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The Evolution of Automotive Coatings

Automotive Coatings Chemistry 101

To be honest chemistry wasn’t my favorite class at school. Probably it was because of the teacher, but I didn’t succeed in getting an A on chemistry no matter what. However, life is unpredictable, and sometimes things you wish to avoid, become part of your life or career. I began my entrepreneurial path with trading chemical raw materials for coatings manufacturing, and now I am in automotive refinishing business, where the greater part of products are chemicals. I don’t know if you experienced my difficulties with chemistry, but if you use or supply automotive painting products, then chemistry is important for your work too.

Chemistry is an exact science

You may wonder what this article is about? Well, I intend to stress the importance of understanding and respecting chemistry as science, and not just any science, but an exact one. Chemistry is in the heart of the automotive refinishing industry. Paints, clears, primers, bodyfillers, sealants and other paint related materials are developed based on the fundamental rules of the applied chemistry. We all know that.

The exact sciences are characterized by accurate quantitative expression, meaning that the reaction between the chemical elements happens in accordance with the quantitative parameters of these elements.

You do not need to know the chemical formulas, but understanding the essentials is the key to success in our trade. Failing to do so will cost you money and reputation. Below you can find the most common examples how chemistry can “punish” you if you didn’t learn the lesson.

Adhesion problems

Unfortunately adhesion problems are very common paint defects in collision repair works. Painters many times fail to understand that adhesion of one material on another depends on two parameters: mechanical bond (this is why we use abrasives to create the right scratch pattern for the subsequent coating’s bonding) and chemical bond, which happens on the molecular level. If you do not remove the waxes and release agents from the new OEM bumper, for instance, it will cause flaking. Similarly, silicone particles can not mix with any other liquid, therefore the so-called “fish-eye” defect will appear on the contaminated surface. Proper surfaces preparation and following the TDS will help to avoid unpleasant situations of poor adhesion.

Problems with curing of 2K materials

If a clearcoat’s technical data sheet says that the mixing ratio is 2 parts of clear to 1 part of hardener without any thinner (or “reducer” as our American colleagues call it), it means exactly that. Not 5%, not 10%, not “I am used to do it like that all the time!” Period.

Similarly, if you add more benzoyl peroxide hardener to polyester-based body filler, it will not speed up the curing process, simply because the crosslinking between hardener and resin can happen only given a certain amount of available styrene and polyester molecules. More benzoyl peroxide will not “find” free elements and just stay unused, causing problems like bleeding.

Problems with expired products

You wouldn’t eat smelly meat or drink expired milk, would you? Just like we respect the shelf-life of our food, we must respect the indicated storage times on your fillers or clearcoats.  I have seen dozens of times how easily painters mix and use coatings, which are expired. While sometimes one can get away with this, in the majority of cases problems are almost guaranteed. It is worth mentioning that even similar products, but from different suppliers may greatly vary as to the shelf-life of the materials. You can find in the market primers ranging from 12 to 36 month’s storage. Needless to say that treating all the primers the same way is a big error. Careful stock management and implementation of the logistic practices like FIFA (first in, first out) will save money both for the bodyshop and coatings supplier.

Incompatibility of the coatings

In chemistry there are two main scenarios how two substances can react in case of contact: no reaction or intermixing or some kind of reaction. In the paint shop we observe both of them. When hardener is mixed with clearcoat, we have chemical reaction, which leads to fast curing of the mixture and crystallization. This is a desirable outcome. On the flip-side, we do not want any chemical reaction between bodyfiller and primer, for example. What happens if we spray etch-primer over the bodyfiller? Aggressive acids in the etch-primer will react with bodyfiller, causing lifting and adhesion failure.

Problems caused by using wrong thinner/reducer

Many products in the market are designed to be used with certain thinners (reducers) in order to get the desirable viscosity. Unfortunately, not all thinners are created equal. In the paint workshop you can find different types of thinners: acrylic thinner, base coat thinner, nitro thinner and epoxy. All of them have different base and purpose. One of the most common mistakes I have observed is using of nitro-based solvent in the 2K primers and clears (for the cost reasons mainly). The vast majority of 2K materials in the collision repair shop are made on the acrylic-urethane resins. If you use nitro thinner, for example, which is much faster than acrylic ones, it may cause gloss reduction and orange peel effect.

