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Paint Overspray Removal [UPDATED 2022]

Paint Overspray Removal [UPDATED 2022]

Paint overspray removal using a clay bar on car
Paint overspray is usually removed by clay bar, microfiber, and lots of elbow grease. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Paint Overspray Removal on Cars

If you own a car or truck there’s a good chance you’ve run into a situation where you need paint overspray removal services.

Or you might be a detail shop owner here to learn more about removing overspray from cars. Which, by the way, is an in-demand and badly needed service. Especially if you live near a city.

Either way, we’ve got you covered. This paint overspray removal page is one of the most popular online resources available anywhere for this topic.

In this detailed guide on paint overspray removal, I will cover the following:

What is Paint Overspray?

Paint overspray generally concerns unintentionally applying paint or a similar coating to a surface that wasn’t the original target. In other words, you accidentally created a mist of paint spray that floated away and landed on nearby cars, houses, and buildings.

For obvious reasons, it’s not a great situation to be in if you are the person that created the overspray.

And for reference, even though I’m focusing on paint and related coatings, overspray can occur anytime you spray a liquid chemical in the air.

Where Does Paint Overspray Come From?

Unfortunately, it’s often left up to the owner of an overspray-damaged vehicle to channel their inner Sherlock Holmes and search out nearby clues as to the source of the paint overspray.

Sometimes it’s as easy as looking up to see a bridge or office building getting painted. A simple Google search will result in large numbers of paint overspray horror stories. Like the water tower painter who accidentally covered 900 cars in a wet droplet cloud of epoxy paint.

In those situations, one of the responsible parties will usually hire a paint overspray removal specialist to fix the car paint at your house or take it to their local detail shop or similar facility.

List of Common Sources of Paint Overspray

If you need some ideas on where to look, the following list is a good place to start. Just remember, on windy days paint overspray can travel a fairly good distance before drying and falling to the ground.

  • Bridge painting projects. Look for white tarp-wrapped bridges. They use industrial epoxy coatings that stick to anything.
  • Construction site and large office building painting. They also use epoxies that aren’t clearcoat-friendly. The wind up there moves fast.
  • Painting Water Towers. Most hold a million or more gallons and are hard to tarp for painting. Both the insides and outsides are painted with heavy zinc primer and two coats of epoxy paint.
  • Residential home exterior painting. Never underestimate the power of one painter with a spray gun. They can overspray an entire neighborhood in less than a few hours.
  • Wooden decks and porches. The double whammy of epoxy deck stains and polyurethane sealers. Looks like tree sap, but sticks to anything.
  • Tree Sap. If you see something that looks like hard, sticky syrup on your car, look above and you will most likely see the tree that caused it.
  • Road paint and highway line paint. Highway paint removal is so bad that we gave it a page of its own here on the ADG website. It’s called hot melt marking paint and it’s sprayed on roads after heating it to 392 degrees (Fahrenheit). Road paint removal is difficult but entirely possible to do as a DIY project at home.

Will My Auto Insurance Cover Paint Overspray Damage?

According to insurance claims experts, more than 1,000 vehicles a day are damaged with paint overspray, resulting in damage claims in excess of $500 million annually.

The problem with quoting statistics is that they don’t always give the full picture. If a professional painter causes overspray damage to your car, they are usually liable to pay for damages.

Usually? Well, there’s the little problem of actually getting paid. We have a similar article here on our site that goes into more detail on locating the source of the overspray and figuring out how to get them to pay for the costs of professional paint overspray removal. Check it out when you have some time.

Contractor Insurance That Excludes Overspray Claims

Liability insurance carriers, the people that cover contractors, are painfully aware of the costs involved with damage to car paint and clear coats from overspray.

That’s why liability insurance costs so much. And also why many painting contractors don’t carry liability coverage. It’s an expensive cost of doing business for any professional contractor. So naturally, some contractors let their policies lapse because they can’t afford the cost.

Insurance companies understand that cost is an issue. So to make these policies affordable, companies offer cut-rate discount contractor insurance. It makes sense for a painting contractor that only offers interior painting services to save money on their contractor liability insurance by choosing to exclude coverage for paint overspray claims. On the other hand, some painting contractors that do exterior painting might choose to exclude overspray coverage if they’ve never paid claims related to that type of damage.

The other issue is deductibles. Yet another way that liability insurance companies can reduce their exposure and offer lower rates is by setting a per-incident deductible. So that painting contractor that says they have overspray coverage, may in fact have a policy that sets per claim deductibles above $500. This means the painter will be paying out of pocket up to $500 per car.

