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Before the Booth: Saving Time

In a business where money hinges on your completion time for any job, the impetus to go fast is universal. And painters battle harder to beat the book time than metal men do. While painters are constrained by dry times between coats, metal men have only the suggested book labor time to beat.


Mark R. Clark is owner of Professional PBE Systems in Waterloo, Iowa. He’s a popular industry speaker and consultant and is celebrating his 32nd year as a contributing editor to BodyShop Business.

One way painters can save time is by making
the next paint job cleaner. By spending time preparing to paint,
the dirt can be managed and subdued. If the painter very carefully
prepares the vehicle, himself and the booth for clean paint work,
total time to deliver the car will be less.

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Many painters claim they don’t have time for
all these fussy little steps, yet these same painters spend hours
the next day sanding and polishing yesterday’s paint work. Try
the following on the next two cars, and you’ll be surprised at
how clean your work can be.

Prepare the paint:

  • Match the color before the car gets near the spraybooth. Use
    test panels, mix small quantities and find a blendable match first!

  • Strain the paint twice. The better job your paint mixer does
    cleaning the cans of mixing tint, the less junk you’ll find in
    your color. Strain the clearcoat twice, too. Use only fresh isocyanate
    hardener – old catalyst looks like dirt in the paint.

Prepare the vehicle:

  • Wash the car with soap and a drenching water rinse. Better
    yet, wash the car with a pressure washer and shoot up under the
    wheel wells and behind the grill. Make an effort to remove all
    the dirt from the car with running water.

  • Solvent wash the vehicle with clean towels and a solvent especially
    designed to float the contaminants off the surface. Wipe the surface
    dry with clean towels while it’s still wet. Don’t use lacquer
    thinner or any other solvent that might dissolve the wax and grease
    and smear it around the surface. Test for a clean surface by tossing
    a cup of water on the part; if it’s truly clean, the water will
    sheet off.
  • Blow off the vehicle with compressed air outside the booth.
    Open the doors, hood and deck lid. Blow out all the seams, drip
    rails, and nooks and crannies you can find.

  • Use top-quality, treated, shaved and coated masking paper.
    Tape all edges and creases flat and closed – don’t give dust or
    overspray anywhere to hide.

  • Double mask the car if painting a base/clear job. All masking
    papers will shed paper fibers when the paper is wet with solvent
    and flashes dry. Paint the base color and unmask to reveal the
    new paper before clearcoating.
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  • Use disposable wheel maskers or at least a new-looking set
    of reusables. When the wheel maskers can stand up by themselves,
    it’s time for a new set!

  • Do one last solvent wipe when the car finally gets into the
    booth; wipe dry while still wet.

  • Unfold the tack rag to its full 18-inch x 36-inch size and
    crumple it into a loose ball. Not only will it pick up and hold
    more dust, but it won’t leave those mysterious streaks in the
    base color – caused by pushing the shellac off the still- folded
    tack rag onto the car.
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  • Tack off the masking paper, as well as the vehicle, before
    you begin and between coats. Pass the blow gun gently down the
    door, hood and trunk seams at low air pressure with the nozzle
    pointed toward the tack-rag ball.

    Prepare the painter:

    • Wear a nonshedding paint suit. Treated paper suits or nylon
      suits will keep the dirt on the painter and off the car. Wear
      the suit only when painting, and store it somewhere out of the
      dust when it’s not in use. Wash or replace often.
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  • Wear a disposable, lint-free head sock. Don’t wear the same
    head covering more than a couple of paint jobs, and wear a sweat
    band when the weather is hot. Never paint with your head uncovered.

  • Allow no one but the painter access to the booth while painting,
    and enter and leave the booth as seldom as possible. Keeping the
    door closed does make a difference.

  • Make sure painters wear the appropriate respirator. It may
    not make the job any cleaner, but at least the painters won’t
    fall dead across the freshly painted hood if they protect their
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  • Clean the paint gun(s) thoroughly. Don’t depend on a gun washer
    to get the spray gun spotlessly clean. Super clean spray guns
    only get that way with careful partial, disassembly and hand cleaning.

    Prepare the booth:

    • Look to your compressed-air system as a very likely cause
      of less-than-perfect paint work. Drain the tank daily, and dry
      the air with a refrigerated air dryer or desiccant dryer, if possible.
      If you can’t do this, at least spend a couple hundred bucks for
      some correctly done air-line piping and a new trap in the booth.
      Cool the compressor pump with a window fan on hot days to keep
      the moisture down.
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  • Vacuum the interior of the booth. Don’t sweep with a floor
    broom minutes before you pull the car in.

  • Wash off air hoses and respirator supply lines with soap and
    water every week, and tack them off before every job. Store the
    paint-booth hose off the floor, and avoid whipping the air hose
    across the floor to clear tires. Buy the 3/8-inch ID air hose
    and make sure it’s heat resistant if you force dry your work at
    high temperatures.

  • Use the correct filters. Not all booth filters are created
    equal, so speak to the booth manufacturer to get recommendations
    and follow the advice. Keep an extra set of filters on hand. When
    air balancing filters near capacity, they may ‘blind’ with the
    next particle of dust – surely just when you were about to start
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  • Change the exhaust-side filters (arresters) often. They’re
    loaded with the very size dirt particle you’re trying to avoid,
    and vibration from the exhaust fan can easily kick some of them

  • Install both intake and exhaust filters carefully. Air will
    always take the path of least resistance. If your lot boy doesn’t
    seat the filters exactly into their respective holes, they’ll
    allow dirt to pass.

    Mark Clark, owner of Clark Supply in Waterloo, Iowa, is a contributing
    editor to BodyShop Business.

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