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Sunday, November 1, 1998 - 01:00

Who's in compliance, and who's winging it? And how many shop owners just don't get it?
November 1998

With all the solutions to paint waste available to a body shop, a garden-variety enclosed spraygun washer, coupled with a good solvent recycler, provides the operator with the most cost effective in-house system of managing this liability and controlling costs. An enclosed washer will satisfy the most stringent state and federal environmental regulations for cleaning your equipment. And since the used solvent is easily recyclable, your costs are limited. But you knew that, right?

If you've been using this set-up for years, you know what I'm talking about. So you can go now. The rest of you, look around your paint mixing area. Do you see a clean work environment that preserves your equipment? Or do you see racks of paint-encrusted sprayguns? How many times do your painters fill the cup with thinner, shake it, and blast it into the atmosphere at high pressure? How many shops have an old exhaust fan that serves as the receptacle through which the solvent is blown? Not only is that irresponsible, and an incredible waste of money, it's downright stupid. (I can say that, now that I've stopped.)

Dirty guns mean down time, lack of pride in the department, and defects in the work. Who hasn't seen a poorly-maintained spraygun spit a few flakes of foreign material into a job? And besides ...

It's The Law
Not only does it make good business sense to use an enclosed gun washer, but in many states and local jurisdictions the law requires it. For example, in my neck of the woods (Philadelphia), an ordinance was passed in 1996 to control the emissions of organic substances from stationary sources. Naturally, the body shops were targeted. The regulation specifies "a device made specifically to clean paint from sprayguns which recirculates solvent to clean the guns a succession of times, and is vapor-tight when in use." You may be surprised to learn that you too are in a regulated area.

In areas where VOCs are tightly regulated, such as California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), such equipment has been required for years. And various state governments have enacted their own rules to regulate VOC emissions. Gun-washing practices were examined and the rate of emissions found to be worse than that for paint application. In the state of Indiana, for example, businesses working in Clark, Floyd, Lake or Porter Counties had better be in compliance with their rules found in section 3, reference to Section 4a: "On or after May 1, 1996, the owner or operator of a refinishing facility subject to this rule shall limit emissions of volatile organic compounds ..." Well, you know the rest. Section 5, of course, includes a provision for enclosed gun washing.

At present, there are 18 states in which either selected county rules or a statewide rule applies to closed-container gun washing. And with the National Rule on the verge of being a reality in the life of every body shop, eventually everyone will have to deal with the problem.

A Shopping Checklist
Like anything else you buy for your shop, you don't want have to replace it. Ever. So consider the fact that this piece of equipment is going to see tough service. It's going to have its lid slammed, stuff dropped on it, and be subjected to big-time spillage. People are going to forget it's there, and assume someone else has been maintaining the machine, changing solvents, checking the oiler and draining its separator. So before you buy one, slam the lid a few times and see how it holds up. Go ahead, rough it up a bit. If the salesman minds, move on to the next one.

Make sure the pumps and repair parts are available. We've all seen expensive equipment shoved in the back of an auto repair shop that was working fine--until one day. And for the lack of a switch, coupling or part, there it sits, unused and useless. Remember that old adage about an ounce of prevention ...

Also, check with the local parts distributor for parts availability, or see if you can get parts directly from the manufacturer. Most of the better machines have plastic pump parts, but they seem to outlast the earlier die-cast models.

Check for an anti-stall feature on the pump, because piston-style pumps are prone to stall as they wear out. Like some old air tools, there are times when these things get stuck in the middle of a cycle.

Do's and Dont's of Gun Cleaning

* Never put your unprotected hands into the solvent.

* Never leave a spraygun-mounted air pressure gauge on the equipment during cleaning--always remove it first.

* Change tank solutions every 100

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