Here is where I add the obvious disclaimers about how I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. But it also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out your chances of recovering that money might be difficult. Either way, you should always consult with your auto insurance carrier and your lawyer.

Insurance Deductibles and Overspray Damage

Now let’s talk about your side of the equation as the victim of this overspray problem.

The average deductible for an auto insurance policy in the United States is $500.

And most overspray removal service bills come in at less than $500, depending on the extent of paint damage and how much work is involved.

Regardless of how much money it costs, it is always frustrating being forced to pay for damage to your car paint that is caused by a “professional” contractor. Any professional should know how to properly do their job.

This is why I mentioned above about speaking with a good lawyer about your claim. They might have ideas for possible ways to mitigate your out-of-pocket costs and recover your money from the contractor.

Don’t give up if you run into roadblocks. It’s your money, fight for it!

How Much Does it Cost to Remove Paint Overspray?

The typical cost to remove paint overspray from a vehicle ranges in price from a low of $150 to a high of $500 or more. These rates are standard for professional detailers or reconditioning techs.

To clarify a few things, the price you pay will greatly depend on the size of the vehicle, the severity of the overspray damage, and where it’s located on the vehicle.

For example, is it just the windshield or is it covering the entire vehicle? And if it’s everywhere, is it a Kia compact or a Yukon Denali XL SUV? Obviously, the price points will be wildly different depending on those types of differences.

Another criteria that often affects overspray removal prices, is the type of surface. Removing paint overspray from glass windows is measurably less difficult than removing it from body paint or plastic trim.

DIY Paint Overspray Removal

So up to this point, as far as paint overspray is concerned, I’ve covered what it is, how it happens, who is responsible to fix it, and ways you might be able to get reimbursed for your out-of-pocket costs.

If you exhausted all of those options and you are paying for paint overspray removal out of your own pocket, then you might be interested in fixing the problem on your own.

Let me just point out, upfront, DIY paint overspray removal is absolutely something you CAN try at home. A lot of people think it’s something only professionals can handle, but it’s not.

And it’s definitely NOT expensive. But as I will cover in the next section, paint overspray removal is very hard work. And you must be careful or you could end up destroying your car paint.

Is It Hard Work to Remove Overspray from Cars?

Yes, paint overspray removal is very hard work. That’s why detailers charge so much to remove it. And by hard, I mean labor-intensive. Not like back-breaking work moving a truckload of concrete blocks to your backyard.

DIY paint overspray removal is more on the level of setting aside a bunch of hours to take a clay bar and rub it on the outside of your car. And wash it. And rubbing it more. And washing it.

Clay on. Wash off. Clay on. Wash off. Very good Danielson.

Wax On. Wax Off.

Speaking of Mr. Miyagi. Removing overspray is one of those things that takes a frustrating amount of time to complete. Mainly because every time you think you’re done, you find some more.

Each time you dry your car after washing it, run your hands over the car again and try to feel for the tiny bumps of hard overspray paint droplets.

When you feel the paint bumps, you do that area over again.

And you will find some. Again. And Again. It’s frustrating how there are always a few that you miss.

Then you keep doing it all over again. And again. And again…

Wax On. Wax Off.

The Karate Kid, still movie scene - Article - Paint Overspray Removal -
Wax on. Wax Off. Photo credit: Ralph Macchio (L) as Daniel, Pat Morita (R) as Mr. Miyagi in ‘The Karate Kid’ (1984), Columbia Pictures

Disclaimer: I am obviously not Mr. Miyagi. I’m good, but not that good. So no, you won’t mysteriously know blackbelt level karate after you are done following my instructions for removing overspray from your vehicle.

You will, however, be as sore as I imagine Danielson was after he spent all day waxing all those cars for Mr. Miyagi.

Step by Step Paint Overspray Removal Instructions

If you are ready to get started, I have included a step-by-step instruction list for removing paint overspray from your car.

So let’s go!

First, a quick note. If you have any corrosive damage to your paint from environmental causes, paint overspray removal processes like the following will most likely not repair that type of damage. This is for the removal of hard droplets of dried paint overspray on your car exterior.

What are the environmental causes of corrosive paint damage?

Since I brought up environmental causes of corrosive paint damage, let’s briefly discuss this so you know the difference going into this.

Paint corrosion problems caused by the environment have been in the news for decades. These are issues like acid rain, toxic industrial exhaust or plant discharge, even bird crap that’s sat on your paint for too long.

It’s all toxic to paint.

