is a very sensitive issue. So, I am going to start with a true story which I hope helps shape what I will ultimately say about this subject.

In February of 2000 I bought a brand new Corvette—what would be classified as a C-5 series. For 50 years I had dreamed of owning a Corvette, and when I finally had saved enough money to buy one, I did so. It was gorgeous. A triple black convertible with a six-speed manual transmission. Reportedly it would do 160 miles an hour…I got it up to 130 and while it had the ability to go faster, I didn’t. When I sold it in 2015, it had a little over 18,000 miles on it and had never been driven in the rain or snow and never came out of the garage except to be washed or driven. A tear trickled down my left cheek when I turned it over to its new owner. I have a “thing” for cars and I would have never thought of using anything but an original GM Corvette part for my Vette.

One afternoon I was at a social gathering and one of the guys there said he had just bought a new Pontiac and that he really loved how quick it was. He went on to state that the quickness and speed it had was because it had a Corvette engine in it. I was a bit offended and quickly said that unless the engine is in an actual Corvette, it is not a Corvette engine. It is a Pontiac engine perhaps made in the same manner with maybe the same engine characteristics of a Corvette engine but unless it was in a Corvette, it was not a Corvette engine. Several of the people at this gathering were car enthusiasts and a debate soon broke out and I was amazed at how passionate some people were about this subject. By the way, I still think I was right but some others did not.


Glass.com Operations Manager, Daniel Snow, talks with industry expert Bob Beranek

OEM Auto Glass

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 windshield to the factory auto glass your vehicle came with when it rolled off the assembly line. OEM glass also has special automaker branding on it.

In this country today, there are thousands of auto parts being sold every day that were made overseas (or maybe even domestically) that claim to be equal to the OEM part they are replacing. In some cases, maybe they are. In some cases, they are not equal to that OEM part that came on the vehicle when it was driven off the assembly line. To some people, based on price and availability, it probably doesn’t matter a whole lot. But in other cases, it matters a great deal! We have heard some horror stories about what are often referred to as “knock-off” parts.

Manufacturing OEM Auto Glass

If a glass manufacturer gets an order for 25,000 windshields for a particular vehicle, they might decide to run an extra 5,000 windshields (if allowed to do so based on the agreement they have in place with the auto manufacturer) because they know that ultimately they can sell these extras for replacement purposes. They also know that once they are set up to run a given part it is a whole lot cheaper to run a bunch of extra stock parts during the initial run than to set up again for a second run. So are those “extra” windshields they ran are considered OEM parts. If the original manufacturer runs that windshield a year later it would also likely be considered an OEM part as long as it is produced in every detail using the original manufacturing process and machinery. Conversely, if another company also runs that same part to be sold to auto glass wholesalers and replacement shops, that part (no matter how well it is manufactured) is a non-OEM part.  Insurance policies vary on what they must pay to replace, so you may want to check if yours covers OEM glass.

Aftermarket Auto Glass

Aftermarket auto parts are made by a company other than the original equipment manufacturer. Or by the same OEM company on a different production line. Some of these parts are similar quality to OEM parts. Others are not. If you’re paying for your glass replacement out-of-pocket, aftermarket auto glass 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.

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Is There a Difference Between OEM and Aftermarket Glass?

The Debate: OEM vs. Aftermarket Windshields

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, the windshield is definitely a safety-related part.

Some purists might say that unless the part went into the vehicle on the assembly line, it cannot be an OEM part because anything that comes after the original part installation is an aftermarket part. Others would say that as long as the part being used for the replacement was made by the same company that made the original part, it is indeed an OEM part. Others go further and say the replacement part would need to be made by the same manufacturer, to exactly the same specs on the very same production line at the same time OE glass parts were being made to be considered equivalent.

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 because, for some vehicles, an aftermarket windshield will work just fine while other vehicle manufacturers recommend only using OEM windshields.

