Thursday, 31 January 2008 17:00

Be Prepared, Waterborne Conversion Tips

Written by Autobody News staff
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by Robert Pittenger, Spies Hecker Technical Training Manager

Waterborne base coat is a hot topic in the industry right now due to California regulations. But the reality is most body shops in the U.S. will eventually be mandated to convert or will freely do it to take advantage of the green trend that is sweeping the nation.

 Here are some basic principles that will contribute to the success of the conversion.


1.    Mindset – The best success comes when the attitude of the entire body shop is set to welcome the change and a positive, can-do approach is needed from the body shop owner to the painters.

2.    Training – Attend a technical training class as close to the conversion date. Preferably, just prior to the conversion.

3.    Jobber/Paint Manufacturer Involvement – Jobbers need to be intimately involved in the conversion to ensure proper stock, handling and service. Jobbers and Paint Representatives need to be well-trained, and able to assist during the conversion
4.    Body Shop Visit – Visit or call a body shop that is currently using waterborne. Get ideas and suggestions from them. If possible, interview the painter, as well as the owner
5.    Paint Shop Assessment – Make sure to have an audit done of your paint shop to determine the preparedness of the shop. This would generally be done by the paint manufacturer. The audit should include:


Tools and Equipment – Some paint shops may need to change spray guns (waterborne compatible), and/or add additional air flow (blowers).

Mixing/Storage – Water freezes at 32°F, it’s a fact. Every waterborne system has components that will freeze. It should be stored in a temperature-controlled environment. Water also corrodes metal cans. It needs to be mixed and stored in a lined or plastic container.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). It’s always a good idea to have and follow SOPs. If not currently in place when converting to waterborne, it’s a great time to develop some. If SOPs already exist, a few items will need to be modified with waterborne to help to ensure consistent quality.


Waste – Waterborne waste must be disposed of separately in many areas. Check with your local waste company to determine if you need separate waste containers.

Cleanup – Waterborne gun cleaners are available, although some body shops may not need them.


Compressed Air Quality – Have the compressor and air lines checked to make sure there is no water or oil in the air lines, eliminating any outside variables that might cause quality issues.

Knowledge, expertise, and an open mind are the keys to success. It’s coming, it’s more environmentally friendly, and can be just as productive, if not more so than solvent. Don’t be afraid, just be prepared.


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