Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Calling "glass"

It has been a very busy week or so. I have lots to cover, but today is just about getting the glass back in. My VW camperbus (like many) has 4 solid-pane windows: the windshield, the rear hatch and the 2 rear-most side windows. Some buses have a flip-out window on one side or the other in their rear-most side window spot. I used to too, on the left side, but found that it was the cause of a pretty bad leak. In fact, that leak caused some of the rust-through I was solving earlier. Anyway, on to the installs.

Seal to Glass
it's actually better if you put
pressure where the blade and
handle meet
If you troll around the internet, there are many articles explaining how to install a solid-pane window, but they usually miss something. The first thing you need to do is get the seal onto the glass. While this sounds obvious, it's not easy. You will be tempted to try water or glass cleaner to lubricate the edge. Don't do it. Use the glass cleaner to get the glass clean, especially along the edge, but both the seal and the glass should be dry. If it is lubricated to get on, it will be lubricated to slip off.

Next, take note of where the natural corners are in your seal and align them with the corners of your glass. Again, it seems obvious, but if you don't lay it out, you'll probably get partway along and realize the seal needs to rotate 90*. Ask me how I know :) Also note which side of the seal is the inside. The outer edge will have multiple lip/edges and the inner side will have a second slot in it.

I found that if I placed a putty knife blade against the glass, but at an angle towards the seal (which wasn't yet on the glass), I could part the seal enough to get it to sit on the glass. Then, I used various pressures with fingers or my knee to press the seal all the way on. Place pressure near the spot where the knife meets the handle, so the seal has the whole length of the blade to run to get parted and just seated on the glass (not where the picture over there shows). I found I was able to run 8-12" sections in one pop after a few experiments with pressure and angles. It is important to get the seal to seat all the way down. If you don't, it won't fit in the window hole and you'll be clowning with the seal again.

Rope Method
opens paint cans, threads rope
and opens a beer bottle when you're done
This is where most of the internet advice comes in: use a rope to seat the glass. Yep, that's the magic. Find 3/8" rope that is at least 1.5x longer than the circumference of the window. Thinner rope might work too, but not much thinner. Some advise against nylon rope and encourage only cotton. I used nylon and had no ill-effects, but the MS Glass folks (see below) used cotton. I have not seen much good advice for how to get the rope into the slot. I found the best tool was a paint-can opener. I slid it in and rotated it, and the seam opened right up. I set the rope in and slid the tool along while feeding rope in. Once I got a foot or so in, I doubled back and pressed the rope in with the same tool. I watched the MS Glass guys, and they used a plastic jump-rope handle (or a carefully trimmed caulk-tube tip) through which the rope was threaded. They simply slide the jump-rope handle along the seam, pressing the rope in as they went. Very clever! And very fast.

While setting the rope into the seam, make sure you create a loop outside of the seam on every side. This doesn't seem obvious when you're doing it, but on each side, somewhere near the middle, let some rope out of the slot, create a 6" loop and then re-start from the spot where you left, making a small overlap (less than an inch will do). This is very useful for later. Once you've made it all the way around, overlap the starting point by an inch or so. Now, with painters tape, tape the loops to the inside of the glass window. With the rope out of the way, you're ready to set the window in the hole.

note the four loops of rope:
one per side
Simple put: don't use them. If you can get the window to seat without lubricants, you're probably doing it wrong. I tried KY Jelly, water, soap... All they did was make a mess and make it all the easier for one side of the window to pop out of the hole while exerting pressure elsewhere. Like the Band says, "Don't Do It". All four of my solid-pane windows went in without lubricants. I was setting the windows into somewhat freshly painted holes, so they were effectively the most sticky possible, and they still went in.

This area also gets a light brushing on the interweb. Most advice is somewhat simple: set the window squarely in the hole. Honestly, that's about right. Don't set the top, bottom or any side any deeper than any other side at first. Since the upper half of the bus (where the window is going) is tilting away from you, the window also needs to be tilting away from you. If you set it upright, the bottom will be too deep. Once the window is set evenly around the entire edge, you can start working the sealed glass into the hole.

hatch and rear-most left
windows in
The key here is to use little pressure at first, and work the inner edge of the seal by knuckling it towards the center of the glass while lightly pressing inward. Focusing on keeping the window square (no side too much deeper than any other), slowly work the window deeper into the hole. You will need to increase the amount of pressure force, but don't try banging on it. That will just create an opportunity for the sealed glass to pop out at the other end. If it isn't going in with medium pressure (maybe 50 pounds of force or so), pull it out and re-try seating. If you've tried this cycle a couple of times, go back to seal-to-glass and start all over again. Yes, I had to do this with the hatch window. For the left-side rearmost window, I had to seat and re-seat a few times.

Big Finish
windscreen installed
Once the seal is up against the lip, you're ready to pull the inner edge of the seal over the lip with the rope. From the inside, you should see one rope loop along each straight edge, each taped to the inside of the glass. Perfect. There is varying advice on where to start pulling, but, since most folks don't think to advise putting multiple loops (one per side), their further advice is limited. We have multiples, so we have options. For bowed windows, like the windshield, start with the sides. A little on each end, until both verticals have the seal over the lip. Then, do the upper corners and finally the lower corners. Why? We are doing the shortest distances first, and the distance between the upper corners is shorter, allowing the glass to flex and bow while we set the window. Next, work the ropes from the corners towards the center, moving a little at a time from each of the corners. You may need a helper friend to push on the glass from the outside.

MS Glass
Some of the advice above I discovered on my own. Some, I learned after I did my hatch and left-side rearmost window. While trying to get the seal on my windshield, it cracked, so I had to get a new one. Enter MS Glass. Since they do onsite installs, I had them do it, and that was where I got some of the rest of the advice. They do the one-loop-per-side, and did the steps in the "Big Finish" above. We both did the no lubricants, rope trick and seal-to-glass. They didn't use anything to part the seal as they got it onto the glass, but they do this stuff every day so they have Superman hands easily capable of forcing the seal on without tools. They were pretty amazing, and I'd totally use them again.

That's it for today. The bus has all of his window glass back in now, with new seals. Thanks for following along. More posts coming on all the other work that's been done. Onward!

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