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Replace Your Windshield
Phil Singher

The windshield on our 122S has been pitted as long as we've had the car -- and that's a long time. Driving into the rising sun or into oncoming high beams had always been uncomfortable, if not downright hazardous. We put up with this condition for two reasons: we had heard that new windshields were no longer available, and that installation was difficult.

Finally, the evil day came when there was a sharp "snap" -- what was that? Nothing appeared wrong with the car, but over the next several days, a propogating crack gradually made its appearance, and spread upwards from the left bottom corner of the windshield. Some sort of action needed to be taken, and urgently.

After a fair amount of phone and e-mail research, we were told that new windshields were available from Volvo itself. The parts manager at our local dealership needed some convincing, but finally discovered that he could obtain the windshield from GCP (Genuine Classic Parts). In less than a week, we were the proud owners of a brand-new, Pilkington glass, Volvo windshield. This cost us roughly $150 with a club discount; not cheap, but certainly not outrageous.

Coincidentally, ipd offered, for a limited time, an assortment of rubber parts for the Amazon, including the windshield seal. Don't hold them (or us!) to it, but their current intent is to continue to offer these as special order items (allow a long lead time -- don't pull your old windshield out before calling) if the demand warrants it. The initial lot will be pretty well sold out by the time you read this.

These rubber parts are also available from Volvo/GCP, but at a higher cost. In any case, getting the parts necessary to do the job should not present a problem. So much for our first assumption.

Next problem: how to get this installed on the car? Perhaps we could have this done professionally, but there would surely be some rust under the old, cracked seal -- and we don't know of a local glass place we'd trust to fix the rust properly before completing the new installation. Perhaps we could pay someone to come to the house twice...

The heck with it! Old Volvos were built by people, not robots. It couldn't be all that hard. We read our shop manual and a number of old magazine articles on how to do the job, solicited advice from a variety of sources, and tried to cull the good and the bad out of the lot. In the end, it turned out to be much easier than any particular source had indicated. Here's what worked for us:

How to Install a New Windshield:

Parts Required:

  1. Windshield
  2. New seal

Material Required:

  1. "Metal Ready" rust converter
  2. POR-15 rust sealer
  3. Silicone sealant (RTV, large tube)
  4. Lacquer thinner (or other RTV solvent)

Tools Required:

  1. Sharp utility knife
  2. Chisel, scraping tools, sandpaper
  3. Several small, cheap paintbrushes
  4. Rubber gloves for handling chemicals listed above
  5. Dropcloth to protect dash and interior
  6. 15 minutes-worth of adult assistance
  7. Lots of paper towels
    And most importantly:
  8. About 12 feet 3/16" woven polypropylene cord

1) Turn the sun visors out to the sides. Remove the inside rear view mirror and the four pieces of metal trim around the inside of the windshield. Protect the dash and interior of the car with a dropcloth.

2) Remove the exterior aluminum trim. Use a utility knife to cut away the old seal under the trim. Point the knife away from the center of the windshield and hold it as flat against the trim as possible. This becomes easier as it goes. After you get halfway around a side, you should be able to lift the rest of the trim piece off. Use extreme care not to bend the trim.

3) Cut clear through the old seal all along the top edge of the windshield and partway down the sides. Lever the top of the windshield forwards and lift it out.

4) Pull and clean every trace of the old seal and the old sealant away from the flange around the windshield opening in the body. Chisel, wire brush and sand until you have a clean (not necessarily finely smoothed -- we're going to put lots of sealant around this later) flange. Most likely, you will end up with some combination of rust, bare metal and paint. Treat this as follows:

  • Brush or spray "Metal Ready" on any rusty areas of the flange. Keep it wet for 30 minutes or so until the rust turns black, then wipe dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Do not use a greasy cloth!
  • Brush a smooth coat of POR-15 along the entire surface of the flange. This will seal any small pinholes.
  • If any portions of your flange have crumbled away or show large holes, cut a piece of fibreglas cloth to size, soak in POR-15 (instead of resin), and fold it smoothly over the affected areas.
  • Let the POR-15 dry thoroughly (usually six hours plus, depending on humidity), then give the flange another light sanding to rough up the POR-15. This will give the new sealant something to cling to. In cases with severe rust, you may wish to apply a second coat of POR-15.

