Auto Body Painting Goes Green in CA

You may see a shakedown of your local auto body shop. In order to go green, paints for cars are going to a water based system…

Legally in California as of June 1, 2008 all Auto Body shops must convert to water-based base coats. What that means is: every new car produced since the mid 80’s (with some exceptions with foreign cars in the past few years) has been done with a two stage paint finish. The color is the base coat, and the clear coat is the top coat, hence two stage painting. Some cars even have three stages (color-base coat, pearl mid-coat and clear coat).

Since the mid 80’s all the base coats have been solvent (petroleum) based. These are very harmful to the environment. But there was no other alternative to paint. The solvents used are really 50% of the base coat which is the harmful part. As the base coat is shot onto the car it immediately realeases p and evaporates into the air.

The clear coats are usually only mixed with a catalyst and the pollutants going into the air are much lower than in the base coats.

To help reduce pollutants greatly the base coat was the one engineers have focused on altering. After years of research engineers managed to develop high quality base coats that are WATER based (instead of solvent based) making them almost completely harmless to the environment (an approximately 90% harmful emmisions reduction). This is a momentus shift in automotive paint refinishing.

California is the first state in the US to regulate the implementation of a state law requiring auto body shops to use water based base coats instead of the solvent based ones.

Going from shooting solvent based base coat to water based is like going from riding a bicycle to riding a unicycle. Ok, that was a bit dramatic ,but it’s very very different in the way you approach the paint work and paint time. There is a certain speed and style that goes into applying base coat. Because of the shift to a water based system there now is the need to allow much more time for the drying of the coat. The solvent based system evaporated much faster than water based: a three layer application of solvent based base coat on a small repair job in an ideal temperature may take 15 minutes to dry. While with a water based base coat that time may increase to about 45 minutes. I’ve found the increase to be at least 3x longer, even with a retro-fitted spay booth.

So what does all this mean to you as an auto consumer? Well if you get into an accident and need to have part of your car repaired and repainted, then it may take additional time and cost everyone in the process (shop, insurance, consumer) more. A shop’s production flow will be  affected by this change. Depending on the shop you take it to, this could possibly translate anywhere from a half of day to a couple of days difference in getting your car back!

My shop was “unofficially” the third shop in the San Fernando Valley to implement this new system. It was installed about a year ago. So We’ve had plenty of time to make adjustments. But if you are in California be aware that this new system will change the way things used to be done….alot.

Happy motoring,

Andre
AP Body Shop, North Hollywood, CA

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5 Comments

Filed under Green Body Work

5 responses to “Auto Body Painting Goes Green in CA

  1. mick ferraro

    So water base base coat (allegelly) is better for the planet. But the consumer gets super shafted with the high cost of the body shops down time. Will the state of ca reimburse the consumer for the high costs because all shops have to comply to federal regulations?

  2. Hey Micky…. would be nice for the state to reimburse us or the customers after forcing us all to comply. Worst part is , the new paint cost about 30% more but no one will pay us that difference for years. Insurance co. will hold off as long as they can untill of course they’re force to. Also not mentioned is that the retro-fit on the spray booth, which consists of heater and blowers to make that water paint dry, cost $25.000.00 I’d love to see the state pick up this monster tab….but guess what? Not a chance. We’re all suppose to eat it in the name of the EPA. Nice huh?

  3. Linda

    But single stage urethane is still available for shooting right/ Does this blend with older acrylic enamel paints? i have a classic car and i want to know what blends best for a spot paint job on dent on the existing fender.
    Thanks

  4. Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you!
    Auto Body & Paint in La Habra

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