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Window Etching

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Piling on extras such as etching, undercoating and extended warranties is an American car-sales tradition with little chance of changing. That said, you can help protect yourself from excessive bonus items the next time you’re kicking tires. The key is to take your time. I recommend making at least three visits to a dealership before purchasing any vehicle.

Eighteenth century Chinese bowl, wheel cut (engraved) and etched

Hoping for a refund, Leckington called the dealership more than 10 times over the next few months and says he was promised multiple times that he’d be sent a refund request form. But it never arrived. So he reached out to AARP On Your Side.

Leptat glass is glass that has been etched using a patented acid process. Leptat takes its name from the Czech word meaning “to etch”, because the technique was inspired by a Bohemian, Czech Republic (former Czechoslovakian) glass exhibit viewed at a past World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan, and patented in the United States by Bernard E. Gruenke, Jr.[1] of the Conrad Schmitt Studios. Abstract, figural, contemporary, and traditional designs have been executed in Leptat glass. A secondary design or pattern is sometimes etched more lightly into the negative areas, for further interest. Gold leaf or colored enamels also can be inlaid to highlight the designs. The Leptat technique allows the glass to reflect light from many surfaces, like a jewel-cut gem.

Glass etching cream is used by hobbyists as it is generally easier to use than acid. Available from art supply stores, it consists of fluoride compounds, such as hydrogen fluoride and sodium fluoride (which are still very dangerous). As the types of acids used in this process are extremely hazardous, abrasive methods have gained popularity.

Some automobile dealers try to include VIN etching as an extra service to boost their profit margin when selling a vehicle;[11][12] they may even pre-print a charge for VIN etching on the bill of sale, as if to suggest that VIN etching is mandatory rather than an optional, add-on service.[11][13][14] Inflated dealership fees of $200 to $2,000 for VIN etching are not unheard of.[11][12][15] However, consumer advocates note that while some states do require that dealers offer VIN etching, no states require that consumers purchase it from the dealer.[16]

VIN etching uses a variety of methods, commonly a stencil and an acidic etching paste, to engrave a vehicle’s vehicle identification number (VIN) onto the windshield and windows. Most parts on a vehicle already have at least a partial VIN stamped onto them, and many auto parts buyers will not purchase parts that carry identification numbers. Should a thief try to sell the parts from a vehicle for profit, those marked parts carry a higher risk for both the thief and the auto parts seller. Since automotive glass generally has no identification numbers and is often interchangeable among many different years and models of vehicles, it usually yields a much greater profit for a thief compared to other components on the vehicle, because a vehicle’s windows are stamped with the VIN, thieves would need to discard the glass before “parting out” the stolen vehicle, thus reducing or eliminating their profit.[1] VIN etching can also increase the odds of recovery of a stolen car by police.[2]

Abrasive blasting (“sandblasting”) is another common technique for creating patterns in glassware, creating a “frosted” look to the glass. It is often used commercially. High pressure air mixed with an abrasive material cuts away at the glass surface to create the desired effect. The longer the stream of air and abrasive material are focused in one spot, the deeper the cut.

Several weeks after purchasing a used Toyota Highlander, AARP member Maurice Leckington, of Clearfield, Utah, noticed a puzzling $398 charge labeled Protection Plus Etch in the sales agreement. A call to the dealership confirmed that he’d been charged for glass etching — a security add-on in which a code number, often the vehicle identification number (VIN), is etched into each of the vehicle’s windows.

Acid etching is done using hexafluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6) which, when anhydrous, is colourless. The acid is prepared by dissolving silica in a mixture of hydroelectric acid (hydrochloric acid), quartz powder, calcium fluoride, and concentrated sulfuric acid derived after heating.

VIN etching is a countermeasure to motor vehicle theft, that involves etching a vehicle’s VIN onto its windows to reduce the value of a stolen vehicle to thieves.

1 Techniques 2 Examples 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

Consumer advocate Ron Burley writes the On Your Side column for AARP and is the author of  Unscrewed: The Consumer’s Guide to Getting What You Paid For. Got a complaint? Tell your consumer woes to Ron at AARP On Your Side.

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Various techniques are used to achieve an etched surface in glass, whether for artistic effect, or simply to create a translucent surface.

First visit: Identify the right car and get an initial price. After that, head home to research pricing at other dealers. You might be pleasantly surprised to receive a call from the original dealership, too, offering a “substantial discount” on its first offer.

Second visit: If the price seems in the ballpark, this is when you’ll negotiate a tentative deal. But don’t sign yet. Take all the paperwork home. Read it carefully, and make notes. If the dealership won’t let you take the paperwork home, explain that it just lost a customer.

Third visit: Finalize the agreement, making sure to get every question answered. Don’t agree to having any features added or prices changed in any way … other than down. Closely inspect the vehicle for damage or missing parts; take another test-drive of the specific car with the salesperson.

If you find any problems, demand that they be repaired before you sign.

Of course, the dealership is not going to be happy that you’re taking so long to make your decision. Just keep in mind how long you had to work to earn the bucks for that car — and you won’t feel so bad about making sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

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VIN etching is recommended by both police departments and insurance agencies, and is sometimes offered free of charge at sponsored events.[3][4][5][6][7]

Glass etching comprises the techniques of creating art on the surface of glass by applying acidic, caustic, or abrasive substances. Traditionally this is done after the glass is blown or cast, although mold-etching has replaced some forms of surface etching. The removal of minute amounts of glass causes the characteristic rough surface and translucent quality of frosted glass.

Etched glass and stained glass commemorative window (c. 2006)

Finance director Scott Roper at Toyota Bountiful, in Bountiful, Utah, said the add-on would help identify the car if it was stolen and could earn Leckington an auto-insurance discount. Leckington was certain he’d not been told about the service at the time of sale, and a check with his insurer revealed it offered no such discount.

See also[edit] Glass engraving Satin glass Sea glass References[edit] External links[edit] Wikimedia Commons has media related to Glass etching. Sandcarver Intro to Sandblasting Glass etching in Dubai

Consumers who want to have the VIN etched on their vehicle windows but are unable to find a free etching service in their area can often save hundreds of dollars over the dealership fee by using a do-it-yourself VIN etching kit purchased from an Internet retailer or a local auto parts dealer, for as little as $20–25.[11][13]

Mold etching In the 1920s a mold-etch process was invented, in which art was etched directly into the mold, so that each cast piece emerged from the mold with the texture already on the surface of the glass. This reduced manufacturing costs and, combined with a wider use of colored glass, led to cheap glassware in the 1930s, which later became known as Depression glass.

Leckington was certain he was never told about an insurance policy and had never received any supporting paperwork. Faced with that claim and unable to provide proof to the contrary, the dealership decided to give Leckington a full refund for the etching.

Frost etching is the process in which vinyl window material is cut to produce a pattern and then applied to a window to give a frosted patterned effect.

While etching vehicle windows is not an outright scam, the practice is of dubious value. You may well find that your insurance company does not discount premiums for vehicles with etched windows. The few major insurers I telephoned didn’t. Moreover, charging $398 for a procedure an owner can do with an $18 kit from Amazon seems a bit cheeky. I asked Toyota Bountiful’s sales manager about the massive markup. Auggie Wasmund said the price included an insurance policy that would pay the deductible if the car was stolen.

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Move slowly and read all the fine print before finalizing a new car deal — or it could cost you.

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Vehicles with VIN-etched windows may be eligible for insurance rate reductions of as much as 15% in some US states.[7][8][9][10]

As if buying a car isn’t confusing enough, now there are sneaky consumer cons to watch out for.

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