Windscreen Lifting Devices
Windscreen Lifting Devices have been a revelation for the auto glass industry and have assisted us to become better, more efficient and safer technicians.
We’ve invested in several devices over the years and they have served us well. However, like most individual tools they have limitations and no lifting system to date has been able set all windscreens to all vehicles.
Panther Pro Fit Glass – A Little History
The Panther Pro – Fit Glass System is a windscreen lifting device with almost zero limitations in regards to what it can lift and is without doubt the most versatile heavy duty windscreen lifting system I have used.
Unlike current lifting systems that attach to the vehicles body/side glass via suction cups. The Fit Glass is a telescopic mini jib crane type lifter that can be assembled in a few minutes. It uses a heavy duty steel foot plate that the vehicle drives onto to stabilise the whole lifting system.
It’s been in circulation for approximately 10 years, predominately in the UK and Europe and was the brainchild of Mark Holmes who founded Panther Tools in 1999. Although it’s been around for some time, due to it’s design the tool has not aged.
What’s more, Panther UK is always making small tweaks and improvements to the device based on feedback from professional technicians who use the system. Like most useful tools in our industry, it’s designed and made by professionals who actually use it.
Recently the Fit Glass has expanded it’s distribution to the USA and has become popular amongst professional auto glass companies who care about high quality installations and safe windscreen practices.
Using The Panther Pro – Fit Glass System
What makes the the Fit Glass System unique is it takes all the weight of the windscreen during the installation. This enables the technician to take as much time required to align the glass for a perfect windscreen set.
This feels odd during your first use of the Fit Glass because as technicians we usually brace ourselves to take the full weight of the glass during a manual lift. We also have to deal with the weight transfer/tipping point during the setting stage.
The tipping point is the phase in which the glass about to be dropped in, this is the point of no return when installing heavy windscreens solo. The Fit Glass feels a little strange to be able to hold a large windscreen in any position for as long as required, however you soon adjust and it’s a pleasant experience.
Solo Lifting No Matter How Strong Or Tall You Are
Other lifters to date require the technician to fix the device to the vehicles body or glass with suction cups. As a result this limits their use and carries an element of risk. In addition, these kinds of devices require some time to learn as each vehicle tends to have a slightly different setup.
I’ve watched many tubes online where technicians are literally performing an overhead press to position a large windscreen onto a lifting device. This defeats the fundamental purpose of a lifter, which is safe lifting.
Whilst the skill of these technicians is impressive, performing lifts in this manner leaves one open to catastrophic errors or injury. What’s more, these techniques may be challenging for the average trainee or short technician who may not be as strong as the guys in the online demonstrations.
From a windscreen stand point the Pro Lift takes all the weight, this allows the technician to climb a step ladder safely when working on tall vehicles. In addition, elements such as wind have little effect during the setting process.
We also discovered you can use the lifter to flip glass on the stand or hold it upright to prep glass (see above image). You could even lay adhesive on the glass using this position if you prefer this method. I’ve even used it to unpack a very large, very expensive, machinery glass from a transport crate since it was too large and awkward to lift myself. (See Below)
Versatile And Easy To Operate
Like any tool the more you use it the more efficient you will be. However, experienced technicians should be able to use the Fit Glass System right out of the box. My first install was not a problem and with zero training.
The Fit Glass works on all standard road vehicles and so it should as it’s what these devices are fundamentally supposed do. What’s more, it does a lot more than advertised, if you get creative with how you attach and secure the device to machinery, it opens up more opportunities to put it to work for your business.
Not Limited To Cars
Service 8 is a specialist windscreen repairer and we expect tools to earn their keep, especially when it comes to a lifting device. We expect it to pay for itself not just in terms of injury prevention, but from savings from extra labor.
Because the Fit Glass can install windscreens to all vehicles it presents like an employee rather than a tool. We are currently testing it to it’s limits and for the creative technician there really are few limitations.
I tested the lifter with a 4 meter high lift on a Komatsu Loader (See images below). By attaching the device to steel hand rails via heavy duty ratchet straps, I was able to remove the old glass, lower it to a safe height and winch the replacement up to the working height.
This installation is possible with a couple of experienced techs equipped with tall platform ladders. However, health and safety regulations are now at such a level that you can’t legally perform lifts of several meters without becoming a liability in the workshop. Working at heights requires the use of scaffolding these days. The job sites we work on insist on safe work practices and written risk assessments.
Another application was on a Drill Rig Roof Glass (See images below). Normally a lift for two technicians, however the Fit Glass made the lift easy for one. As you can see no other windscreen lifting device can perform these kinds of sets.
Although it does not look it, the drill rig below was much more technical which normally takes 4 people to lift the glass up to the working height. We usually have to use a fork lift with a pallet for two guys to stand on. Then with two others on the roof to guide it under a steel locking mechanism. The glass is over 12mm thick and weighs well over 25kg. It’s a tricky lift since there is nowhere to stand. However, I performed the whole job solo with the Fit Glass.
Windscreens Lifts On The Largest Trucks
We tested the lifter on the largest Isuzu Truck and the Fit Glass managed the set no problems. These kinds of lifts require two technicians as the bottom of the windscreen is almost 2 meters high. No other lifter we have used to date has been able to perform these kinds of installs safely.
As A Permanent Workshop Lifter
The Fit Glass is without doubt the best workshop windscreen lifter on the market. If your business were to use it as a permanent workshop lifter set up time is reduced to zero. Permanently fixing the base plate to the floor with Dyna Bolts would eliminate repeated setup. Since the The Fit Glass System is a mini Jib crane it does not require measured setup or positioning for different vehicles. Every professional workshop should own one of these.