Good news

When you are taking exam at school, you are not allowed to use any help or source of the information. The good news is that in our business not only we have the cheat sheets available, but we are encouraged to use them as we wish. I am talking about TDSs or technical data sheets. I am confident that if every painter used TDS whenever doubtful, the amount of the paint defects and costly re-sprays would have dropped significantly. Nowadays, thanks to the internet connection and smart phones, you can find the needed information within just a few minutes. TDS is the best source of information for every single product you use. Chemists and technicians worked hard to put the necessary information together for you, so use it. No need to re-invent bicycle… Well bicycles are more about physics, but this is another subject though…

 

 

The best polishing compound for a bodyshop is… 12 steps guide to find one for yourself.

etalon refinish

Probably when you think of car refinishing job, paint polishing is not the first thing to come up in your mind. Nevertheless, it is an important process for any collision repair specialist. Firstly, when a minor paint defect occurs, in 9  cases out of 10, you will need a compound and a polisher to fix the problem. Secondly, a full car detailing could and should be an additional service offered to a customer who walked through your shop’s door.

Consumption of a polishing compound varies from one shop to another. Usually the excessive use of a compound means two things: too many paint defects revealed during the inspection process or/and incorrect polishing process. I have seen an operator pouring a quarter of a bottle to polish a fender. Also, in certain markets with poor working conditions without a proper spraying equipment, painters have to wet-sand all the repaired surfaces to remove orange peel and numerous dust nibs. It comes with no surprise that in these cases polishing compounds’ and glazes’ consumption is sky-high. What I would like to share with you in this article though is a short guide how to pick up the right polish for you. This is not the advertisement for Etalon polishing system, and my tips come from my own experience and the extensive knowledge of my colleagues and employees.

 

  1. Examine the surface to be polished. Before you decide which compound to use (yes, it’s good to have a few compounds to choose from), you need to understand the condition of paint or clearcoat you will work on. In a bodyshop usually we use compound to remove paint defects, meaning that paint is fresh. Is is crucial to know if the clear was properly baked in accordance with the manufacturers technical data sheet. If you choose too aggressive compound on still soft clear, big chances are that you will end up with excessive haze and swirls. It has nothing to do with the quality of the compound, but with the clearcoat’s chemistry instead.

 

  1. Check what polishing pads do you have available. The quality of paint rectification depends on many factors, like the polish machine, compound used, pads the compound is applied with and, an operator’s skills,indeed. So, if you do not have a quality wool pad handy, then you may need to go for more aggressive polishing compound. While if you have only rotary polisher in your tool box (read the article about polishing machines here), then a choice of medium cut compound would be a reasonable choice for safe polishing.

 

  1. Check what abrasives you have at your disposal. Nowadays one can find in a body and paint supply shop a great assortment of micro abrasive products. It is not necessary any more to remove orange peel, for example, with a polishing compound only. If you choose a film based abrasive disc P1500 first, then rectify the surface with P2000 or P2500, the entire process will take 3 times faster than a compound only process.

 

  1. Assess the ambiance and surface temperature. In case you have high temperatures in your workshop, choose a liquid polishing compound (not a paste) with oily consistency. There are polishing compounds in the market which turn to dust within first minute of use. This occurs due the high solvent content in them. These solvents evaporate very quickly when temperatures are high. You will have to add more and more compound to keep working and face an unpleasant dust spreading around.

 

  1. Avoid compounds, which require added water. You can still find the products in the market, which require adding certain quantity of water before and during the work. It will create a lot of splashes and unnecessary cleaning afterwards.

 

  1. Avoid difficult to clean compounds. I have seen otherwise good products, which are very difficult to wipe off especially from rubber and plastic parts. Such polishes will either require meticulous masking job prior polishing or long time spent on cleaning the residues. No, thanks.

 

  1. Choose a polishing compound with the best cut/gloss ratio. The times when cutting compound was leaving almost mat surface are gone for good. As a matter of fact, you can find fairly cutting compounds which leave lustrous surface with a very high gloss level. Certain brands market such products as one-step. However, you should remember that on the dark colors you may still need a finish glaze with anti-hologram properties.

 

  1. Avoid polishing compounds with silicone. Check that a bottle has a “silicone free” or “bodyshop safe” tag on it. No need to explain why.

 

  1. Avoid polishing compounds with waxes or sealants. It is very popular amongst car detailers to use so called “two-in-one” polishes, which combine abrasive and waxing properties. In a bodyshop, however, the clearcoat, albeit properly dried, still “breathe” with solvents. We don’t want to seal the pores of the paint, while solvent is still making its way out. Generally it is advised not to apply any waxes or sealants within two weeks from the paint job to avoid dieback of the clear coat.