These environmental conditions can eat away at your car’s clear coat and paint. It’s fixable, so don’t think you need to repaint the entire vehicle. That’s usually not the case.

Many auto paint repair and reconditioning services can fix those problems without the need for a body shop.

But the tips I’m including here in these instructions, like clay bars and high-speed buffing, usually won’t fix corrosive damage problems.

Those repairs need to be made at a body shop or a car detailer that handles auto reconditioning services like auto paint repair, paint chip repair, bumper painting, etc.

So now that we are on the same page, let’s get started.

Wash Your Car with a Pressure Washer

The first step in the overspray removal process is to scrub your car. With soap. But the more important part of this step is to use a pressure washer during the entire wash process. Even the self-service car washes with the bays sometimes have enough pressure for this step.

Can I Use a Pressure Washer to Remove Paint Overspray?

Well, yes and no. Using a pressure washer while removing paint overspray is effective in blowing off or loosening droplets of overspray that were somewhat dry when they landed on your vehicle. Even though these droplets are still attached to your car, the bond with the clear coat isn’t always strong. Especially if you were quick to fix the overspray damage.

So yes, using a pressure washer will sometimes remove a significant portion of the overspray droplets from your car.

Especially if it was a long-distance that the paint droplets traveled in the air from the paint sprayer nozzle to your car.

The longer the distance traveled, the drier the droplet when it lands on your car. Ultimately, that results in a bond with the car clearcoat that isn’t as strong as fully wet droplets.

So always start with a good wash and always use a pressure washer.

How to use a Clay Bar on Car Clear Coat

When it comes to painting overspray removal you need to start with a good clay bar. Detailer’s clay, as it’s called, is a special mix of clay that works incredibly well at removing impurities from your paint.

But how do you use a clay bar to clean a car clear coat? It’s a simple enough system. You take the detailers clay and wet it. You are also going to need some form of lubricant for the car paint surface. This is always a subject of debate whether you need special lubricants or not.

Some detailers will tell you that you need to use everything from spray-on finish wax to showroom shine products to keep the clay lubricated.

From my experience, a simple solution of Joy dishwashing detergent works great.

Your goal is to keep the clay bar lubricated as you rub it across the clear coat in a circular pattern. So whether it’s spray-on finish wax or dishwashing detergent, both will work.

Detailer Clay Bar and Lubrication

It’s a one, two process. Rub the clay in circles and keep following behind it occasionally with your other hand to feel for the dry bumps that overspray creates.

Keep going over it with the detailer’s clay until it’s gone, lubricating your work area as needed. Also, keep rinsing the areas you have completed, so you don’t let the clay dry as you are moving forward on the vehicle.

Another cool feature of clay is if you have already waxed the car, the clay bar won’t remove the wax on the painted surface, but it will remove the overspray.

Always Use the Clean Side of a Clay Bar

Something else to keep in mind while you are using the clay is that you need to keep folding it back into itself while you are rubbing it.

The clay will start getting dirty as it’s pulling everything off the painted surface of the car. So keep folding it over on itself, and you will always have a clean surface.

Eventually, the clay will need to be replaced, but one bar will do many, many cars. If you are doing this at your home, that one container of clay will last you a long time.

Another thing to keep in mind. Always keep the clay wet. It should come in a bottle with a replaceable cap. Fill the jar or container with your water and Joy detergent solution and put the cap on tight before you put it away after using it. This will keep it ready for the next time you need it.

After you have completed the entire car, you will want to wash the vehicle using your standard car wash soap mix with a soft wool wash mitt.

Once it is dry, you will be able to feel for any areas that you missed.

Can I Remove Paint Overspray with a High-Speed Buffer?

Short answer, no you should not remove paint overspray from your car paint or clear coat with a high-speed buffer.

Is it possible? Sure. But even after I spent a decade becoming an expert wheelman with a high-speed buffer, I still limited the situations where I needed to use one. The reason was simple. High-speed buffing can damage car paint and clear coats. The longer you use it on the car, the higher the chance for burnt or damaged paint.

When I was first learning how to use a buffer, we had an old car door we practiced on in our shop. I burnt straight through the paint to the metal on my first time. It was practice, so it didn’t matter much. But it was scary how easy it was to do that.

And burnt paint is just one of the many possible things that can go wrong with high-speed buffing. Spend too much time with a buffer on car paint and you are just asking for burnt paint, ripped molding, damaged accessories, and so many other possible and exciting ways you can damage a car.

