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The best polishing machine for a collision repair shop is …

 

To make it clear from the beginning, I will not name the best brand or model, even if I do have a very strong opinion about the best electric tools in the market. The main objective of this short post is to clarify to our readers what machine they should have in their bodyshop to solve car refinishing problems. For the last couple of years, collision repair professionals have been approached with a great variety of tools, and I have been asked quite a few times about the best choice.

Types of polishing machines

All the existing polishing machines in the market can be divided into three categories: rotary, random orbital and dual action (DA). Below I am going to explain the major differences between them.

Rotary polishers

Rotary polishers are the oldest polishing tools in the market. They use simple circular motion on a single axis. Modern rotary polishers come in a variety of designs and with the possibility of speed adjustment (usually from 600 to 2500 rpm), but the two most important parameters we check in a rotary machine is the power output and weight.

Orbital polishers

Orbital polishers unlike the rotary polishers, which are using direct drive on one axis, have two centers – machine central spindle and pad’s own axis. The movement of the pad is orbital, like the Earth’s movement around the Sun. The shape of the orbit depends on the distance between the two axes. This distance is a crucial technical parameter and usually is somewhere between 8 to 21mm. The best example (at least from marketing point of view) of random orbital technology is Rupes Big Foot series. The good thing about orbital polishers is that they are very safe, and it is almost impossible to overheat or damage the coating while using an orbital polisher.

Dual action polishers

Dual action or DA polishers are usually confused with orbital ones. DAs are actually a hybrid between rotary and orbital machine, in which forced rotary movement is combined with orbital. This machine is supposed to have the best from the two worlds. Flex XC3401 VRG is the most known DA polisher in the market. The Das indeed can do the job of minor scratches correction, on the other hands, it is very hard to remove wet sanding marks, for example.

What polisher shall we buy for a bodyshop and why?

First of all, we need to understand when usually we use a polishing machine in the collision repair shop? The main usage of polishing or buffing in a bodyshop occurs when a painter needs to remove certain paint defects revealed after the repair job is completed. The most frequent paint defects, which require buffing, are dust nibs, runs, excessive orange peel and clearcoat dieback. Usually prior to compounding, a painter use either wet or dry sanding paper to speed up the polishing process altogether. So, in other words, polisher is a kind of fire extinguisher helping to prevent the potential customer’s complaints. Nobody likes those nasty dust nibs on a freshly painted car. The key parameter for polishing is the speed. Paint defects must be removed quickly and effectively, so that the vehicle could leave the workshop on time.

From the three types of polishers I mentioned above, the fastest and the most powerful tool is a rotary buffer. Rotary machine quickly increases the temperature of the paint, softens it and by friction between pad, compound and the surface, removes the upper layer of the clearcoat. DA polisher and especially random orbital machines will fail in most of the instances to remove sand paper scratches even from grit P2000. Fact. Despite the ease of use and safety, dual action and orbital polishers are not the preferred tools for a bodyshop professional. They are very useful for the detailers to remove holograms, swirls and to apply wax or sealant, but this is another job.

Conclusion

If you need to buy a polishing machine (every bodyshop must have one), go for a reliable rotary polisher. Pay attention to the machine’s weight (something within 2-2.5kg range is a good choice) and power output (900 – 1100 Watt are good enough). However, if you consider to offer polishing and detailing services, which I strongly recommend you to do (read a separate article about this topic here), then a DA polisher or random orbital one will be a well-justified and worthwhile investment.

 

P.S. A car sprayer should consider purchasing a pneumatic orbital polishing machine. Unlike car detailing shops, all bodyshops are equipped with decent air compressors. Pneumatic polishers are powerful, durable, lightweight and almost maintenance free.

How to avoid 50% of the paint defects in a bodyshop?

 

One of the most interesting parts of my job is visiting car manufacturers in different countries. I always enjoy this feeling of an accurate, well-managed producing machine. It gives you a clear vision, a benchmark, of how things must work in a regular bodyshop. A paint shop in OEM plant is a special place. It is very-very clean. Everything is done in order to prevent dust and dirt from coming to the painted surface. However, even in the car plants with all the measures taken, on average, about 4-5 dust nibs are usually revealed during the inspection process. And this happens under conditions close to an operating room in a hospital! Thus, it is not difficult to understand why more than 50% of car defects in a regular bodyshop, are mere dust inclusions in the basecoat/clearcoat film. I think you would agree with me that majority of the body paint shops are anything but neat and tidy.

