Up until now, we’ve been looking at the larger pieces of collision shop equipment. We all think about racks, spray booths and prep stations early in our planning because they take up a lot of floor space and a lot of money. Obviously, they also have to be the first things laid out in a shop to create the right workflow. There are other, smaller pieces of equipment, however, that are just as important to the success of your shop as the big-ticket items. This is some of the equipment found to be a good investment in many collision facilities.
Dust Collection Systems
Central vacuum systems, with drops between work bays, are gaining popularity in collision shops. When hoses are available in all work bays, clean up time is reduced. Portable dust collection systems work well and typically cost less then a central system. Don’t forget the technicians’ air tools will need to be converted or new tools will need to be purchased.
Gun washers help control contaminants in your spray equipment. There are many manufacturers and each has a variety of models. Look for a unit that allows the user to select between rinsing the spray gun with used or clean solvent. Some units are hands-free (the spray gun is placed in a tub and solvent is sprayed through nozzles to clean the inside and outside of the spray gun). Manual units have a brush that allows solvent to flow through it to clean the spray gun. The best units have both hands-free and manual cleaning capabilities. Using a gun washer will also help you get longer life out of your spray equipment by keeping it clean without requiring extended soaking in solvent. Soaking shortens the life of o-rings and seals inside the equipment.
A lot of hazardous waste will be produced from proper gun cleaning practices. A solvent recycler will allow you to reuse the waste solvent, instead of paying to have it hauled away. The recycler processes the used solvent and leaves clean solvent for gun washing. All that needs to be hauled off is the solid waste left over. The EPA recommends on-site recycling in their “best practices” guidelines.
MIG welders and spot welders are recommended by I-CAR and vehicle manufactures for structural repairs. Now may be the time to consider an upgrade if your current equipment is old or requires a lot of maintenance. Again, talk to several manufactures to find the proper equipment for your facility. We recommend you purchase a MIG welder from a local jobber or distributor who will also service your unit after the sale, and who has a good inventory of parts and welding supplies.
Collision shops run on compressed air. Spray guns, power hand tools, gun washers, spray booths and lifts all require air. The following are some rules you should follow when choosing compressed air equipment:
- Buy a compressor that is bigger than you need right now. Overworked compressors create too much heat and moisture and beak down more frequently. Valuable time is wasted by technicians waiting for under-sized compressors to rebuild pressure after the tank has been drained.Pay attention to the delivered CFM: collision shops do not require a lot of pressure for their equipment. Also, running the air lines in a loop system will eliminate pressure and volume drops at the end of the run. The accompanying charts can help you figure out the compressor size you need.
- Buy a compressor recommended for industrial use. If you need more than 25 or 30 HP, consider a rotary type compressor. These usually operate continuously and have relatively small air receivers. If you need less than 25 HP, a two-stage piston type air compressor will do. But if you buy a piston-type compressor, be sure to get the largest air receiver available for the model you choose. The largest tank will give you a greater reserve air capacity and reduce wear and tear from the frequent starting and stopping you get with undersized compressors with small air receivers. Piston and rotary screw compressors both work well. Weigh your requirements to decide which unit is best for your application.
- Compressing air also compresses moisture in the air. This moisture condenses and causes damage to tools and paint jobs. Install a refrigerated dryer in the main air line coming out of the receiver to remove this moisture. You’ll get longer life out of all of your air-powered tools, and prevent unwanted moisture from getting on fresh paint jobs. Refrigerated dryers do not eliminate the need for filter/regulators. Every drop in your facility should be equipped with final filters and air regulators to insure that all dirt and moisture, including any left in the system after the refrigerated dryer, are effectively removed.
Finally, remember that no matter what kind of compressor you buy, it’s important to keep it away from the main area of the shop, preferably in its own room where it can take in clean air.