Mobile Windscreen Lifter
The Fit Glass is also an excellent choice for the mobile technician, however it should be noted there are some limitations in the field. Mobile windscreen technicians face challenges at domestic homes and workshops. Working space, height restrictions, steep driveways, etc.
The Fit Glass requires a couple of meters of swing room to operate effectively and perhaps half a meter plus to work with above the vehicle. The ground should also be reasonably flat or else the swing arm can wander when not loaded. It will work on a mild slope, but the flatter the terrain the better. That said, these rules apply for all installs, even manual lifts. As professional technicians we always ask the customer to provide optimal conditions, or else we move the vehicle to a safe place nearby.
Panoramic Glass Roofs
What started out as an idea in colder climates in Europe, panoramic roofs on vehicles are now becoming more popular in Australia. The Fit Glass is able to set even the largest roof windscreens into place with one technician.
By driving the rear wheel of the vehicle over the system footplate the Fit Glass has enough swing and reach to set even the largest panoramic roofs, even on Tesla models.
Set Up Time
Such is the industries obsession with speed one of the first questions technicians ask about lifting devices is “what’s the setup time”? The Fit Glass System is similar to other lifting devices in terms of set up time, in fact Mark Holmes performed a time laps of a full setup in 2 mins. (Forward to Minute 4.28)
What’s more, the lifter has a quick option setup which can be used on lighter vehicles. The device comes with two telescopic upright sections and when not lifting heavy glasses a single section is fine. That said, it only saves a minute, but if this matters to you then time can be saved.
If you are looking to save time, efficiency is a better option. We redesigned our vehicle with PVC tubes to allow quick access to the device. We have found from experience that if tools are not easy to access they will not be used as frequently.
We should understand windscreen lifting devices are designed to perform safe solo lifts, they save money via the labor they save your business. Off course there is a time penalty for this, however this is a small price to pay for the benefits.
Being Professional Helps Your Brand
As silly as it seems using the latest tools attracts attention from customers. Since we have adopted such tools as the Spider Windscreen Removal System, The Fit Glass, Lil Buddy, etc, we get more attention and interest from workshop management.
Why does this matter? Customers who require windscreen services on a regular basis usually opt for two suppliers, one as a primary and one as a substitute. By being the stand out supplier of the two ensures the workshop foreman has your number in the speed dial above the competition.
Customers notice when your business makes investments to improve quality and safety, whats more, it makes their decision an easy one when comparing. One guy turns up with a drag knife and asks the foreman for a hand with the windscreen because it’s too big to lift solo, the other guy gets the job done in a professional manner using the latest equipment and requires no assistance. Who would you choose?
How Much For the Lifter?
Australian pricing has not been set for the Fit Glass System. However, based on UK/USA pricing it would be in the region of $4000/$5000 AUD.
Yep, there is no doubt this is expensive, in fact the most expensive windscreen lifter. However, if you are going to compare the price alone to other lifters I don’t believe this would be a fair comparison. No other lifter on the market competes with this and what it’s capable of. I’ve used it for several months and I believe I have created some unique uses for it and so can you. This is a very versatile lifter which can lift any large windscreen to 3.9 meters. This means it replaces a second pair of hands, sometimes more. Considering you would be paying a second technician 4/5k per month in wages it would not take long for this device to pay for itself. What’s more, it does not phone in sick on Monday mornings and requires no annual pay raise.
In addition, good lifting devices prevent workplace injury. A technician with a lifting injury could cost your business several weeks of downtime or worse a workers compensation claim which could last months.
If your business is structured as a corporation some of the 5k you invested could be claimed back, 10% GST and a 30% tax offset. This then brings down the cost of the lifter to a little over 3K for your business. In an age where businesses are investing 25k+ for basic ADAS equipment, the cost of an item like this starts paying for itself from day one and will not be outdated any time soon.
To wrap it up The Fit Glass System really is a high quality lifting device and without doubt the best lifter we have used to date. It does require a few meters to operate it effectively, so it may be limited in tight spaces.
Set up time is very acceptable and in line with other lifting devices. Like any other lifting device, if your business is focused on installing as many windscreens in day as possible then such tools may not be for you. However, in a workshop environment the lifter requires zero set up time as it does not attach to the vehicle.
That said, windscreen replacements are becoming more complex with larger glass sizes and sophisticated electronics, the industry is changing. Companies that focus primarily on speed will ultimately end up with more problems in the long term. We believe it’s the professional/specialist services who will survive future changes.
It should be noted that the uses I have created are not as advertised since the lifter has not been specifically designed to attach to machines in this manner. I would advise that a thorough risk assessment is performed when creating a fixing point for the lifting system and only you would be responsible should problem occur from error. That said, anyone with an basic understanding of how levers work should be able to work out what is safe practice.
It’s always advisable to use the footplate fixing system when possible as it’s tried and tested to specifications. Only on very high lifts will you need to use any of the methods I have created in this post.
- Lifts Any Windscreen Solo
- Does Not Attach To The Vehicle
- Lifts To 3.9 Meters
- Zero Weight Taken By Technician
- Replaces A Second Technician
- Can Be Used On Machinery
- Can Be Used On Panoramic Roofs
- Can Be Used On Rear Windscreens
- Requires A Few Meters Of Space
- Some May Not Like Set Up Time
- The Most Expensive Lifter