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Tag Archives: Car painter

4 + 2 things car painter and a doctor have in common (revisited)

I wrote this article almost 7 years ago in February 2013, and since then many of our readers referred to it, and, actually, used it in the business presentations and discussions across refinishing industry. It is always fun to make comparisons of incomparable things. After the years, I came across of two more things, which are similar in both trades. I hope you will find those interesting addition to the list.

One could say that there is hardly anything in common between collision repair facility and, let’s say, your family doctor’s office. Well, probably it is true to some extent. Nevertheless, besides the fact that some auto paint professionals are called “car skin doctors”, there are some professional attributes we should borrow from doctors.

  1. Place your professional certificates on some prominent place.

Next time you will visit your doctor, pay attention to the walls of his cabinet. I am pretty sure that his diplomas and certificates will be right behind him nicely framed! It is not a show off, but a well understood practice to assure a patient that he is in the right place for treatment.

Car refinishing professional also spends considerable amount of time to learn the craft. Wether he graduated from technical school or attended a number of professional seminars or has been certified by the car colour company, he had acquired quite a few documents certifying his knowledge. So, my advice is to clean the dust from your professional certificates and to place them on the nice spot of the body shop, or even better in your office!

  1. Find some place for the office.

Imagine that you need a minor surgical operation to be done (a really small one). You come to the place to schedule the date with your surgeon, and he admits you… right over the operation table. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Believe it or not, but exactly the same applies to any collision and body repair shop. There should be a place, preferably separated from the noise of working compressor or sanding machine, where painter could discuss with a customer all the procedures, costs and, perhaps, additional services to be offered. Let’s face it, selling your service standing in the middle of noisy and dusty body shop, doesn’t look very professional!

  1. Keep the body shop clean as hospital.

I remember my feelings when during my trip to Zambia I looked for a medical help in one small place in the middle of nowhere. The doctor’s place was dirty and old, and I thought my fever probably is not so important, and I should leave or better run away, as soon as possible. Fortunately, most of the doctor’s cabinets are tidy, clean and well maintained. Otherwise how could we trust our health to such a doctor?

Now one could say, body shop is a working place, where old parts are removed, sanding dust is in the air, while spilled paint stains decorate every corner. Big mistake! Don’t expect your customer to respect you, if you don’t respect yourself the place you spend so much time every day. My advice is:

– Clean that dust from the floor, your tools, infrared dryers, and all the equipment. This will give preserve value of your investment and help to “fight” those nasty dust nibs you spend so much time to polish away.

– Remove all those old bonnets, cracked bumpers and smashed doors. You will be surprised how much bigger your body shop actually is.

– Devote one weekend per year to paint your walls. Nothing fancy, pure white or beige colour will refresh the look of your shop. Better mood everyday comes as bonus.

– Improve the lighting, clean your windows, and let the bright side of life in. Having better vision of the place to be repaired is always a big plus.

– Make some shelves and find place for all tools and consumables. One of the biggest problems with clear coat polishing and swirl marks I noticed all those years, was dirty polishing pads covered with sanding dust.

  1. Dress up and look professional.

Why do you think all doctors wear those nice white lab coats? Because they want to look professional, so they must dress up like a doctor. It is an attribute, rather than necessity. White coat inspires confidence.

I do believe that clean overall is a must, especially when you meet a customer. How customers will take seriously your business, if your working uniform is dirty and looks like rag?

  1. Don’t make diagnosis (estimates) over the phone

Have you ever met a doctor, who would give a patient his diagnosis over the phone? I haven’t, and I hope you neither. In order to find out what is wrong with one’s health, a doctor must see him, examine, probably prescribe some tests, and only then – make the diagnosis and proceed with treatment. This is exactly what should be done, when a customer calls you for an estimate and/or sends you the picture. It simply does not work this way. So, next time you receive a phone call for the repair quotation, just think of your physician first.

  1. Never stop learning.

Doctors never stop learning. They attend conferences, seminars and conventions throughout their whole professional career. Nobody would trust his health to a doctor, whose professional knowledge is based solely on the doctor’s degree studies some years ago. Similarly, a body shop professional should continue his professional education regardless of his or her years of experience. Vehicles change, materials change, tools change, so working on the repair “just the way we always do” is not good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceramic coatings from the painter’s point of view.