Take my advice that I give to everyone that asks about high-speed buffer. Get an orbital buffer. My favorite for the past two decades is the Porter-Cable High-Speed Orbital Buffer. It’s a variable high-speed orbital buffer. The orbital aspect is what I love about it since it all but eliminates the chances of both burning paint and the clear coat swirl makes that a lot of buffers leave in dark color cars.

Nano Ceramic Coating or Polymer Sealant After Clay Bar

A car that has been through the clay bar cleaning followed by either high-speed buffing or orbital buffed to remove any swirls looks absolutely incredible. Apply a nice coat of Nano-Ceramic Coating or a Polymer Sealant to the paint after you are done, and your car will be ready for six months until you need to reapply. Personally, I love the Hydro Slick Ceramic Coating Hydrowax from Chemical Guys. It makes your car clear coat incredibly smooth.

The paint overspray removal process is not an easy one, but it looks great once it’s done.

When it comes to my preferences for detailers clay, I tend to stick with Meguiar’s brand detailing products. They have a Meguiar’s C-2000 Professional Detailing Clay which is a great product. These clay bars do a fantastic job of paint overspray removal. Highway paint, tree sap removal, and more.

If you are interested in a slightly less costly clay bar, Griots Garage Paint Cleaning Clay is a wonderful product and easy to use.

Over the past two decades, I have used hundreds of bars of detailer’s clay. Meguiar’s and Griots are the best clay bars I have used, but my personal preference is Meguiar’s. I just really like the feel of their clay bar in my hand when I’m working it over the car paint surface.

Hopefully, this information helps you to get your car back to top condition after dealing with paint overspray damage. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a note on our Facebook Page and/or sign-up for our free weekly ADG newsletter. We share exclusive content with our subscribers that isn’t always posted publicly.

As always, thanks for spending time here at Auto Detail Guide!

What is Garage Keepers Liability Insurance? [UPDATED 2022]

What is Garage Keepers Liability Insurance? [UPDATED 2022]

what is garage keepers liability insurance
Liability insurance is important for businesses of all sizes. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

What is Garage Keepers Liability Insurance?

As a professional business owner, it’s important to understand the different types of insurance that your business needs.

Some types of insurance coverage are very different from others. So you might think that standard liability insurance would cover you and your business from damages that you or your employees cause, but you would be mistaken.

Especially if the damage happened while you were in control of your customer’s vehicle. In that situation, you want to know about garage keepers liability insurance and how it can help protect you and your business.

Surprised baby picture, veternarian delivering baby instead of OB/GYN.
Veterinarians shouldn’t be delivering babies. Make sure the right experts are giving you advice about insurance.

Pro Tip: Specialty commercial insurance should only be offered by experienced brokers. Your agent might be great at personal auto insurance, but asking them for Garage Keepers Liability Insurance is like asking a veterinarian to deliver a baby. Sure, they can probably do it, but don’t you want more of an expert for something that important?

In this article, we are going to cover a few important aspects of general liability coverage and answer the question of What is Garage Keepers Liability Insurance and how can it help you.

  • We will learn about Garage Keepers Liability Insurance. What it is. What it is not. And why your business needs it.
  • Discuss the differences between Garage Keepers Insurance and standard liability insurance.
  • Both car detailers with fixed location shops and mobile detailers need to consider Garage Keepers Insurance.
  • Discuss the need for the right insurance coverage for the type of services that you offer.

So let’s get started.

What is Garage Keepers Liability Insurance?

Garage Keepers is a very specific liability insurance policy designed for businesses that work with vehicles or equipment in a garage setting. This type of policy offers insurance protection for your business from liability arising from damage claims caused by you or your employees while conducting your professional services.

These types of liability policies protect your business by extending insurance coverage onto the customer-owned vehicles in your care, custody, and control. That is the 3 C’s that I reference in my article on the subject of auto detail liability insurance.

Sometimes it’s better to talk to a specialist that understands your specific needs.

How is Garage Keepers Insurance Different from Other Liability Insurance?

Standard Liability Insurance protects your business from a long list of other potential issues. Everything from advertising liability to a customer slip and fall in your waiting room.

Garage Keepers insurance extends coverage to customer vehicles while under your care, custody, and control. So if your shop burns down with a customer vehicle inside, Garage Keepers insurance would be the policy you need to help with those claims.

Clearly, it’s important to contact your insurance agent or broker to discuss which types of liability insurance coverages are best for your business.

The differences between the types of liability coverage boil down to what is required to protect your business and customer vehicles while you and your employees are in control of their property.

When you look at the different insurance coverages from this perspective, it makes it easier to understand why you might need to have both in force protecting your business.

