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Frame Off Restoration - Step 9 - Restoring the Glass (Windshield, windows, etc) of a vehicle.


The amount of glass is another area where cars vary wildly. For example, my Studebaker has 8 pieces of glass (windshield, rear window, four door windows and two vent windows). By comparison my Austin Healey BT7 has one piece of glass (but there are two perspex windows that you can add to the doors).

Restoring glass may be simple, or at times fairly complex. It really depends on how the car was originally built. Many cars have small side windows wich are glued in to stainless trim sets. Others may just be glass (even flat glass on older cars). Depending on what you have, some of the work done in the Brightwork section may also apply here.

Door Windows

It's always easiest to start here. Door windows will be among the smaller of the glass pieces, and much easier to deal with if it's just you out in the garage. At this stage of the restoration the interior of the car has been gutted, so you should have easy access to the interior of the door panel. Door windows come in three configurations: drop in, hand crank and electric. Drop in is the easiest to remove as they only have two states of existence: on the car or off the car. As in my Austin Healey, they are ordinarily held by two pins that are attached to the window that are simply inserted into the body. To remove the window, undo any clasps and lift it away from the vehicle.

In the case of hand crank type windows, you have an assembly that is bolted into the car. Traditionally, there is a metal frame across the bottom of the window glass that holds it to a pivoting assembly that is attached through some form of gearing to the hand crank. The window is held in place by two rails that run down the front and rear of the window glass. Many cars vary on the exact steps to remove the glass, but normally it involved loosening the two rails, and then pivoting the glass and bottom channel up and out of the assembly that raises/lowers it. From there, with the glass safely set aside you may unbold the front and rear rail assemblies, the gear/crank assembly and remove these additional pieces from the car.

Electric windows are very similar to hand crank windows. The primary difference is that the gear driven part is an electric motor and there are switches and wiring involved. Follow the same general procedure for a hand crank window. Some things to be careful of: electric windows frequently use plastic parts and or cables. These can damage easily or become stretched with time. Ensure to look everything over carefully so that you don't accidentally reassemble the car only to have the window motor die.

Now that you've got everything one the bench, I'll share with you my glass cleaning secret. The best thing to clean this old glass is tea. To make the tea up, heat up some boiling water, throw some tea bags in, and let it brew then cool. Put the liquid into a spray bottle and use as you would commercial window cleaner. I also recommend using an old towel for initial clean, followed up with a microfibre towel for final clean. With the glass clean, bubble wrap it and set it somewhere safe! The rest of the window assembly is moving parts. These all need to be cleaned and degreased and may have some rust buildup as well. Clean and repaint painted parts, degrease unpainted parts (and then spray with WD-40 before putting them away). If there are any motors/switches go through them to ensure that they all operate correctly, if there are handles make sure that they are cleaned and polished if need be. Wrap/bag/label everything and store it away. Repeat this for each door on the car.

Windshield and Rear Window

Before you start digging in to the windshield and rear window (if equipped) I highly recommend you get a second set of hands to help you. Windshields can be suprisingly heavy, even on small cars, and it is so easy to damage them. I also recommend that you obtain some of those vacuum handles to attach to the windshield. It makes hoisting/carrying much easier. If you are using those handles, give the glass a good cleaning before using the handle to ensure it gets a good grip on the windshield.

Windshields are held in place a number of different ways. Some are actually glued into place on the vehicle (like my old Porsche 944). In most cases the windshield is either held in place by chrome/stainless/metal retaining pieces or it uses a rubber moulding as a compression fit to the chassis, or both. Remove any trim that wasn't removed during the brightwork stage. Follow the brightwork procedures to deal with that trim (if it's actually brightwork).

When finally separating the windshield out from the chassis, especially where the rubber surrounding gasket is used for compression fitting I find it highly useful to use wood shims (like you use for installing household doors) to slide in between the windshield and the chassis on tight fitting windshields. When the Windshield is loose, lift it out from the car, remove any rubber gasket that still resides on the glass and then clean the glass. Once it's fully prepared wraps it and store it away appropriately. Repeat this process for the rear window if the car is so equipped. One other trick I like to do is then store the windshield somewhere like under the bed. Glass kept in the garage is a magnet for heavy objects that will damage it. If it's not in the garage the likelihood of damage is much less.

On to Step 10: Outer Body

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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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