Undoubtedly, ceramic coatings, or nano/glass coatings, have taken the automotive aftermarket by storm. Let me refer to these products, by generic term “ceramic coatings” further in the article. Dozens of brands have appeared, and each of them claims the best results, ultimate gloss and protection, which lasts for years. Some colleagues of mine, those who are not coming from the detailing business, but from regular bodyshops, have been asking my opinion about ceramic coatings. From my humble opinion, ceramic coatings came here to stay, and there are some very decent brands, which deliver on their promises. Vehicles treated with such coatings look better than new, are easy to wash, and such a treatment raises the overall vehicle’s value. However, I do believe that not all the customers need ceramic coating, and that there is a big information gap. I hope to clarify some questions and bust some myths in this article.

What is a ceramic coating?

Ceramic coating is a liquid polymer based on SiO2 silica, which is applied to clean and polished vehicle clearcoat. The bond between the coating and clearcoat is not chemical, but mechanical. It means that there is no chemical reaction between the coating and the paint/clear.  The particles of ceramic coatings usually are much smaller than the pores of a paint/clearcoat, therefore they penetrate the paint film, and when cured, create a strong bond on nanomolecular level between the coating and automotive clearcoat. This is why many brands add the term “nano” to their products description.

Lasts forever?

Ceramic coatings are not permanent, but semi-permanent, meaning that after some time, which varies from producer to producer, it will wear off and loose its properties. In order to prolong the protective properties, a customer will need to visit a detailing shop for so-called maintenance, which varies from once per two years to a few times per each year. Nano or ceramic coatings are harder than traditional car paints and do provide better water and dirt repellence, but it is not like apply-once-and-forget system.

Hard like diamond?

Most of the brands in protective coatings claim that their product withstands mechanical stress (scratching) equal to 9H. Customers and applicators use this figure all the time, without actually realizing what it means. Personally I didn’t like Physics at school, but thanks to my studies in the military school, I have some understanding of hardness as a physical parameter (the rest skills acquired remained completely unused). Hardness is not measured in just one way, and, in fact, there are several methods to test and measure material’s hardness (coatings in our case). The difference between the measurement systems is substantial. For example, if you use Mohs measuring system, then 9H would refer to almost the highest level of hardness, which is the level of corundum (a form of aluminium oxide). The highest level is 10H, which is a diamond. I wish there would be a coating, which could deliver such protection, but it is not achievable for the time being. There is a simple test to check the credibility of the statement. If you take a dried crystal of any ceramic coating and try to scratch the glass surface, you will realize that it is not possible to leave a scratch. Glass is much harder as a material, and, as we know, only diamond (10H hardness), can scratch and cut a piece of glass. So, what is this 9H measurement on ceramic coatings ads? In fact, there is another measurement system, which is used to measure hardness of a material, and it is called Wolff-Wilborn test, or simply pencil test. This system was initially developed in order to standardize production of pencils. Probably you have noticed already that all the pencils carry a certain marking, like 2B, HB, H1 etc. So, according to this system, a surface which cannot be scratched by pencil with 9H hardness at 45 degree angle can be characterized as 9H hard. Of course, this measurement has nothing to do with diamond. Therefore the promised 9H hardness is nothing more than a marketing trick.

Clearcoat vs Ceramic Coating

It is very important for a vehicle owner to understand what additional protection properties would a ceramic coating offer to his vehicle. In fact, the customer will be paying big money exactly for the difference in scratch resistance between the clearcoat and chosen ceramic coating. But are the parameters of the equation always the same? Of course not.  Simply because clearcoats from different car manufacturers are not the same either. If you compare the clearcoat’s hardness of the European, and, especially German vehicles, with the Japanese vehicles, you will realize that the German clearcoats are much thicker and harder. Therefore, if you apply a ceramic coating on a Japanese or Korean car, the improvement of scratch resistance properties will be noticeable. If you do the same application on certain BMWs, for example, the difference might be negligible. Of course, my explanation is too general, and the only way to understand how hard is the clearcoat – try polishing it. Key scratching test is not advisable.  From our experience, the highest improvement of hardness on a vehicle after ceramic application will be up to 2H. Not more.

Car accident. Now what?

While it is great to discuss how shiny will a vehicle look after ceramic coating’s application, let’s not forget that ceramic coatings do not protect from accidents. Sorry if I ruined your day. I wish there were such coatings (or maybe not, what are we going to sell then to bodyshops…). In reality though, vehicles with ceramic coatings are actually much harder to repair. This is a very important piece of information, which coating applicators usually never give to their customers. Let me explain why actually the repair of the coated car is a headache for car painters.

