You Have Come A Long Way Baby
by R.L. "Bud" Abraham
The introduction of painted cars opened a new world of choices for consumers; however, it also created a world of problems in the form of chips and scratches. While some imperfections are small and hardly visible, others are large and potentially dangerous to the vehicle's body if they are left unrepaired.
Until recently, motorists faced with paint imperfections have had two alternatives. The first method is to repaint the damaged area which can be time-consuming and costly since it can cost as much as $500-$600 just to repaint a door or hood. Additionally, the owner must give up their vehicle for a few days while the work is being completed.
The second method is to touch-up the damaged areas with an over-the-counter paint and small brush. This method offers a partial correction to the problem because it usually leaves little globs of paint in the chip or scratch that often does not match the original paint.
Professional Paint Touch-Up
Professional paint touch-up is a process that fills the void between costly repainting and the unsatisfactory brush-and-dab methods.
The technology involved is nothing more than a micro-sized version of the professional paint systems used by body and paint shops. The only difference is that instead of mixing paint in pints, quarts and gallons, the operator can mix paints in ounces. After the paint is mixed and matched with the vehicle color, special techniques are used to touch-up the chips and scratches.
The process is very simple if you have a user-friendly system. The key elements required for a professional paint touch-up system include the following:
- Paint system, chip books and microfiche files;
- Microfiche viewer;
- Gram scale;
- Micro-paint mixer;
- Small paint sprayer; and,
- Miscellaneous items such as sandpaper, putties, etc.
In order for this process to be profitable, the operator must be able to make the repair quickly and correctly. There are a number of companies with expertise in the field that have developed complete, self-contained paint touch-up systems with and without cabinets.
In my opinion, the cabinet system for either shop or mobile operations is better because it completely organizes everything and puts it where the operator needs it to get the job done quickly. These systems are equipped with their own air compressor systems which means all the operator has to do is plug it into an electrical outlet or generator.
The typical cabinet system would include the following:
- Air compressor;
- Color chip books;
- Microfiche file;
- Microfiche viewer;
- Base colorants to mix paint;
- Gram scale;
- Micro-paint mixer;
- Air brushes and small spray gun; and,
- Miscellaneous accessories and supplies.
The Standard Touch-Up Process
- The standard touch-up process is quite simple and includes the following points:
- Locate the auto manufacturer's paint code from the ID plate on the vehicle;
- Double check vehicle color with a color chip book;
- Match the code number with the appropriate microfiche number;
- Put the microfiche in the viewer to see the paint formula to mix the exact color of the vehicle. Many systems include shading tips if the paint is old and discolored. Some systems include shade variants in one color;
- Select the seven or eight base colorants listed on the formula and place a one-quarter ounce cup on the gram scale and put the suggested quantities of each colorant (by weight) in the cup;
- Cap the cup and put it in the mixer for 10 minutes; and,
- Attach the cup to the air brush and spray.
Before applying, color match the paint by spraying it on a piece of cardboard and placing it against the area to be repaired. If it matches, the operator can begin the touch-up process. If it is too dark or too light, the operator should refer to shading tips to correct the problem.
It is important to make sure that the areas to be painted are cleaned thoroughly with a cleaning solvent.
The spraying process actually is very fast and can be completed in a matter of minutes. A properly adjusted air brush will spray an area as small as a dime; however, depending on the depth of the chip or scratch, more than one application may be needed.
The paint should be allowed to dry for approximately 10 minutes. When the paint is completely dry, the overspray should be removed with a specially formulated remover. Care must be taken to remove only the overspray, and not the paint in the chip or scratch. This method actually utilizes the chip or scratch cavity to hold the new paint, so up close a small outline of the damage will be visible, but it will look perfect from a distance.
When using this system, always explain the results with the customer. Almost all customers will accept the paint touch-up method of repair as long as you clearly explain what the repair will look like.
The Perfect Repair Process
Some systems also include a special "quick-dry" dry putty that allows the operator to perform a perfect repair on chips and especially scratches. With perfect repair, the paint mixing process is exactly the same as the standard touch-up process. The difference is that prior to mixing, the operator puts the quick-dry putty into the chip and allows it to set for 15 to 30 minutes.
Before spraying the paint, the operator will need to sand the putty smooth with both 600-grit and 1500-grit wet/dry sandpaper. When the surface is ready, the spray process changes slightly. First the operator must spray the base coat and then spray the clear coat. Immediately after spraying the clear coat, the operator must spray a special blending solvent on the edges of the clear coat and then blend it into the existing paint surface. If the paint is in a single stage (one coat) after spraying, immediately spray the blending solvent.
