6 Tips On Preventing Auto Break-Ins

Read our 5 tips for how to prevent break-ins.

It seems obvious to most people: You shouldn’t leave a backpack with your laptop in the front seat of your car and expect it to be there when you get back.

While most of us are careful, we sometimes get lazy, or we assume would-be thieves know the backpack contains only gym clothes, not a laptop. Wrong.

As co-owner of Auto Glass Express, I hear so many sad stories of preventable theft from customers every day that I thought I’d share some tips.

1) Any amount of time is too long when there’s something of value in your car.

People think, “I’ll just be a minute.” My neighbor went to pick up her daughter from camp – middle of the day – in Emeryville. She was gone from her car a total of about 3 minutes. But it was long enough for someone to notice she didn’t take anything with her, and that her wallet was most likely in the car — which it was, along with a bunch of gift cards and other valuable items. The thief smashed her passenger door glass, grabbed her purse and ran. It didn’t matter that a number of other parents were around to see the break-in. The thief knew no one would chase him down the street.

2) Any bag in sight is tempting to a thief.

A bag with stinky gym clothes cost one customer the expensive back glass on her Prius. A veterinarian lost her dirty scrubs in a break-in. Just because there isn’t anything of value in your bag doesn’t make it less tempting to a thief.

3) Don’t put anything in your trunk right before your final destination.

This is the one that pains me the most. People will go out of their way to lock their purses and bags in the trunk of their cars right before going on a hike or going out at night. Even if you don’t see anyone around (the suspicious look behind you doesn’t help), you should assume that someone with nefarious intentions saw you stash that purse in the trunk. Some of the most common places I hear of people getting broken into are at the Berkeley Marina, Tilden Park, and other East Bay Regional Parks.

4) Jacks and headphone wires = an electronic device lives nearby

Whenever I get into a friend’s car and I see white wires dangling all over the place, I can’t help dishing out unsolicited advice about how these should be hidden from view. Even though you were careful not to leave anything of value in your car, a thief hopes you stashed the iPod that plugs into the stereo in your glove compartment.

5) Consider installing a car alarm

Though car alarms aren’t necessarily a deterrent, customers sometimes tell us they think their car alarm scared off the thief from taking anything from their vehicle. If your car has a remote lock, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is equipped with an alarm. Consider getting an alarm installed that has a blinking light indicating your car is alarmed.

6) Keep the cargo cover OPEN and your trunk empty.

If you drive a hatchback or station wagon, keep your cargo cover OPEN, not closed. One of the most commonly broken windows is the little quarter glasses on hatchbacks. Thieves break the little windows, pull down the rear seat to see what’s in the trunk, and if they think there’s something valuable in the cargo area, often another window is broken so they can get at those items. Best bet is to leave your cargo area empty and leave the cover open. Don’t use your car for storage.

As a South Berkeley resident who has experienced her share of break-ins, I know that no matter how careful you are you can still be a victim of car vandalism. According to a Berkeley Police Captain speaking at a neighborhood meeting, the pattern of break-ins closely follows the release of repeat offenders who are looking for their next high. Like parking tickets, auto break-ins are unfortunately a fact of life for car owners in the Bay Area. But taking some simple precautions greatly reduces your risk of being the next victim of car vandalism.


Is 3D Printing in the Future of Auto Repair?

AudiAllRoadRegulatorClipsWouldn’t it be nice if you could just 3D print small car parts when they broke, rather than pay exorbitant prices to the dealerships to replace them? Customers frequently come to us with car windows that won’t roll up because some tiny piece has broken on the regulator. Since dealerships don’t sell the parts on a regulator separately, the whole device usually has to be replaced.

Take for example the regulator on a 2002 Audi All Road. The entire regulator had to be replaced when one tiny part of the plastic clip broke off (see the difference between the blue section on the left versus the intact clip on the right). Audi sells the regulator assembly for about $300 after tax. Since each regulator comes with two of these clips, it seems reasonable that we should be able to just 3D print an intact part based on the one that is still good. Given the high cost of scanning and printing in 3D, and the unreliability of the materials used for 3D printing, we’re not there yet. But perhaps in the near future…


Advanced Driver Assistance Technology Affecting Windshields

220px-Lane_AssistWe recently returned from Auto Glass Week, a conference for small and medium sized glass shops around the country looking to hone up on the latest technology, tools and safety standards for our industry.

The most discussed topic was how the Advanced Driving Assist Systems (ADAS) on new vehicles are affecting windshield replacement, as auto makers are increasingly embedding technology in cars that pave the way toward full automation.

Many of our customers know their cars have special features, but they’re not sure what features they have, making it difficult to identify the correct windshield for replacement. A new car may have 10 or more different windshield part numbers.

Below are some of the features we currently see on the market:

Eyesight: Subaru offers this feature on many new vehicles for only about $700. My sister has this feature on her 2015 Impreza, and essentially it allows her to “drive” most of her commute without touching the gas or brakes.

Lane Departure Warning: Common on many new Toyota, Honda, and Ford vehicles this feature alerts you when you’re veering out of your lane.

Lane Keeping Assist: Similar to Lane Departure Warning, but has the added benefit of correcting your steering if you veer out of your lane

Collision Avoidance / Forward Collision Alert : BMW, Audi, Honda, Toyota, and many other car makers have some version of these features available on their newer models. Like Subaru’s Eyesight feature, these systems detect an imminent crash and either alert the driver or automatically apply the braking system to prevent a collision.

Mercedes calls its suite of driving safety features “Intelligent Drive”, which is essentially a combination of many of the features listed above, among others.

While these ADAS features have different names, they all include cameras that may require calibration after a windshield replacement, a service that can add several hundred dollars to the repair. If you are using your comprehensive insurance to pay for the windshield replacement, your insurer will cover the cost of the calibration.