Imagine that a vehicle protected by ceramic coating has an accident, where its rear door is damaged and requires a paint job. Very few people, besides car repair professionals, know that in many cases in order to make the paint job invisible for the human eyes, a certain procedure – blending or fading out – must be done. This process is necessary to “trick” human eye into believing that there is perfect paint match between the painted part and the adjacent areas. In our case most probably rear fender and front door will be also partially sprayed. I don’t want to get into details of the blending process, because for the car painters it is a part of their everyday job, but for the common car owner it is unnecessary information. Simply speaking, a car painter, who is performing the blending process on a coated vehicle, will need firstly to remove completely ceramic coating from the adjacent parts. This must be done in order to avoid delamination of the new clearcoat from the surface covered by ceramic coating. Normally we apply a blending thinner to soften the old clearcoat and avoid visible border. However, ceramic coating is invisible, and, if a painter doesn’t even know that the vehicle was protected, it will definitely cause problems.

How to remove ceramic coating?

One can remove ceramic coating by sanding (which is okay on the repaired part, but not on the adjacent parts) or by polishing. The problem is that there is no visible sign whether the ceramic coating has been polished out or not. In fact, all the risk and extra work lie on the shoulders of a car painter. Will he get paid for this additional task? I don’t think so.

The very minimum what a professional detailer and ceramic coating applicator should do is to keep customer informed what should be done if the vehicle has an accident. He must provide all the information how the coating can be quickly and safely removed as well.

Conclusion

As I already mentioned, ceramic coatings have become a part of the modern car care industry. Taking into account that car appearance is about 30% of its value, protecting a car will certainly pay off. On the other hand, not all vehicles will benefit from ceramic coating in the same way. In many cases, regular waxing of a vehicle will help in keeping the car’s clearcoat bright and shiny without spending hundreds of hard-earned euros or dollars on ceramic coating application. Another important consideration is the difficulties  ceramic coatings may cause during the process of accident repair. It is still unclear who should bear additional costs of the refinishing job. I also strongly recommend car refinishing shops to consider offering application of ceramic coating as an additional service to the customers. Instead of complaining why customers go to detailing shops, turn lemons into lemonade and earn additional income.

 

Are you fit enough to be a car painter?

Working in a collision repair requires physical fitness. Whether you are painter, a panel beater or a prep guy, your job is manual. Staying fit and healthy is indispensable, and requires three main pillars: right diet, exercise and regular health checks. In the article “A medical examination every car sprayer must take … yesterday” I covered the last pillar, so let me say a few words about the nutrition and exercising.

Before we go into nutrition and exercising, I would like to remind you that unless personal safety taken seriously, car refinishing occupation is considered to be a very high risk for health.

Quit smoking

I know that it is easier said than done, but smoking is a “luxury” a car sprayer simply can not afford from health point of view. Unfortunately, I have seen too many car painters, who spray paint without a mask and with cigarette in the mouth. According to the WHO (World Health Organization) the world’s top five health risks are: high blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood glucose, physical inactivity and obesity. While occupational carcinogens and occupational airborne particulates, which are plenty in automotive repair trade, are among 20 leading global risks for mortality.

In addition, if you consider that occupational carcinogens (like isocyanates) account to 8% reasons of lung cancer (the most frequent form of occupational cancer), and that airborne particulates (like toxic dust from sanding of body fillers and primers) cause about 12% of deaths due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, then smoking is the last drop to kill you. Tobacco use is the second important death risk factor after high blood pressure. It is responsible for 12% of male death!

I don’t want to bomb you with more dreadful statistics about smoking, so, please think twice before you buy your next packet of cigarettes.

We are what we eat.

What comes first to my mind when I think of painter’s diet is a quick sandwich or hamburger washed down with cola or coffee. Sounds familiar to you? Very few bodyshop workers take care of their food at work. Unfortunately many of them suffer from excessive weight, despite the fact that they work physically with their hands, and not sitting behind the computer like the majority of white collars. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, therefore I really suggest you to read one book by Jonathan Bailor “The calories myth: How to eat more, exercise less, lose weight, and live better life.” This book really changed the way I look at food and health. However, I would like to share with you a few tips, which will help you to eat healthier and feel better:

 

  1. Do not eat in the bodyshop. Preparation and painting area is full of airborne toxic dust. By exposing your food to the dust you actually consume bodyfiller and primer dust a long with paint overspray. It is not a good sauce, is it? Avoid this chemical soup altogether.
  2. Don’t wait until you are very hungry. This may cause overeating. Plan your workday in such a way that there is time for launch and short snacks.
  3. Drink plenty of water! Coffee doesn’t count. Staying hydrated is crucial for wellbeing and helps to dispose any toxins from the body.
  4. Wash your hands before the meals. I know you are not a child, but this is a friendly reminder.
  5. Chemicals exposure is a part of life in a bodyshop. Therefore, include foods, which help you to cleanse your body from synthetic chemicals (unfortunately these chemicals are everywhere in a bodyshop).