Car Detailers Need Garage Keepers Insurance

There are many reasons why car detailers and mobile detailing businesses need garage keepers liability insurance. All of these reasons come down to one issue. How much time is a customer vehicle under your control when there’s a chance it could be damaged?

While you are working on customer vehicles in your garage, there are many times it can be damaged. Think about all the services you offer. Car detailing, washing, buffing, removing paint overspray, engine cleaning, heavy equipment cleaning, paint chip repair, essentially all the reasons that the customer would hire your business.

Customer Vehicles are Protected

All of these services have the potential for causing accidental damage to a customer-owned vehicle. It’s important to make your customers aware that their valuable vehicles are protected while under your care, custody, and control.

Garage Keepers Liability Insurance is the financial protection device that allows you to extend that peace-of-mind protection to your customer.

Cost is obviously an issue for any detailing business. Unfortunately, Garage Keepers coverage can get pricey depending on many factors. Everything from how long you’ve been in business, your claims record, the physical location of your business, and numerous other factors that your insurance agent can discuss with you in more detail.

Mobile Detailers Need to Consider Garage Keepers Insurance

Another item worth mentioning is mobile detail businesses will need to be very specific with your insurance agent about exactly how you perform your services on customer vehicles. The answers to your questions will determine the type of insurance coverage you may need.

It all comes down to how are the cars moved? Do you move them or do your customers? Do you ask the customer to move the vehicle for you? Do you drive the vehicle? Even if you are mobile and set up in a business parking lot, you may still need to move your customer vehicle to another spot after you are done doing work on it.

mobile detailer washing a car outside.
Mobile detailers also need to consider Garage Keepers Insurance

Get the Right Coverage For Your Services

Any of these questions might seem insignificant, but it’s important to tell your insurance agent everything you do so they can offer you the right coverage for the services that you offer.

You might not think it’s a big deal until an employee crashes your customer’s car into several others while moving it across a parking lot. Or accidentally hits another car while pulling out of a driveway.

Problems Happen

Problems happen. All the time. Insurance allows you to focus on your business instead of trying to anticipate those potential problems and protect yourself from the costs associated with paying to fix damages that were caused by your business.

Garage Keepers Liability Insurance is a Valuable Tool

Garage keepers liability insurance is a valuable tool to help keep your business profitable so an occasional accident doesn’t destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to build. You should discuss this with your commercial insurance broker and allow them to quote you prices for comprehensive coverage to protect you and your business.

Paint Chip Scratch Repair

Paint Chip Scratch Repair

Bumper scuffs, door dings, paint scratches. All of it means one thing, time to find a Car Paint Chip Scratch Repair specialist. Everybody gets them on their cars. Most of the time you look at it and think “I’m going to need to get that painted and it’s going to cost me a fortune.” The cost to do a paint repair job at a body shop is very costly. Unfortunately, when you go to one of these types of shops they don’t have a lot of other options available to offer you.


Paint Chip Scratch Repair

At your local detail shop or mobile details service, you can find many other lower cost alternatives for paint chip scratch repair services. Many times a scuff or key scratch isn’t through the clearcoat and can be removed by wet sanding and aggressive compounding. After this, we can move on to paint chip scratch repair, touch-up, or bumper paint repairs. These are considered standard car reconditioning services. Body shops believe they have a lock on this business. Many times when you think you are getting a new bumper, they are just fixing it and putting it back on your vehicle. So the differences between getting your damage repaired and painted versus a body shop claiming they are giving you a “new” bumper, might not be as different as you think they might be.

The Advantages are Obvious

Compare a Micro Chip, Paint Chip Scratch Repair or Bumper Paint Repair Service to those of a local body shop, and the advantages are obvious:

  • Cost: body shops replace damaged parts with new and paint them, dramatically increasing your costs. With the expense of a new bumper at approx. $350 or more and the painting of that bumper an additional $350 or more, your body shop costs are $700 and up. With a Micro Paint Repair or Paint Chip Scratch Repair of that bumper at $180 to $250, the savings is clear!
  • Time: Micro Paint Repair or Paint Chip Scratch Repair Services take less than a day to complete. Try getting a body shop to do anything on your vehicle in less than a day. The time savings is evident!

Handled Quickly and Professionally

Where do these damages usually occur? Many times on bumpers where shopping carts, other cars, minor bumps against other bumpers. High traffic areas where any regular contact exists such as door handles and trunk lids. Places like the gas compartment where the car is accidentally bumped or brushed with the gas pump nozzle or handle. Repair to these damaged areas can be handled quickly and efficiently at your local detail and reconditioning center.  Mobile Detailing Services can also handle these repairs onsite for you, and many have their inflatable mobile garage workshops to bring to your location.