What is a dust nib?

Actually we call this type of paint defects with different names. Dirt contamination, spikes, grits, nibs, seeds, grains, specks, bits… Yet, no matter how you call them, the meaning is simple; those are foreign particles, which are not supposed to be there. They are projecting from the paint film, undermining your overall job and effort.

Dust nibs could be of a different origin:

– Simple air-borne dust

– Human hair

– Lint from wiping materials

– Abrasive grains

– Cloth fibers

– Dried overspray

– Airline dirt (parts rubber air hose, for example)

– Fibers from the spray booth filters etc

Dust nib removal

How to prevent dust contaminations?

It is always better and easier to prevent a problem rather than remedy. So, what shall we do in order to avoid the costly and time consuming re-works?

1. The most important way to keep your paint job free from dust inclusions is to preserve the working area and spray booth clean and tidy.

2. Wear anti-static tear-proof working overalls while spraying.

3. Regularly check and maintain air supply system. Worn-out air hose will throw small rubber particles in the compressed air line.

4. Change and clean routinely air filters.

5. Clean thoroughly your spray guns and blowing guns.

6. Protect spray booth walls from overspray by applying booth mask tacky coating or special film. Dried overspray on the walls can easily get into the air circulating in the booth and stick to the wet painted surface.

7. According to the European laws sine 1991, a spray booth must be running at negative pressure, in order to prevent airborne hazardous paint mist escaping the cabin. This means that if we open frequently the doors of spray booth or if wall panels are not properly fit, seams with improper insulation, gaskets worn-off etc, the dust from outside will be attracted inside the spraying area. Inspect systematically your spray booth condition for leakage. I have to add that in practice many paint sprayers tune their spray booths create excess pressure inside to avoid dust to get in.

8. Always wash a vehicle before even starting preparation jobs.

9. Air blow the vehicle before entering a spray booth.

10. Use anti-static wipes on plastic car parts prior paint application. Plastic attracts air-borne dust. Pay attention to bumpers, plastic rims, mirrors etc

11. Use high-quality dedicated, preferably non-woven wipes with degreaser and anti-silicon cleaner.

12. Clean routinely all the surface to be painted with a high quality tack rag.

13. Use only dedicated masking film with corona treatment. This film is designed to hold overspray, avoiding peel-off of dry paint.

14. Use high quality Kraft masking paper. Newspapers or other types of paper are made of recycled raw material. Such masking paper is full of fibers on its edges, which will fly over the place as soon as air from a spray gun will hit the surface of the car.

Remedy

Usually dust nibs within a clearcoat film can be removed by microabrasives P1500-P2000 and subsequent polishing. However, dust inclusions within basecoat film must be re-sprayed. What is important to remember that removing a dust nib can be done only after the clearcoat is fully cured.

Dust nib

4 Ways to Speed Up Your Body Shop Productivity

Productivity watch

We all keep
saying “Time is Money”, but very few of us really do something to really
increase the body shop’s delivery times. Even if you understand that your
repair process is not smooth or effective, you hardly know where to begin from,
what to change? Nevertheless, by doing adopting 4 steps program below, you will
significantly decrease your car delivery time up to 50%!

                                                                                           
Productivity bust

1.      
1.
Improve
your body shop layout. Actually this one is the most difficult. You may say
that your working space is limited and hard to change, but from our experience
there is always space for improvement and optimizing already existing places.


Layout
    

         
Break
down your space on different working areas. The biggest mistake is to do all
jobs everywhere. Additional time will be needed for moving tools and equipment
around the place. Usually the main areas are: 
panel area,
where damaged parts are taken off, prep area, where body
filler is applied, sanded and afterwards the surface is cleaned with tack rag
and degreased; painting area or spray booth, where primer, basecoat and
clearcoat are applied; finish or polishing area, where final inspection and
defects removal take place; and finally washing (valeting) area, where the
vehicle is washed, ideally before and after the repairing process.

         
Minimize
the time of moving the cars between working areas by relocating each working
place according to logical sequence of jobs execution

                                          
Shop layout

         
Follow
the link for Spieshecker brochure “Successfully designing a new bodyshop” for
more tips or just admire this video from Spanesi designed body shop. 