Do not proceed past this point until your rust treatment is complete and you have time to complete the job. Once you begin applying sealant, you're on the clock. If you still have energy left, spend the time cleaning up the backside of the aluminum trim.

5) Place the new windshield front-down on a soft surface on which you can make a mess. Lots of newspaper on the living room carpet worked for us (and entertained the cats, to boot). Play with the new seal until you're dead sure which way around it goes. Lay a continuous bead of silicone sealant (do not use Latex caulk) into a length of the seal's windshield slot sufficient to get around the bottom of the windshield and around the corners. Use enough sealant to make it squoosh out onto the windshield. Continue laying sealant into the seal along one side, and press it on. Continue around the other side, then do the top. Keep the mess off the carpet and don't worry about the windshield for now.

6) "Install" 3/16" polypropylene cord all the way around the body flange slot of the new seal. Begin at the center top, push the cord as deeply as possible into the slot all the way around, finishing when you have two ends or cord sticking out the center top of the seal. Do not use thinner cord! This particular cord is slippery and will not require a lubricant, nor will it scuff up your newly-repaired body flange -- most importantly, it will open the slot enough to make it pull onto flange easily.

7) Lay a bead of sealant about the thickness of a pencil all the way around the flat area on the car forward of the body flange.

8) Wake your helper. Each of you take one end of the messy windshield / seal assembly, carry it out to the car, and carefully position it in the body opening, disturbing as little of the sealant as possible, and with the two ends of the cord inside the car. Your helper should apply light pressure to the windshield to keep it in place.

9) Get inside the car, and carefully pull both ends of the cord back towards the rear window. This will start the pulling the seal over the flange. Slowly continue pulling the cord ends, which will separate and pull the top of the seal, then the sides, and then the bottom over the flange. It will amaze you how this works.

10) On our car, the body opening was a bit bigger than the windshield. Get out of the car and center everything with palms flat on the glass -- you can "fudge" a bit by pushing the seal outwards from the windshield further onto the flange if necessary (this is the reason for not letting the first application of sealant dry before completing the installation).

Take a break and clean everything up. Lacquer thinner worked well for us, but our car is painted with enamel. If your car is painted with lacquer, we don't know what might happen. We hereby declare ourselves not responsible. You have been warned.

11) After the sealant sets, you can replace the interior trim and mirror. As for the exterior trim, we did not find it necessary to bend out the flange on the trim -- if you absolutely must, use a plastic or wood tool. Using the same cord, install it into the seal's trim slot around one-half of the windshield, beginning at the center top and ending at the center bottom. Position the top edge of the appropriate trim piece against the seal and seat the top corner as much as possible. Hold it in place with one hand, and use the top end of the cord to start pulling the trim's flange into the seal's slot. Pull the cord out slowly, applying pressure outwards from the center of the windshield and using it to pull the trim towards the rear of the car.

12) Follow around behind the cord with a small straight-slot screwdriver to finish locking the seal around the inside edge of the trim. After the first trim piece is on, put on the two little center pieces and slide them over the first trim piece (the long flange goes inboard on both). Install the second trim piece just like a mirror image of the first, then slide the center pieces into their final position.

You might think this sounds pretty intimidating, but it's not. The great bulk of the time and work goes to fixing the rust under the old seal. Were it not for that, you could have the old windshield out and the new one in with about an hour's work. Just have all the materials on hand, visualize every step before executing it, and take your time.

As for us, our rear window seal is cracked, too. We plan to replace it just the same way before the next issue comes out.

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