“I am in control.”
“I am in control.”
This is the mantra that thousands of individuals tell themselves daily. And for the most part, we’re a society that’s constantly “in control.” We control our schedules, spending, eating, drinking – even our leisure time and vacations. Yet, even though it’s the year 2001, there are still a few things we cannot control. In fact, a famous writer once said, “When all is said and done, love and weather are the only two elements about which one can never be sure.”
I’m not going to even try to give advice on love – but I will give you tips on how to have a bit of authority where weather is concerned. Of course, the advice will be limited to the four walls within your paint department’s spraybooth, but as a body shop owner or manager, those four walls likely mean your livelihood.
Taking Control of Your Paint Department
Why should it matter if it’s 100 degrees outside with 95 percent humidity or 30 degrees and snowing? The weather stays outside, right?
It’s very difficult to keep outside weather conditions from affecting an inside environment – in part, because paint technicians are often moving in and out of the facility to bring in new cars and deliver completed vehicles. No matter how hard you try, it’s virtually impossible to keep a sealed facility with constant temperature.
And when a paint department doesn’t maintain a controlled environment, a number of problems may occur, such as the paint drying too fast. When expedited drying takes place, solvent pop, air entrapment and orange peel often result. The finish may also lose its shine and luster because of the quick-drying paint.
While the bad news may be that we can’t control the weather, the good news is that we can control the products we use – and that’s the best way to control the environment in a paint department. Today’s products are manufactured with a wide variety of weather conditions in mind. All of the leading paint manufacturers have extensive laboratories and testing facilities to ensure their products will adapt to a variety of temperatures and air conditions. In fact, paint is tested in temperature- and humidity-controlled spraybooths that can replicate virtually any type of weather condition.
Paint manufacturers also test their paint’s performance via the “real world.” Product testing is performed in a variety of locations throughout the United States, in all types of weather conditions. Why? Because this real world testing mimics the typical repair/painting scenarios that would be encountered in an average collision repair facility.
The last step for paint manufacturers is exposure testing. Vehicle panels are painted, then left outside in controlled environments throughout the country. The panels are exposed to hot sun in Florida and ice and cold temperatures in Minnesota, among other areas. These exposure tests ensure the product’s long-term durability.
As a result of the manufacturer testing, the experimental product can result in product reformulation and/or redefining specific application recommendations to address a wide range of application environments.
Back When Mother Nature Had the Upper Hand …
While paint technicians may think it’s difficult to maintain a stable environment in today’s spraybooths, it’s a walk in the park compared to even 30 years ago. Back in the 1970s – in the days of acrylic lacquers – numerous problems occurred. The biggest problem then was spraying in heat and humidity. In warm conditions, the product would absorb moisture from the air and fog up when a technician was spraying. Plus, spraybooths weren’t as sophisticated as they are today, which caused drying problems.
Fortunately, today’s products are made to adapt to a wide variety of weather conditions. Solvents are rated by temperature – from 40 degrees to 105 degrees – and hardeners are designed to correspond to weather conditions and are rated by fast/medium/slow, depending on how fast the product needs to dry.
Spraybooths have come a long way since the ’70s, as well. Back then, many facilities would simply take a vehicle outside to let it dry in a natural environment. Obviously, this caused many finish problems due to the variability of the weather and drying conditions. Today, however, most facilities use heated downdraft spraybooths, which provide a nearly “guaranteed” controlled environment with excellent drying conditions.
7 Steps to Ensure a Controlled Environment
While we’ve come a long way in controlling the conditions in today’s paint departments, it’s easy to forget the basics. If your technicians are in a hurry or you’re short-staffed, a pristine environment can become contaminated very quickly. To make sure your paint department maintains a controlled environment, follow these seven steps:
1. Make sure your paint shop has an accurate thermometer and humidity gauge. Place these important devices inside the spraybooth, in the center of the mechanism. Check them often throughout the day, since temperatures and air conditions can change.
2. Choose the appropriate reducer, solvent and/or hardener for the temperature range and humidity. Follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions on the paint labels to use the proper products.
3. Check the gauge and side holes on your air filtration units to make sure they’re in proper working order. This step will ensure that the compressed air drying and filtration units are working and are providing clean, dry air. Pay particular attention that there aren’t any particulates, oil or water going through the system.
4. Check the menometer gauge and both system gauges to make sure you have proper air flow in your booth.
5. Wear proper painting attire to lessen the occurrence of contaminants in your paint job. Be sure to replace paint suits regularly.
6. Use lint-free rags and clean-up towels. While lint-free products may be a bit more expensive than cloth rags and towels, they practically guarantee a hassle-free finish.
7. Allow sufficient time for the material to do its job. Again, follow instructions from the paint manufacturer. This sounds simple, but many times when a technician is spraying multiple coats and is in a hurry, he’ll work too quickly and not allow sufficient time for one product to dry before applying the next product. But if the paint label says to wait 10 minutes before applying the next product, make sure you wait the 10 minutes. Following directions can save you hours in redos in the long run.
Writer Rod Habel is learning center manager at Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Corp.