 

  1. Prefer a polishing system with only a few polishing products available. Some brands offer just one-product system, but from real life experience it is obvious that there is still no perfect single compound for all jobs. Likewise, do not be misled by systems with far too many products.

 

  1. Avoid compounds with fillers inside. In car care and cosmetics market you may see a great variety of the polishes with filling properties. Such a product doesn’t remove scratches, but rather mask them for a limited period of time (usually until the next proper wash). The last thing a professional car sprayer needs is the angry customer coming to the shop and spotting the places where a paint defect was. A real pro will remove the paint defect, not mask it.

 

  1. Do not choose the polishing system just because it’s cheap. The cost of polishing materials in the overall bodyshop repair bill is negligible, but the spent on compound might be too long to afford.

 

Bonus tip. If you want to compare to compounds, do it exactly under the same conditions; for instance, split a bonnet half by half and do your test with the same polisher, same pressure, time and pad type. Do not mix two compounds on one pad in order to avoid misleading results.

 

 

 

 

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

If you want to survive as professional in this industry (or any industry), follow these 7 rules.

by Alexandros Aslamazis

The last month was quite challenging for Etalon. We have just started our exports to the UK, Ireland and the United States. Not that the other countries we sell are not challenging, but in the countries I just mentioned the car refinishing industry is extremely saturated. It implies that the customers expect from a newcomer to be different, efficient, innovative, high quality …and on top of that to be the cheapest from the cheapest on this planet. How is that? Nevertheless, my blog post is not about obstacles we faced, but about attitude of some people in the industry towards their competitors.
Incredible as it may seem, but car body repair industry is a small world in fact, notwithstanding you act on a global scale, not to mention any particular country alone. Nonetheless, some individuals believe that badmouthing the competition is worthy strategy to go along with. No, it’s not.

badmouthing guy

As I already said during the past month, I have traveled quite a bit. I recall this presentation of Etalon polishing compounds in a bodyshop in California. Halfway through the testing an old woman appeared. With an annoyed expression she asked what were we doing? It appeared that she was a current supplier of this bodyshop. “This is crap, you try to sell it in America, cause you can’t sell it in Europe”, she said. Luckily, the bodyshop owner cooled her down and showed her the door, wondering how she could judge without even seeing the product. By the way, Wayne Dyer once said “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.“ Another example from our launching presentation in the UK. A sales representative from one of the Italian brands was spreading false information about one of our products, in order to defend his own product missteps. Large international brands fall into this trap just as well. I can recall numerous cases when premium (the word used by the major paint manufacturers extensively) paint company was calling its rival’s product as “rubbish”, which never matches the color. Therefore I am following myself and ask my sales team to follow the following 7 rules:
1. Never use words like “rubbish”, “crap” or similar while talking about your competitors’ products. Not only you drop your professional level, but also you make your prospect to feel stupid. Doors will be closed forever.
2. Never joke about the business size of your competitor. In fact, smaller companies can grow really fast, supply high quality products and outperform their bigger rivals on flexibility and customers service.
3. Never spread negative rumors, whether or not the information you have is quite trustworthy. Remember that nobody likes people who bring bad news.
4. Never talk bad about competitor’s personality, background, origin, race, politics or sports preferences. You can easily put yourself in an embarrassing situation.
5. If you are asked to compare your product against competitor’s, speak about your advantages rather than negative sides of the competitor’s product. For instance, if you are asked to compare two clearcoats tell, “your product is transparent, dries after 15 minutes in a spray booth and easier to use” instead of saying “their product is yellowish, slow in drying and not possible to imitate OEM texture.”
6. Avoid direct confrontation with rival sales rep albeit he is badmouthing your product. Instead emphasize that the great number of your satisfied customers is the best proof of your product and service.
7. Finally, never lie about the competing product. If it has some great features, recognize them and make an effort to emphasize yours advantages as well. Honesty will always win you respect and customer’s attention.

In conclusion, I would like to stress one more time that our business life and career are unpredictable as everything on this planet. If your are a sales manager for a particular brand, you may find yourself in the rival’s camp if a good job offer comes along. If you own a car paint supply shop, you might be selling other brands in a few years. Life is unpredictable, so watch your mouth and be positive!

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