July 4, 2006 – Angel Morales' cell phone number is on speed dial with many of St. Croix's motorists.
He is the licensed owner of Angel Morales Windshield Repair, which offers a little-known but highly demanded service for motorists: repairing a dent here, a ding there on car windshields in as little time as half an hour — and at a fraction of what it would cost to replace the windshield entirely.
Morales, who works a full-time job at Superior Court, said that his windshield repair job happened by chance when he was the car parts manager at Hendrick's Honda in LaGrande Princess.
"The car parts at Hendrick's would usually come wrapped in newspapers and I would read them to find out what was happening stateside," Morales said recently while fixing a small crack in a Toyota Rav IV under a tree for shade – a must in windshield repair because heat expands glass.
Morales said that while reading the newspapers, he came across a telephone number for a stateside windshield repair company and applied to take the certified course being advertised.
A few thousand dollars later – the cost of the starter kit – his business took off. Morales said that he sought a local business license and since 1992 has been the person that motorists call to fix their vehicles' windshields.
Morales said he has contracts with Avis and Hertz rental car companies and even the V.I. Water and Power Authority. And, on any given week he gets six to eight calls — a little over 30 calls a month from motorists. The charge starts at $100 for a small crack, five to eight inches in length.
"You never know when a rock is going to hit your windshield and leave a crack. And some customers have said that their insurance companies won't pay for cracks in the windshield," he said.
Lori Sparks, a claims manager with Marshall & Sterling Insurance, who spoke in general about insurance coverage, said insurance companies generally cover windshield repairs, but there is an "if" aspect.
"If the person has the proper [comprehensive] coverage, yes, it's covered, " she said.
Still, Morales said, insured motorists will usually not make a claim, fearing that their insurance premium would increase.
"Even if the insurance pays, people say they don't want to make a claim over something so minor and risk increasing their cost of insurance," he said. "So I get called to fix it and they move on."
Morales said that when potential customers call for his services he will make an initial inspection in order to know if it can be repaired. The sooner a small crack is fixed the better, he said.
"I recommend repair immediately because some cracks also spread immediately," Morales said. "Some cracks will stay as-is for months or years without spreading, but you're taking a chance, obviously."
Morales said one motorist went nearly three years with a small crack in her windshield until her young son swatted at a mosquito "and the little crack just became a long crack."
Fortunately, he was able to fix it, he said.
Morales shared these tips for motorists to follow if their windshield sustains a crack that can be repaired.
–Leave the vehicle's windows cracked to enable air to circulate. Windshields swell with heat, but this is not visible to the naked eye.
–Do not drive at an excessive speed because air will get in a cracked windshield and do more damage.
–Park in shaded areas if possible and get the crack repaired immediately.
Windshield repair work is "challenging" because no two cracks are the same, Morales said, adding that small dents or cracks cost less and takes less time than larger cracks.
He also repairs cracks that take the shape of a spider's web — as long as the glass isn't completely broken. Morales explained that windshields are manufactured with three layers – the two outer layers basically contain some form of plastic to keep the glass (the inner layer) from shattering on impact.
As long as the glass isn't completely broken, as in gaping holes, chances are that it is repairable, he said.
Morales said he uses resin, among other tricks of the trade, to stop the movement of the crack and that once finished, is more aesthetically pleasing.
"The crack won't be gone completely, but it will look better," he said.
And Morales guarantees the job he does.
"I am so sure of the work that I guarantee it for the life the owner has the vehicle or their money back," he said.
Morales said he has never had to give back fees over the 14 years that he's been repairing windshields. Rather, he said, business has steadily increased because of the demand. In fact, he is considering expanding to St. Thomas and looking for a partner to do just that.
"Initially I would have to train the person," Morales said, adding that eventually the person would be able to branch out on their own.
He said when he retires from government, he plans to go into the business full time. For now, he says, he takes calls on weekday afternoons and especially on weekends. He can go to the customer or the customer can come to him. All that is needed is a shaded area, he said.
And, he aims to please.
"At the end of the job, all I want is a satisfied customer," he said, adding that much of his business clientele has been amassed via word of mouth. "One person would tell another person about being satisfied with my work and the calls keep coming."
To reach Morales, call (340) 332-1039.
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