We had had a busy day yesterday. We did a couple windshields in the morning out on the road in small nearby towns, then we returned to the shop for our busy afternoon. We thought the morning work was our hard work of the day, but we hadn’t seen what was coming in the afternoon as our 3 o’clock job.

Now we’ve had two pretty fair snowstorms this fall, so it didn’t surprise me much when I saw the Chevy Venture minivan pull into our parking lot with a mound of snow on the roof. We hate to see it, because we have to clean it off, or else we will get water running down in the area where we’re trying to glue in the windshield. And when there’s a lot of snow on the roof, and the roof has a luggage rack mounted up there, you’re just never going to get rid of all that snow during the time allotted for the installation.

So we drove it in the shop and my co-worker and I set upon the task of removing the snow. About six inches down we hit something hard … ice! The first snow we had this fall was wet and heavy, and it had never been cleaned off of this van, so it had turned to ice. Fortunately the roof of the van gives a little, so we take our snow brushes and bang on the snow and ice, and it eventually lets go of the roof, and we can then easily push it off the roof. But the whole process was time-consuming. By the time we had the roof cleared, we were almost a half hour into what was scheduled to be a one hour job.

We hadn’t seen anything yet!

If you’ve ever paid attention to such things, you will remember that the GM minivans of this ilk, the Venture, the Montana, the Silhouette, and so on, have a huge windshield that extends way down under the hood on the bottom to provide an area for the great big wipers to rest. From the back edge of the hood there must be a good foot or more of space, and up here in the northland there’s just no way around it — you’re going to get snow and ice built up under there if you don’t make a point of keeping it clear.

I flipped on the wipers, because on this vehicle you need to position the wipers before removing them, in order that they will be in the right place when the job is complete and that they will then also work properly. But the wipers didn’t move, they didn’t even budge! Usually when the cavity there is full of snow, if you just reach down and hit or push on the wipers they will let loose and work the way they are intended. Not this time. The whole cavity where the wipers rest was solid with ice! And what is more, there appeared to be leaves and branches encased in the ice.

Fortunately we were able to get the hood open, and we started trying to remove the snow, ice, leaves, branches, and whatever else was down there. Soon we were both using chisels, and it was working. That’s good, because when we started, we couldn’t even see the wipers. Now we could see them, and we could see the plastic cowl beneath them as it gradually came to light. But what was crazy was that as I unearthed all this, I discovered a layer about two inches thick of what appeared to be wood and mud. It was almost like the leaves and branches had gradually fallen in there, and filled it up as they rotted, and became almost petrified! We were digging petrified wood out of this van! (or so it seemed.)

Eventually, almost an hour into the job, we finally had the wipers removed, all the leaved, branches, mud and crud removed, and the plastic cowl removed. In all, I was amazed that we hadn’t damaged any of it!

We called our four o’clock job and postponed it. There was no way we’d have time for that one yet.

Once we reached that point everything went off without a hitch, and within another half hour or so we had the new windshield installed and the Venture was out the door.

But I had never seen anything like it in almost 35 years in the auto glass business.

It turns out that the owner of the minivan is handicapped, and never even drives the van himself. In fact, when it was brought to us yesterday, it hadn’t been driven at all for four months. It just sits on the street under a tree. My guess is that it has hardly been driven at all in the past five or six years, and the leaves and twigs and all that crud just drift down into that cavity, rot, and form that hellacious layer of crud that we had to deal with. All it would take to keep this from happening would be for someone to take a few minutes now and then to simply open the hood and brush away the leaves and twigs. In the winter you just open the hood and brush away the snow. But this van was neglected, that’s all there was to it.

Anyway, I’ve had to deal with some pretty tough jobs, even nightmare jobs, over the almost 35 years I’ve been in this business. But I’ve never seen anything like that one!

So please, don’t neglect your vehicle. It’ll be a lot more pleasant for you, and for whoever has to work on it! 😉