There are well-known foods, which are scientifically proven to detox your body. Below I bring to your attention a few of them:

– Asparagus. It helps to drainage liver, and aides to reduce stress.

– Avocados. This berry (yes, it is a single seed berry) helps to remove synthetic chemicals from your body.

– Carrots. Simple snack and one of the most powerful detoxing vegetables.

– Olives and cold-press olive oil suck up dangerous toxins.

– Green juices. Leafy greens are well-known detoxifiers. Use them in salad or drink as juice or smoothie.

– Vitamin C reach fruits, like lemons and oranges protect your body from the harmful effects of the synthetic chemicals.

– Milk. Milk contains a lot of proteins, which work as buffers, reduce the negative effects of chemicals.

To summarize, eat more vegetables, greens and drink plenty of water!

Do you need exercise?

It is a question many of you may ask? Spending hours and hours working with your hands isn’t enough? All of us understand the benefits of the workouts for our health and well-being, however it is not easy to combine a physically demanding job (like a bodyshop employee has) and working out. I have asked many people I met about their exercise routine (quite a few guys were really in good shape), and I bring to your attention some tips I learnt from them:

Work out before going to work. If you are an early-bird, hit the gym or running path early. People who exercise in the morning get energized and well-tempered.

If the morning workouts are not the option, then pack your gym back and take it with you to work. This will help you avoid getting home later on. Because if you get home, the chances are that you will not leave the coach for anything but food or drink from the fridge.

– Eat well during the day at work. Hunger and tiredness are not good mix for the gym.

Choose the workout, which you like. If you are not a gym rat, don’t go to the gym. Find other ways to stay fit. Any physical activity is good, and it must be fun, otherwise it won’t last long.

– Jogging or walking are the best options for you. Low intensity exercise on the fresh air is ideal for bodyshop employees, who spend many hours in closed and polluted space of the workshop. Even a half an hour stroll will have multiple benefits for your health and fitness level. If you have a dog, use it as an opportunity to go out more.

– If your family or professional obligations do not leave much space for the workouts, try HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT is a training technique comprised of short intervals of very high intensity.

– Go to sauna. Sauna provides scientifically proven way to remove dangerous from the human’s largest organ – skin.

– Whether you are a prep guy or a painter, your everyday job requires a great deal of repetitive tasks, which may cause strains and pain in your back or arms. If this is the case, seeks advice from your physician which exercises could help to strengthen your body and prevent chronic problems.

 

To sum up, I would like to emphasize that for a bodyshop professional his health is the most precious “asset”. Without good physical form, you will not be able to continue with your job. Take it seriously and invest in your health!

 

Why do we need more women in the bodyshop?

We are living in a time where clichés are being dethroned. Women serve in the army, run successful international corporations, fly to space and lead governments. Whether we – men – like it or not, women will take up more active role in every aspect of the modern society. Automotive industry is still dominated by men, despite the fact that the number of women behind the driving wheel match the men, at least in the developed world. So, why don’t we have an equivalent percentage of women (I don’t know what percentage this should be) in a bodyshop?

Women in the repair shop. Why we see women only at the reception desks?

I will concentrate on the bodyshop business, since it is closer to my usual readers. Apparently, there are a few reasons why women spraying cars are rather an exception.

  1. Prejudice. I strongly believe the main reason, is the negative predisposition of people – men – in the collision repair industry against women in a bodyshop. Just like with female taxi drivers, men do not like their cars to be fixed, driven or painted by women.
  2. Collision repair job is too hard for women. It shouldn’t be. If a bodyshop is properly equipped than none of the operations, especially in a paint shop, should be physically challenging for women.
  3. This work is too hazardous for women. Again, collision repair work must be safe for any person involved in the repair process, regardless of gender or age. Of course, I have my concerns if women should be working with chemicals, while pregnant, but this shouldn’t be an obstacle for women’s occupation in a bodyshop in general.
  4. Social disapproval. Just like with the first point, modern society puts labels on women. They can be nurses, waitresses, teachers, cooks or doctors. Most of the parents will discourage their daughter to choose a career of a car mechanic or refinisher.
  5. The job is not prestigious. It is hard to deny that the collision repair industry struggles to attract young people. This is the problem, which affects young men and women in the same way. Unless we find proper incentives, our industry will continue to grow older.