The new features above come on top of common features we have already been seeing for years that our customers are often not aware they have:

Heated wiper park/ heated windshield: This de-icing feature is common on Subarus and vehicles with a “winter package,” like heated seats. In most cases the heating element is only at the bottom of the windshield where the wipers sit, enabling you to use the wipers in snowy and icy conditions. On some luxury vehicles (Land Rover, Jaguar, Mercedes) highest end models have a fine heating filament running throughout the interlayer of the windshield, but this is not a common feature.

Rain Sensor and Condensation Sensor: Most BMWs and Mercedes vehicles have been coming equipped with a rain sensor for many years.   This feature turns the wipers on/off automatically, as well as increases or decreases the speed of the wipers, depending on need. Sadly, this feature has not been very useful in California for the last few years!

Heads Up Display: On vehicles with this feature, the speedometer and other vital driving info are projected onto the windshield, only inches below a driver’s line of vision. While windshields with this feature may look identical to those without, they are manufactured in a completely different way. A handful of car models came equipped with this feature many years ago, but it is making a comeback, even on more popular vehicles like the Toyota Prius.


New video! Replacing a windshield

We recently made a video on how a proper windshield replacement is done by demonstrating the process on a 2013 BMW X1. While we figure most people will only watch the 2 minute version, there is also a 4 minute version for those looking to see the process in more detail.


Tracking stolen iPhones and lap tops

Given the large number of our customers who have had lap tops stolen out of their vehicles, I thought I’d share an article from the New Yorker about a couple who was able to retrieve a lap top left in a NY cab trunk: “Follow That Cab!”.  I guess if you’re going to leave your lap top in your car (not recommended) you should have a tracking device installed so hopefully the thieves can be caught and lap top retrieved.

Hold on to your purse!

I have heard my share of awful auto break-in stories, but today’s might be the worst:

Our customer was grocery shopping in Oakland and had parked her car on the street. She got in her Subaru Forester and put her purse down on the passenger seat when someone smashed in the passenger window to grab it. As the thief went for her purse, she grabbed one handle and he got the other. When he went to yank it out of the car, the handle broke and our customer was able to drive away. Other than a busted door glass, a missing purse handle and badly shaken nerves, she was able to get away OK.

You never know how you’d respond in a situation like this, but I’m not sure I would have had the strength and the guts to do what this woman did. Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out.


Car glass turned into art

We recently got a call from an Oakland artist looking for tempered glass for an art installation she was developing.  Since car glass can’t be recycled, I was thrilled to think someone wanted make use of our broken glass and was happy to share whatever was in our vacuum cleaners (which on that particular day, included the remnants of broken door glass from Subarus, a Scion XB, and a Corolla).

Bruk Dunbar’s show, Faux Lux, is showing at ZUGHAUS Gallery in Berkeley. All inspired artists are welcome to call us for tempered glass – we’re happy to share!


Gardeners – watch out for flying rocks!

Several times per year we get calls about glass that was shattered as a result of a rock from a gardener’s weed-wacker hitting a car window. In some cases it’s the vehicle’s owner that was doing the yard work, but usually it’s a gardener out trying to make a living when such accidents occur. This week we saw a particularly sad situation, as the back glass on the Volvo XC70 station wagon that was shattered by a flying rock happened to be a hard to find part and particularly expensive. In all such cases we’ve experienced so far, the gardeners have been honest folks who have paid for the repairs themselves, but it’s a bummer for everyone when something like this occurs.

The lesson here is this: if you, your neighbor or a hired landscaper will be out weed-wacking, make sure there are no cars parked nearby. It’s amazing how far those rocks can go and the damage they can do!


Cool Tips

Every once in a while people tip us with cool gifts. Jack Johnson’s uncle sent us signed copies of his nephew’s CDs, or more recently, two tickets to see a local performance of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.”

Belafiore Cheese tipped us the most amazing feta & mozarella we’ve ever had after we replaced the windshield on their Isuzu NPR (all my mom’s friend’s want to know where they can get more of your Feta!), and my kids are thoroughly addicted to Cliff Bars ever since they tipped us for doing a company Volkswagen Passat windshield (thanks!).

To the towel shop owner who tipped us with a fancy towel after replacing his Nissan Versa windshield – I’ll take a check that won’t bounce any day over your towels!  In fact, I’ll trade you the towel for payment.


Mobile Auto Glass Meets Mobile Pizzeria

Last Thursday morning we were hired to replace the windshield on a Ford E350 short bus, aka “Shorty”. Shorty has been through a couple permutations in function and had spent many years derelict before my friend James rescued him to serve in his mobile pizzeria. The original windshield needed some chip repair work, but was functioning well enough. Unfortunately, one night some idiot apparently mistook the windshield for a baseball and left a fist-sized welt of shattered glass on the passenger side. What was originally repairable now required full replacement.

I had the pleasure of meeting Shorty (prior to this meaningless assault) at a party that James was catering with his “Fist of Flour” wood-fired oven pizzeria. Besides being visually impressive, (Shorty tows a mobile kitchen and a way cool wood-fired oven, complete with a sculptured fist on top) this was some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, and certainly the freshest (see pics below).

We are glad that Auto Glass Express could help get Shorty safely back on the road.


About Us

Auto Glass Express is a family-owned, Berkeley-based business run by a husband & wife team, Mark and Ladan.  We are part of a family network of auto glass professionals serving nine metropolitan cities in the US and Canada, giving us access to hard-to-find glass.

While it may seem like a cheesy tag-line, we really do pride ourselves on providing high quality service and repair while keeping prices affordable.  By offering free mobile service for glass replacement, we can also keep clients happy with minimal disruption to their day.