If you are considering having these services done, please review our Proper Insurance page to get an idea of questions you should ask your potential reconditioning shop before working on your vehicle.

We hope you enjoyed this “how to” tip sheet. Access more tips, training, and insight by subscribing to the E-Newsletter. We are also very active on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Suggested Pages to Check Out

Detail Shop Liability Insurance Page with Info on Garage Keepers Liability Coverage

1099 Contractors and Other Detail Shop Tax Issues

Go Back To Home Auto Detailing Step-by-Step Page

Heavy Equipment Cleaning

Heavy Equipment Cleaning

Construction companies always have problems with their heavy equipment cleaning needs. So why not help them with it?

As part of your detailing business, you have most of the equipment you need to be a highly sought-after heavy equipment cleaning company for local construction companies. It’s highly profitable and most construction companies will pay you onsite. If you aren’t already doing this, you need to start.

Cleaning Heavy Construction Equipment

Construction companies rely on heavy equipment to do their job. It’s difficult to dig, move tons of dirt, and build structures without the use of large construction equipment.

But that equipment gets dirty. Constant daily use means more wear and tear.

High-pressure lines blow and cover engines and radiators in thick mixtures of hydraulic fluid, oil, grease, and caked-on dirt. This build-up restricts airflow through the radiator, causing the engine to overheat.

Radiators can’t cool engines if the airflow is blocked by dirt and grime. Engines run badly when they are covered in similar grime and engine fluids. Oil pans need degreasing after the engine oil is changed. Heavy equipment runs constantly and needs maintenance to do so. But mechanics don’t generally clean the machines, they just work on them.

It’s up to professional heavy equipment cleaners to handle this part of keeping equipment running.

Heavy Equipment Cleaning

You’ve got a pressure washer, degreasers, cleaning chemicals and supplies, even buffers if they want them shiny. It’s a profitable niche business that you will enjoy doing. Now it does benefit you to look into hot water pressure washers or a steam generator that can create enough high-pressure steam to melt grease. Adding these high-end pieces of equipment to your arsenal will make you a powerful competitor in your local heavy equipment cleaning market. Using these will also increase your business many times more than your competition.

Picture of Detailing A Cat Excavator

Profitable Niche Business

Heavy equipment cleaning can be a profitable niche business like pressure washing and similar add-on services. Basically it isn’t your main source of income so you can afford to give some good deals out when you are a little slower. The average price for heavy equipment cleaning varies for different kinds of construction equipment but it averages in the range of $125 to $350 or more per unit. It really just depends on exactly what level of cleaning your customer expects since time is money and you need to complete several of these per job.

The Key to Success is Flexibility and Options

Keep in mind that this level of heavy equipment cleaning isn’t detailing an entire bulldozer or crane. The owner of a construction company generally isn’t concerned if his equipment has some dirt and mud on it. That’s what these things are used for. What does concern them is the machine breaking down because of dirt, mud, grease, and anything else that gets stuck in the radiator, half-tracks, wheels, etc. They want you to arrive at the worksite and clean their equipment when they aren’t working. This is usually at night or early morning. The key to success is flexibility and options when dealing with heavy equipment owners. Every hour that heavy construction equipment is down due to maintenance problems is costing the company owner thousands of dollars.

Maintenance Cleaning

Understand that I’m talking about the “maintenance cleaning” side of heavy equipment cleaning services in this article. Your customer might ask you to fully detail a piece of equipment that they are selling at auction or trading in on another piece of equipment. That is a completely different service and you would charge much more for that. I would do this frequently for several of my clients and charged anywhere from $1500 to $4000 depending on the level of detail that they needed.

This level of heavy equipment cleaning is for the majority of your potential construction company customers who are simply interested in getting their equipment “maintenance cleaned”. The main thing they are looking for when it comes to heavy equipment cleaning is services:

Steam Cleaning the Radiator

“Blowing the rad” aka steam cleaning the radiator is a highly specialized cleaning service. This is where the heated pressure washer if you spent the extra money on it, comes in very handy. You crank up the heat, lower the pressure and douse the radiator with degreaser while spraying it down with superheated water.

Radiators overheat when they are covered with grease and debris from the engine. So this type of cleaning is needed at least every few months or more often for heavily used equipment. The thing to watch when you are cleaning radiators is to keep the pressure low enough so that you aren’t blowing off the “fins” of the radiator. Fins are needed to allow airflow and keep the radiator cool which in turn cools the engine. If you accidentally do blow off the fins, you might end up having to buy the company a new radiator which sometimes can run as much as several grand.