Emelie Dammare WorldSkills 2013 Silver Medalist in Car Painting

Why do we need more women in the industry?

The idea to write this post came to me after reading the article “Young Painter Creates “Girls Behind the Gun” in AutobodyNews.com about Konstandina Manjavinos – a young lady who is a very successful sprayer. Konstandina is also the founder of the movement “Girls behind the gun”. I follow her posts and cannot hide my admiration for her enthusiasm and skills. “Girls behind the gun” has thousands of followers! By the way, Konstandina has Greek roots. I tried to recall any female car sprayer in Greece. Never met one, even though a colleague told me that he knew … three!

  1. Women are more efficient and accurate in the routine tasks.We all know that vehicle’s preparation before it enters a spray booth, requires a certain routine of masking, sanding, de-masking, priming and cleaning chores. The importance of these jobs are difficult to underestimate. If you ever have visited an OEM paint shop, you would know that the majority of employees there are women. I guess that the biggest car manufacturers realized a long time ago that women are better than men in many tasks in the paint shop.
  2. Women are better in distinguishing colors.According to the research in the CUNY’s Brooklyn College, “women are much better in noticing subtle differences among shades of a color”. We all know how important this capability in colormetrics and color-matching is. Automotive refinishing business will benefit from more women in a spray booth or behind a color matching bench.
  3. Women handle better multiple tasks. According to the research of University of Glasgow, women outperform men when asked to do multiple tasks simultaneously. I think that in a bodyshop, employees have to run many things at the same time. For fact.
  4. Women keep their working place clean and tidy.Every year dozens of productive hours are lost because employees are searching for tools, equipment and consumables around the shop.
  5. Women are better in communication. It is not a secret that timely delivery of a vehicle doesn’t depend only on bodyshop capacity. Estimators, insurance companies, parts and consumables’ suppliers all influence delivery times. I am sure that more women in all positions in a collision repair shop will benefit the business overall.

 

Finally, I would like to mention another influential woman in the collision repair business –Kristen Felder – founder at Engage Target Media and Collision Hub. I follow Kristen’s work for a while now, and she is probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the automotive refinishing industry I know. I am sure there are many other women who make our trade move forward.

Does your customer know what clearcoat do you use?

Recently I was a witness of the conversation between a housewife and an interior decorator (painter). What amazed me in this interaction, was how the painter justified his quotation for a job, explaining which materials he would be using and why. He was very detailed in his pitch, naming products, brands and providing very detailed description of the way he is treating his customer’s walls. After about 20 minutes he has got the job; the woman didn’t go further to request quotation.  Even though drawing parallels between different jobs is not always applicable, I think that auto body professionals can project the above said to their job, particularly on the way they give estimates to their clients.

Vehicle refinishing is a complex, multistage procedure. Each step is important, as well as materials used during the process. If you use quality materials (and I hope you do), why not providing your customer with some basic information about it. Remember, consumers in the era of fast and free information, know a lot more than in pre-internet period. They actually want to know details, names of the products and brands you will use on their precious vehicles. Do not be surprised if the client has already done some research and is waiting from you the assurance of high quality repair and materials used.

Explaining, within the logical boundaries, how you will repair the car to its pre-accident condition, is the best way to sell your service at a reasonable price. For example, if you are quoting a client, who received already another quotation from the competitor, do not start with the price at all. Instead, explain that you will take care about the vehicle’s anticorrosive protection, every sand-through will be treated with epoxy or etch primer, you will perform edge-to-edge blending and the clearcoat you use is top quality (let’s say Etalon Etaclear 970 UHS). Emphasize that the gloss will not go away, like some cheap clears out there, and that the client will not see his paint peeling off from the bumper, because plastic primer wasn’t applied. It is good to have handy some pictures of your previous jobs. If the customer’s car is red, explain how important is to apply high quality base coat and UV resistant clear, since red pigment is weak by nature and can easily fade out. Be specific, but don’t overplay with jargon. Speak plain English or whatever language you communicate in understandable manner.

However, do not blame any competitor. Never try to diminish others, because it may come as boomerang. Concentrate on your strong sides rather than speak about others’ mistakes.

In order to stand out from the crowd, to have healthy margins and to grow, you do not need extraordinary measures. By doing honest and professional repairs and communicating your way to customers, a painter will prosper. So, next time don’t forget to tell that you use Etalon Clearcoat!

Picture courtesy by Ray Penny

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