Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How not to remove your windshield

Most of the time I enter the garage, I successfully accomplish my tasks. Frequently things take longer than I'd like. But once in a while, the going gets so tough I want to strangle puppies. Removing the windshield from my Miata was one of those times.

The hallmark of a true roadster is the presence of a small windscreen, if one is present at all. This means the perfectly good windshield must be removed. I knew several techniques to remove glass. The angry ways is to smash it with a hammer and then scrape off the glued on edges and clean up the shards of glass from everywhere. The second method was to use a piece of coiled wire, like the inside of hood release cable, to saw away at the glue and remove the windshield in one piece. I tried this when building the Chia-Neon and wasn't impressed. The wire frayed on the edge of the glass and didn't cut through the glue well. Thinking there must be a better way, I borrowed a windshield removal tool and got to work.

The tool is dead simple. Its a blade at a 90 degree angle from the handle to slip under the glass to slice the thick glue holding the windshield in place. To pull the blade along, a T-handle extends from the base of the tool. I hoped to easily remove the glass in one piece so I could resell it for other Miata pats. This did not happen.
So to get the tool under the glass the trim surrounding the windshield needs to be removed first. The only way I coud figure to do it was to cut it out with razor blades. First I cut off the portion raised above the windshield and then I painstakingly cut out two more sections between the body and glass. I cut out each part of the trim in sections a few inches long. Removing the trim alone took a couple hours.

With the trim gutted I inserted the removal tool in the gap between the glass and body and turned it to cut into the glue. The glass made a crunching sound and silvery cracks spread from where I inserted the tool. In trying to remove the windshield undamaged, I cracked it as soon as I inserted the tool. Crap. Removed of the burden of treating the glass carefully I began pulling on the T-handle to move the tool through the glue. It was not easy. I'd pull on the tool as hard as I could, sweating from the strain and move the blade an inch or two. This continued until I had the top and both sides of the windshield separated from the body. Trying to push the tool across the bottom was even more difficult. In desperation, I thought if I warmed up the glue I could cut through it easier. Warming the windshield and glue with a propane torch worked great and made it possible to cut across the bottom.

Once cut on all side the windshield lifted out in one piece, although one piece laced with cracks. The removal tool was neither easy, or got the glass out undamaged. Next time I'm using a sledge hammer. If you have any better ideas please let me know in the comments.

Check back soon for the Lexan windscreen intall. Hat tip to Vaughan for letting me borrow the tool even though I don't think I'll be needing it again.


  1. Every time I have ever removed a windshield (use to run lots of demo derby and figure-8s), I could NEVER remove in one piece. Always did the smash, vacuum, remove, vacuum method. Old Glory needs its windshield removed, not looking forward to it.

  2. Good luck with the smashing and vacuuming. Are you going to replace the glass yourself? I've never tried that. Is it much cheaper than paying a glass shop?

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