 Us   2. Use
fast drying spraying materials in combination with Infrared lamps. Paint
materials for collision repair have advanced for the last decade. You can find
a very fast drying fillers, basecoats or clears almost in all major car
refinishing brands.
In addition, infrared technology made
our lives even easier. We can speed up drying times for small area repairs
without even getting into spray booth. It is amazing how underused this type of
equipment is in many body works facilities!

3.     3.  
Keep
it clean! I will never stop saying that having your place clean is crucial for
your image and work quality. And when I mean “clean”, I refer for 4 Cs concept.

         
Clean
shop

         
Clean
car (surface to be painted)

         
Clean
air in compressed air system

         
Clean
you (I mean gloves and overalls will keep your dust out)

                                        
Clean body shop

4.     4. 
Don’t
cut the corners during the preparation work. It is known fact that 90% of all
time you spend on car painting job is actually preparation of the vehicle for
painting. Skipping steps and avoiding proper procedures will only cause lengthy
and costly re-work. So, follow your suppliers’ technical instructions to be
fast and efficient.  

            
2 hours delivery

How to spoil the best clearcoat polishing job?

Cloud microfiber

Some of my
fellow colleagues may wonder what kind of question it is… Nevertheless, many of
us know the answer very well. The easiest way to spoil the shiny result after
hours of intensive clearcoat polishing is to wipe off the surface with
“whatever-rag-I-find-nearby”. During my career in automotive polishing, I have
seen a lot of techniques to polish a car with plenty of different compounds,
microabrasives and polishing tools. Quite a few things can go wrong, but the
worst mistake, from my point of view, is final wiping with dirty rag. All of a
sudden, nasty scratches appear from nowhere, ruining the result of mirror
glossy shine. So, if you want to know how NOT to spoil your polishing job, the
answer is simple-use quality MICROFIBER wipe instead!

Microfiber  history   


UK-icon

Some say
that microfiber thread was invented in Japan, mid-70s, other say that it was
first introduced in 1986 in England. What is more or less sure is that
microfiber wipes have been in use in automotive polishing and detailing
business since the beginning of 2000s. From that time we can find microfiber
cloth in more or less every place which cleans washes or repairs vehicles.

                                                                                                                                             
Japan-Flag-3-icon

What is
microfiber wipe?

 Probably many of you already have an idea what
wipe we can call “microfiber wipe”, but let me just elaborate a little bit on
this subject.

 

         
Microfiber
threads are 2 times finer than silk, 3 times finer than cotton, 8 times
finer than wool and 100 times thinner than a single strand of human hair

 

                                                                    
Image 5

         
When
woven together these fibers create a surface 40 times bigger than that of a
regular cotton fiber


Image 4

         
Microfiber
cloth absorbs 7-8 times its weight in liquids

         
Microfiber
wipes can be washed up to 1000 times, maintaining their absorption and cleaning
capacity

         
Microfiber
textile can clean a surface reducing the number of bacteria by 99%, against
conventional materials with only 33% reduction rate.

         
A
fiber to be considered “micro” must be less than 1.0 Denier, which is a measure
of thinness of fiber and stands for weight in grams of a continuous thread of
9000 meters long!

 

How to
distinguish real microfiber wipe for automotive applications in polishing and
cleaning?

Obviously
it is not so easy to distinguish a cheap wiping cloth and a high quality
microfiber wipe for professional use. Below you can find the major
characteristics of the professional microfiber, as well as some simple ways to
check what you have in your hands.

Professional
microfiber wipe characteristics are:

         
Professional
microfiber cloth is always a mixture of polyester and polyamide (nylon) fibers


Microfiber asterisc

         
Ideal
ratio between polyester and polyamide fibers is 70-80% to 20-30%. Polyamide
fibers are used as core of the hybrid fiber, while polyester is the outer skin.
Worth noting that polyester fibers are extremely good at oil absorption, while
polyamide fibers have extreme affinity to water

                                                
Image 2

         
Good
microfibers are split (actually it looks like asterisk) so that numerous wedges
are created instead of ordinary rounded surfaces of other fibers. As a result
dirt and liquid particles are trapped inside, and not pushed around, like with
the conventional wipes. In addition, during the process of fibers’ splitting,
the fibers are positively charged. Dirt and dust, due to their negative charge,
are attracted to the wipe, which retain the particles like a magnet.