The Bumper Scuff Repair
With the advent of rubber bumpers has come unsightly bumper scuffs on any one or all four corners of the vehicle. While these scuffs simply could be sprayed using the standard repair, this process proves unsatisfactory because the damage usually is severe and too large.
The bumper scuff repair process requires that a series of four steps be followed:
1. Sanding with various grits of sandpaper.
2. Filling with a special filler putty.
3. Priming with a special flexible primer.
4. Spraying with a small spray gun.
This process differs from the other repair mentioned in that the operator is required to mix more paint. And because the area to be sprayed is larger, he or she will need a small paint spray gun rather than an air brush. However, when the repair is completed, the result will be a professional body shop repair if care is taken in each step of the process.
The Spot Repair Process
In areas of the country where rust is a problem, some paint system suppliers provide the materials necessary to make minor "rust spot repairs." This process requires cleaning out of the rust, neutralizing it, filling it with putty, sanding and spraying. The process takes more time and may not be practical for a detail shop that wants to turn around a repair in one or two hours.
The various techniques addressed in this article can be learned in about two days; however, it will take the operator a number of attempts to master. How long really depends upon the ability of the person. In general, a person can learn the processes quickly and master them in approximately one week.
It is important to keep in mind that the time to setup and clean will be the same for all touch-up jobs, not including the repair itself. Therefore, an operator must have a minimum basic charge to cover the setup and cleanup time. After that, the time is dependent on the number and size of chips and scratches, as well as the repair process used. In general, most repairs can be complete in approximately one hour.
In my opinion, operators should have a minimum charge of at least $50 for any repair, no matter how small. After that, an operator must base charges on the severity of damage and the time needed to complete the repair. The average price charged would range from $50 to $150. A perfect repair could range from $75 to $200, depending on the time.
Remember, the customer's alternative is a repaint for several hundred dollars and loss of the car for two to three days. Professional touch-up on the other hand is a fast, convenient and reasonably priced alternative.
There is huge potential for these types of services. If you calculate the number of used cars on dealer lots in your area, you will discover that there are many more vehicles on the streets that have chips, scratches, scuffs or rust that should be repaired for cosmetic and protective reasons. In areas where salt is used to melt the snow and ice or in areas near the sea, the salt quickly will begin the rusting process on these chips and scratches. For this reason, they should be touched up as soon as they occur.
One carwash owner had his manager count the number of vehicles that came through the facility in one day with at least one or more chips or scratches. The manager reported that 68 percent of the vehicles had damage. Not believing the figures, the owner did the same count the next day and found that nearly 75 percent of the vehicles were in need of some type of paint touch-up.
Unquestionably, there is a huge profit potential. Unfortunately, most motorists don't even realize there is a service such as professional paint touch-up.
How To Sell
There are a number of selling methods to utilize, and they depend on your particular operation. If the goal is to sell the service to auto dealers, rental car agencies or fleet owners, all an operator has to do is contact them by telephone, letter or in person and inform them about the service. They either will want the service performed on-site or allow the vehicles to be brought to the detail shop. To perform the service on-site will require that the system be mobile and setup in a van or truck.
At The Detail Shop
The detail shop offers the easiest opportunity to sell this service because the client is bringing the vehicle to the detail shop for intensive cosmetic car care. The opportunity is large. If the customer is ready to spend $100 to $200 for a detail, it is logical that they would be interested in going "all the way" and correcting potentially harmful paint chips, scratches and scuffs.
The sales approach is simple. After the detail service is sold to the client or before a final price is quoted, call attention to the chips or scratches and the fact that the shop can repair the chips professionally where the car is being detailed.
Depending on what a shop charges for the detail service, it could quote an entire package deal for detail and paint touch-up repair. The detail shop also will find that once the word gets around, people will come in for the touch-up only. This offers a reverse opportunity to sell them a detailing package.
At The Carwash
The carwash has two opportunities--those with a full-service detail shop and those only offering paint touch-up.
In facilities where the carwash has a full-service detail shop, the final inspector or checker should take note of vehicles with chips or scratches and refer the customer to the detail shop. Certainly, the checker should be knowledgeable about the service to get the customer initially interested; however, the price should be quoted by the detail shop manager.
If the carwash only offers the paint touch-up service, the checker should call attention to the need and be capable of quoting a price and closing the sale.
In either case, 60 percent to 70 percent of the cars that are washed in a facility might need paint touch-up. If you could sell 5 percent each day, doing 200 cars per day that would calculate to about 10 cars at an average price of $70 per car. That is a profit of $700 per day or $18,200 per month just from paint touch-up services.
Unquestionably, professional paint touch-up is a service that carwash operators or detailers can offer that requires limited training and skill, but is fast, convenient and professional.