Cleaning The Pan

The rest of the equipment can be cleaned in the same manner, but it’s much faster cleaning the grease off the engine and the body of the equipment because you don’t have to be quite as careful as you do with the radiator. Cleaning the pan is another specialized service. Advance warning, it’s extremely dirty work. The guys who operate the equipment will unbolt or lower the oil pan underneath the heavy equipment. You then load it up with degreaser and spray it with as much superheated water that you can find. It blows back and covers the guy cleaning it. We always wore big hazmat suits with respirators and masks when we did this work. We usually gave this job to one of our newbies. It was our trial by fire. If they stayed on working with us after cleaning the pan, then we knew they were keepers.

If you don’t have a heated pressure washer available, you can do heavy equipment cleaning work with a standard cold water pressure washing unit.  The only problem you run into is it is definitely harder work without hot water and it takes a lot more degreaser and cleaning chemicals.  More chemicals equal more cost which will cut into your profits on each job.  Keep this in mind before you head out to start getting this kind of work.

Heated or Hot Water Pressure Washers are Worth Every Cent

Heated or hot water pressure washers are worth every cent that they cost. They aren’t cheap, but I made back the cost of my first one in about two weeks. And that was a high-end Landa that I had spent about $5 grand on. Eventually we added several more Hotsy’s and even a few Karcher’s. Up here in Western Pennsylvania, we needed to be able to do work year-round and these hot water pressure washers kept us going year-round. Especially with our commercial and industrial customers.

Additional On-Site Mobile Detailing Services

Heavy equipment cleaning is also a great lead-in for additional on-site mobile detailing services. When you are on the job site doing heavy equipment cleaning work, you simply talk to the owner and other workers about the fact that your business is detailing and cleaning vehicles. They generally already know this but remind them and offer a discount to do some quick washes on their trucks. Construction workers spend an enormous amount of time in their trucks. Showing up once a week to clean the interiors and spray off the outside of their trucks will keep you in front of them for when they need larger heavy equipment cleaning jobs. With most of these companies, it’s unfortunately out of sight, out of mind. You could be their regular guy for any type of cleaning, but until you get them used to frequent visits, they forget about you. So if they only hear from you every few months they feel like they aren’t important enough for you to spend time stopping by. I usually picked a day each week where I would pick up donuts and coffee and drop it off at a few of my regular clients each week. They loved it. I usually got invited to most of my client’s Christmas parties just because they really appreciated me as a vendor.

Your Market is the Smaller Construction Company Not The Big Guys

This is another important thing to remember when it comes to dealing with construction companies.  Your market is the smaller construction company, not the big guys. Landing a 1,000 employee monster company is nice, but there’s absolutely no loyalty towards you as a vendor. The minute another guy shows up and undercuts you, they will go with him.

The companies you need to focus on are the smaller companies with one owner and 5 to 20 employees. These guys are all about the “stop-in” which is essentially just stopping at their job site to say hi. They don’t like email and usually have a wife or somebody back at the office that does those things. It may sound old fashioned, but construction guys are still part of the old school crowd. The first few times you may show up on a job site to talk to them about heavy equipment cleaning, you may hear some jokes or wisecracks about your shiny truck. After a few times though and they see that you are persistent but polite, they will usually give you a shot.

Here are some tips to closing smaller construction companies:

  • They love coffee and donuts. So find out when they arrive in the morning for their safety meetings and show up 10 minutes earlier with coffee and donuts. The owner or foreman is usually the first to arrive and seeing you there before them will make an impression. Also make sure there is more than enough for everybody. Don’t talk about business, just tell them you wanted to stop and say hi and let them know you were in the area so they “didn’t forget about you.”
  • Get special magnet business cards printed. This is important when dealing with heavy equipment cleaning. They don’t keep business cards, but they will put your magnet card inside the cab of the equipment or slap it on the side of a file cabinet. When the front loader is overheating because a hydraulic line blew and they forgot to clean the oil and grease off the radiator, who are they gonna call? Exactly. The owner will yell something like “call that pain-in-the-ass that brings us donuts all the time, his card is stuck to the side of the file cabinet”.
  • Downtime is money to these guys, so be ready when they call. If you tell them you will be their go-to guy for heavy equipment cleaning, you need to be ready to drop everything when they call. They’re reasonable and understand you have other customers, so being there in an hour isn’t what I’m talking about. If it’s 2 pm when they call though, they will appreciate you missing dinner with your family to take care of them at 6 pm that night after you complete your other work. I had a few generators with big spotlights and spent numerous nights taking care of my heavy equipment cleaning customers this way. And they usually always bought me dinner.
  • Be flexible, but fast with your billing. When I was done with a job, I would hand the foreman a bill and say something like “I can fax or email Sally a copy if you need me to.” Most of my clients just walked over to their truck and cut me a check while I was standing there. I was never pushy and never asked for payment while I was waiting there. Leave it up to them and always thank them for their business. Just remember, your $300 to $600 bill is much smaller than the ones they pay other vendors. So it’s usually not a big deal for them to cut you a check while you are still there on site. Leave it up to them but always be ready with a bill so you don’t have to wait for Sally back at the office to cut you a check in a few weeks.