To find a knowledgeable windshield 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.

windshield, backlite, flush-mount, auto glass

Aftermarket Windshields Can be Just as Good as OEM

Just for the record, many non-OEM parts are every bit as good as an OEM part. One term has become prevalent and promoted by some is the term OEE. This stands for “Original Equipment Equivalent”. This term makes some sense to me but then it becomes a question of “equivalent” to what standard. Who determines if the part is truly equivalent? There is no clear answer. There are poor imitations that should not consider for use in a vehicle. Deal with reputable suppliers and people you can trust.

    Pros and Cons of OEM Windshields:

    • Pro: Quality standards set forth by auto manufacturer are met
    • Con: Generally more costly than aftermarket windshields
    • Pro: Fit, finish, and safety should be the same quality as when your car originally rolled off the manufacturing line
    • Con: Insurance may not cover the complete cost of the OEM part

    Pros and Cons of Aftermarket Windshields:

    • Pro: Meets or exceeds minimum safety standards set forth by the Department of Transportation
    • Con: No quality standards
    • Pro: Generally less expensive than OEM glass
    • Con: Numerous manufacturers recommend only replacing with OEM glass due to ADAS features

    Some Manufacturers Require OE Glass in Windshield Glass Replacements

    2017-honda-crv

    Honda Requires OEM Glass in Some Cases

    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 a Honda windshield on newer models 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

    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

    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.”

    An auto glass replacement technician recently discovered this on a Subaru vehicle.

     

    Nissan

    OEM glass should be used for windshield glass 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.

     

    Glass Fabricators

    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.

    Your Type of Vehicle

    If you drive a vehicle equipped with ADAS features such as automatic braking and lane departure warning, it may be wise to consider OEM glass. This will help ensure the sensors and cameras related to these systems have a clear view of the road which will allow these systems to function properly. 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.

     

    Video Transcription

    Daniel:
    Hi, we are here with Bob Beranek and he is an expert in the auto glass industry and we’re here to ask him some questions.
    One question that we’ve received a lot is the difference between OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and aftermarket windshields. A lot of customers suspect that the glass company may have
    tried to cheat them and instead of receiving original equipment they’ve actually received a lesser quality aftermarket windshield.
    Are there actual differences in quality between the two? And are there certain ways to tell whether they’ve received a different windshield than what they were promised?

    Bob:
    That is a loaded question, Daniel, I’ll tell you that right away. There are differences. Not on the safety end. The glass must meet certain rigors before it can even be sold in the United States. The best way the customer can make sure that’s the case is to look on the monogram of the glass for the DOT number.
    However, there are differences, especially now with the ADAS systems- the Advanced Driver Assist Systems- where the glass clarity is absolutely imperative to make sure everything works properly.
    OE stands for Original Equipment. That’s the glass that came in the car when it was assembled at the plant.
    OEM is glass that was made by the same manufacturer. That’s what OEM means- Original Equipment Manufacturer.
    OEE means it’s original equipment manufactured that also makes glass for a different vehicle.
    So what’s offered by most reputable glass companies is a variety of different types. Is it an OE glass, OEM glass, OEE glass, or is it an ARG (Aftermarket Replacement Glass) glass? And that’s the price points as well.

    So, there are differences. The differences can make the difference between whether a vehicle can be recalibrated or not. It may be that it will look the same and fit the same, and there will be less likelihood of air leaks or water leaks. It might be the difference between a perfectly optically clear glass or one that has a slight distortion on the passengers side, or something similar.

    Daniel:
    Ok, so it sounds like no matter what option the consumer goes with, they can rest assured that it does pass those standards that are set in place, as long as it has that DOT number on it. But also, on the other hand, it sounds like they should opt for the OEM when possible. Especially if their vehicle is equipped with ADAS.

    Bob:
    Especially when ADAS is a portion of that, yes.

     

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  • In 2014 i purchased a new Tahoe. In 2020 had windshield replaced because glass became pitted and was hard to see when raining.[16 years]
    I have had 2 windshields replaced within 4 months due to debris or stone hits that cracked the glass .
    Nobody will convince me that safelite replacement is as good as oem. Also they are on there way now to repair another stone strike. These hits would never have cracked the original they were not hard hits.

