Exotic car ownership is a bit of an experiential mixed bag. Sure, it’s interesting to be the person that gets the most attention at the gas station, but you’re nevertheless plagued by problems of the common driver, with the added sting of prices for repair procedures being every bit as comical as they are terrifying. I learned this lesson the hard way by replacing the windshield on my Aston Martin V8 Vantage. I’m still recovering.
A short while ago, I flew to Philadelphia to buy an Aston Martin V8 Vantage from a former Jalopnik contributor and the oldest 20-something I know, Doug DeMuro. I purchased the car right as summer’s last warm rays were receding from the Northeast and drove to my house in Florida, a place Satan himself would consider “a bit on the warm side.”
Upon arrival, I parked the car in front of my garage and, as any good owner would do, washed off the 1,100 miles of bugs, debris, and road droppings that had accumulated on my tour of I-95's greatest hits.
I unrolled my garden hose, turned on the lukewarm water, sprayed the top of the car down, and heard a sound not unlike the pop of a Snapple breaking its vacuum-sealed chains. Unfortunately, the business end of the mysterious sound was not a sugary fruit drink, but my Aston’s windshield tearing itself apart.
With one spritz of the hose, I had cracked the windshield.
I spent the next twenty minutes staring, in amazement at the calamity that had unfolded in front of me—my very first bona fide exotic car, a car I saved up and planned to buy over the course of several years, a car that was up to that point pretty dependable, wasn’t able to take a low-pressure garden hose without breaking itself.
Here’s the most scientific explanation I can muster without actually having to put on a lab coat: The hot Florida sun made the windshield (made of laminated glass sandwiched together) expand, as molecules with more heat tend to want to move around.
When I added water, I extinguished that heat pretty fast, meaning that there was rapid contraction of the glass in one area, a force so strong that it overcame the strength of the glass itself, and it cracked right down the middle. It’s the reverse of pouring boiling water on an icy windshield, but shares the same potentially wallet-destroying result.
With my Aston having a chronic case of windowsplits, I asked the previous owner, Doug, who actually did have a windshield crack repaired a while back, how much it would cost to replace the whole thing, and he said “Um, I think it was somewhere around $800 last time I checked,” with the same kind of almost-certainty that Kevin McAllister’s mom had when she landed in Paris less one kid.
I then searched the internet for the best price on Aston Martin Vantage windshields, to which I found some unrelated eBay links for LED mirrors and forum links that were all dead because every automotive forum in the world is perpetually stuck in the year 2003.
What I did find out, however, is that the state of Florida has these glass-cracking occurrences happen so often that any insurance coverage with comprehensive should cover it with zero deductible, once every year. I hopped my happy ass online to Geico’s claims center and realized that just like an oil tycoon trying to get an alternator for a Veyron at Autozone, there would be some hoops I would have to jump through to actually make it happen.
First, my car wasn’t even listed in the drop-down menu, and when I put in the VIN of the car, it showed that my windshield was a special order part that would have to be ordered from the UK. Great.
Next, days after filing the claim, I got multiple calls from an exasperated Safelite shop owner that said that “We’ve never worked on an...uh..Austin-Martin before, and I don’t wanna screw it up, but I got a guy that’s been doing it 30 years, and I wanna have him do it right. We usually do the install at your house, but there’s no way that’s happening on this one. You gotta bring it here.”
The shop was an hour away, but if it meant that the car would get done right, I’d be perfectly content to nod off in the waiting room for a few hours until my Aston would be made whole again.
After driving to the location and watching enough waiting room daytime TV to get embarrassingly emotionally invested, I learned two things: that the “30 years of experience” guy must have started installing glass when he was -6 years old, and how ridiculously expensive a windshield for an Aston Martin is.
When the installer figured out how the impossible parking brake worked and managed to bring the car out into the light, new windshield intact, he handed me a pamphlet that had an invoice, paid in full courtesy of Geico an the state of Florida.
The tab was an eye-watering four thousand, four hundred fourteen dollars and forty one cents.
As an apples to apples comparison, the Mercedes-Benz S500 that I drive to this day was purchased, with an intact windshield mind you, for $1,400 less than this windshield replacement. The $250 paid in taxes alone was more than I spent to replace the entire windshield in my Lexus SC300, including tax.
At this point, I’m not sure if my insurance rates are due to skyrocket, but I don’t have much faith in the status quo being maintained, because as it stands, the amount the insurance paid for me to essentially wash my car on a hot day is roughly equivalent to the payout of me totaling a used Honda Civic—a car that ironically wouldn’t have cracked its windshield at the first sign of slightly cool water.
Now that I’ve had this experience, it should serve as a reminder to less insane people that parts like these, the taken-for-granted components no one ever thinks to price out, can severely dampen the awesome feeling of exotic car ownership if mishandled.
I may have gotten lucky this time with insurance footing the bill, but as I’ve demonstrated in the past, breaking things is the best way to learn what you’re doing wrong, and I’m a slow learner.