Heavy Equipment Cleaning Customers Will Become Your Favorites

I can tell you from experience that your heavy equipment cleaning customers will become your favorites for all your customers. They are fun to work with and they are just all-around good people. They are also very loyal to the people who take care of them. So do a good job, make sure they are always happy and take care of them AND their employees. There’s always going to be one hard case on a job site who isn’t going to like you, just because he’s like that. Figure out a way to make him happy and you will keep that company as a customer forever. More times than I can remember I have stopped at customer job sites before lunchtime and they have told me to jump in the truck and took me to lunch with them. And they always buy regardless of how many times you try and offer.

You will really enjoy adding heavy equipment cleaning as a profitable add-on service to your business.

Highway Paint Removal

Highway Paint Removal

Car washing.A man cleaning wheels using high pressure water jet at car wash station.

Pressure Washing Interior Wheel wells to remove highway paint splatter

One of the absolute joys we get to experience living in the Northeast United States is the ever growing number of construction projects that get started as soon as the weather warms-up. This allows us to experience the next joyful experience of highway paint removal off cars.

So after a hard days work and an even harder trip through one of the many detours established for our convenience, isn’t it wonderful to discover “fast drying” heavy duty highway line paint all over your wheel wells and rocker panels? You get your choice of either white or yellow. Either way, the paint is designed to dry fast, only problem is it doesn’t seem to dry fast until it gets picked-up by your tires and splattered all over your car.

Click Here for more detailed info on Paint Overspray Removal

Highway Paint Removal

We’ve been offering highway paint removal services for years. So when you’ve got a new multi-color or two tone section of your one color car it, helps to have somewhere you can go to find out how to remove it. I always start highway paint removal with a two step process. You have to loosen the paint with an acetone or paint remover. Take a sponge or towel and soak the paint with acetone to loosen it. Then power wash the area with your pressure washer. The biggest area that this helps with is in the wheel wells where the surface is rough. If the area of coverage of the paint is large then you will need to apply several coats of acetone with a pump-up sprayer with viton seals (chemical resistant) letting each coat soak for approx. 5 minutes.  After 2 to 3 applications it should be soft enough to power wash the wheel well and the paint should remove fairly easily.

Our Old School Fallback Trick

Here’s another tip that we have heard numerous places and actually tried quite a few times when our normal highway paint removal techniques didn’t work. Our old school fall back trick is Easy Off Oven Cleaner sprayed on the wheel wells. You spray it, let it soak in, then spray it again letting it soak longer. Then you powerwash like the above highway paint removal process instructs.

First Loosen the Highway Paint

Important note, be careful using any of these highway paint removal processes on the exterior painted surfaces. Depending on the psi of the pressure washer and the age of the paint, it can sometimes blow the paint right off the car. A good nozzle for this would be the 25% pressure washer nozzle at 2,000 psi for the wheel wells (see our page on Mobile Detailing Equipment for more on this). On the vehicles painted surfaces first use a plastic razor to try and first loosen the highway paint after soaking.  This will help to reduce the chance of damaging the paint with the pressure washer.

Once this highway paint removal process is completed, the exterior surfaces must be high-speed buffed because they will be lightly scuffed due to the plastic razors and acetone removal process.

The costs of having a highway paint removal service professionally done really depends on the coverage area of paint over the vehicle. As a customer you can expect your professional detailer to charge you anywhere from $150 to $550 or more for expert highway paint removal services. Again, this pricing greatly depends on the area being cleaned and the length of time the detailer believes the highway paint removal process will take.

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Suggested Pages to Check Out

Detail Shop Liability Insurance Page with Info on Garage Keepers Liability Coverage

1099 Contractors and Other Detail Shop Tax Issues

Go Back To Home Auto Detailing Step-by-Step Page