  • I work in the auto glass industry in Arizona. Arizona is famous for rock chips/cracks because of the type of landscape that we have. It is a difficult situation some of us in the auto glass industry have to face. As much as we would like to install OEM glass on everyone’s vehicles Insurance co. do not want to pay for it. Even those that purchase OEM endorsements have to read the fine print on their contract because auto glass is not always included. Most insurance companies will pay only for OEE. Customers get offended and want to blame us but they fail to understand that if we were to install OEM when it is not being covered by insurance we would have a negative profit margin. We offer customers the option to pay for the difference but they refuse. No one wants to pay an additional $300 or greater on top of what the insurance covers.
    With that being said; i recommend the consumer to do a little homework as to the brand of OEE the auto glass company you are going with will be installing on your vehicle.
    Safelite manufactures their own glass and that’s the brand they use the most. At our company we prefer brands like Pilkington, FYG, PGW, Carlite (OEM for Ford), Mopar (OEM Fiat/Chrysler). Now we’ve had customers in who’s vehicle we installed OEM and they’ve called back with in a month because a rock hit them and they got a chip/crack. Please remember that at the end of the day glass is glass and will break OEM or not.

  • I have my windscreen replaced by one of workshop in Sydney. After the job has done I have found that the class colour looks different from my original one. I have checked with VW workshop and the part department and it has kindly printed our my car’s windscreen info details.

    I have found the part number from my print out is different from the one newly replacement. If so, that has indicated that is different windscreen? Apart from that my record from VW workshop also shown ” green glass’ as a remark.

    What does that mean the end of part number the two letter shown as 5NA 845 011 AJ ?
    On the workshop invoice paper the part number has shown as OE # 5NA845011BLNVB

    As you can see from above, That are totally different parts number and it seems to me that if the part number is different then that two windscreens would be different. Right?

    I would much appreciate if you could provide advice to me from one of your expert.

    Thanks in advance,

    Jim

    • Hi Jim,
      Thank you for reaching out to us with your question. The numbers printed on the windscreen will be different from the numbers shown on the paperwork. You can find more information regarding how to decode the windscreen’s “bug” here:
      Decoding Your Car’s Windshield
      The bug will give us limited information regarding the manufacturer, the safety criteria, manufacturing date, and other characteristics. It will not tell us the actual part number of the glass. That will be on the original paperwork.
      The green tint you are seeing could be caused by a few factors. There are typically a handful of different windshields available for any given year/make/model of vehicle. These windshields will match with factory options from the vehicle. Typically, a glass shop will reference the VIN number, as well as complete a visual inspection of the vehicle to determine which windshield is the correct one for that particular vehicle. It’s possible that the wrong windshield was selected.
      The other factors are the vehicle’s history. If the vehicle was purchased used, it’s possible the windscreen was previously replaced and replaced incorrectly the first time. Or if the vehicle is older, wear and tear could have decreased the vibrance of the green tint over time and now you’re only noticing it because it’s brand new and clean.
      Lastly, due to the nature of manufacturing, different batches of glass may have slight differences to them, even if they’re all OE from Volkswagen. Or it’s possible that one of the windshields wasn’t OEM. More info on that here:
      OEM vs Aftermarket Glass

  • I see wholesale pricelists online listing “economy” (TFG, DXG, YHG) “Midgrade” (XYG, PPG, Pilkington) and “highend” (Carlite, Mopar, OE) glass for different makes. Midgrade is about 50% higher than economy (1.5x higher). Highend/OE is about 250%+ of economy (2.5x higher). But there are minimum government safety standards according to your article that all three presumably meet (or some may exceed). If you have no electronics in the glass, isn’t it simply a personal preference? Or is there something about the clarity or thickness or glues/laminate layer that one can compare? Should economy be avoided? Or not necessarily so???

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