         
Professional
microfiber wipes are very soft and never scratch the surface. Edges of such a
wipe are always carefully lined to avoid any risk of leaving traces after
wiping off or buffing polishing compound or glaze

         
High
quality microfiber wipes are made of only A grade yarn. The difference with B,
C or D grades is that the later are made of recycled plastics, which are rougher
and need to be treated with extra softeners during the production process. However,
excessive softener closes up the gaps in microfiber, leaving no space for dirt
and water retention.

         
After
cleaning or bugging the surface with microfiber cloth no lint or dust is left

         
Make
sure that you have a real microfiber wipe in your hands. Do not trust cheap
wipes sold in supermarkets.  In order to
determine if the microfiber has been made from split fibers, run the palm of
your hand over it. If it “grabs” the imperfections on your skin then it’s split
fiber microfiber cloth. Also, you can check it by pouring a small amount of
water on a surface, and using your microfiber wipe try to push water. If water
is easily absorbed, and not pushed forward, then you have a real thing in your
hands.

               Two little tips:   

       
Tip

         
Wash
your microfiber wipe in regular washing detergent, without fabric softener,
because oils in softener and softening detergents will clog up the fibers
making them less effective! No ironing needed!

                                     
Washing bubbles 2
Washing 1

         
When
using in car polishing process, use flat, shallow structure microfiber (like Etalon Microshine) wipe in
order to minimize risk of scratching clearcoat with trapped particles of
compound or dust.

NANOTEX 9611

Tip 3. Easy way to increase bodyshop revenue. Offer pre-sale car repair services.

Tip 3. Easy way to increase bodyshop revenue. Offer
pre-sale car repair services.

 
Selling car

Everyday
people around us decide to sell their car, and statistics says that for every
Euro (Dollar, Pound, Ruble etc) spent on minor car repair, one will get 3 Euro
(Dollar, Pound, Ruble etc) more in sales price! Good-looking, shiny, clean
vehicle will be much easier to sell, faster and at higher value. This is where
any body shop and collision repair center could add an additional service –
pre-sale repair package. As all our tips, the Tip 3 also doesn’t require costly
investments or long training; making car nice and glossy is your job anyway.
Below I put a few ideas how you can do this.

-    
Car cleaning service. This is actually an optional part.
If you can’t be bothered with cleaning and washing, just ask your customer to
visit car washer before.

-     
Removal of stone chips, scratches,
scuffs and dents
.
Let’s face it, even a relatively new car after a few months of driving in the
modern urban jungle will acquire a few deep scratches, not to mention stone
chips, which will spot themselves very easily.

-     
Professional polishing services.
Car refinishing professional is
actually a vehicle dermatologist, and no one could treat paint coating better
then car painter. Make it clear to a potential car seller that general
appearance of the vehicle is perhaps the single most important selling point!

-     
Alloy wheel repair. Many people neglect the look of
their vehicle’s wheel rims, but, no doubt, when car is being sold those nasty
deep scratches will be more then visible.

-     
Repairing dull yellowish head lights
(see our Tip
1
). Some of the vehicles in the market have very “tired” head lights,
not to mention those with one head light replaced after a small crash. In just
15-20 minutes you can offer to the customer a service with incredible added
value.

-     
Fixing damaged bumper.
Actually I described this service
in details in our Tip
2

-     
Mechanic check up. This service a collision repair
shop could offer in co-operation with his fellow mechanic, while splitting
advertising costs for the package.

-     
Prepare a detailed leaflet with
“Pre-sale must-do check list”.
Even if a customer for some reason will not take any service, he or she
will appreciate your advice and use your services in the future. Such a list
should have useful information. For example, advice that selling used vehicle
is much better in late spring rather then in winter (presenting car in rain and
snow is not easy). Also, state how important is to have original keys, manuals,
complete maintenance and service documentation in place.

 
Selling car 2

To
conclude, I would like to share a few tips prior offering pre-sale repair
package to a customer:

  1. Make sure that you are not
    selling repairs, which would be too costly or not worth of money in
    particular case. Show that you don’t want customer wasting money. Remember
    that satisfied customer will tell to 3 friends about your offer, while
    unhappy one will spread bad new to at least 10 acquaintances.
  2. Have some pictures of each
    service showing “before” and “after” condition. This will help a customer
    to visualize what exactly you offer.
  3. Above mentioned service could
    be offered as package or separately. Give you customer possibility to
    choose.
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