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Keeping Your Apparatus Paint Intact

Boston Fire Department, MA, KME Custom PumperBy PPG and KME

Paint is the first line of defense in keeping fire apparatus in service and operating properly. In areas along the coast or in the winter belt where roads are treated, it’s even more critical. Untreated corrosion is one of the biggest factors in degrading not only apparatus appearance but also overall safe operation of the vehicle. Keeping the paint finish bright and intact on apparatus means taking some steps during the full life of the truck, including right after delivery.

During the first 30 days:

  • Avoid parking under trees. Sap and bird droppings may damage the new finish. If necessary, rinse them off as soon as possible.
  • Avoid driving on gravel roads. Rock chips may cause damage.
  • Never let gasoline, antifreeze and transmission fluid or windshield solvent stand on painted surfaces. Rinse them off as soon as possible.

During the first 90 days:

  • Do not wax or polish the vehicle. This will allow the finish to dry and cure completely. Do not use any silicone-containing waxes or polishes.
  • After 90 days, the vehicle should be polished with a premium-quality product.
    • Consult 3M or Meguiars for their recommendations.

For long-term care:

  • Never use an ice scraper to remove ice or snow. This will cause scratches.
  • Never use abrasive cleaners, chemicals, steel wool, or scuff pads directly on the finish. Doing so will cause damage to the finish.
  • Wash apparatus to remove road salt, magnesium chloride, or calcium chloride on a regularly scheduled basis.
  • Remove road tar by washing with finger nail polish remover or lighter fluid and a clean cotton cloth. Wipe off excess cleaner ASAP.

When you do wash the truck, remember:

  • If using a commercial washer, do not use worn-out plastic brushes. They can mar the finish and damage the painted surface.
  • Consider these vehicle-washing guidelines:
    • Wash vehicles in shade, never in direct sun.
    • Wash by hand using a clean sponge or soft brush with cold water and a very mild dish-washing soap.
    • Allow the vehicle to air dry or wipe dry using clean chamois or cotton cloths/rags.
  • If using high-pressure power washer, maintain a minimum distance of four feet from vehicles’ surfaces to the wand sprayer. Any closer may cause damage to paint and decals.
  • Do not “dry wipe” the fire apparatus. Dry wiping may scratch the finish.
  • If vehicles are washed indoors, dry thoroughly using clean cotton rags.

If there are additional items added to the vehicle after delivery, make sure the installer follows these steps:

  • When drilling is required, mark holes to be drilled using a marker. Drill holes using a sharp drill bit.
  • After drilling, remove all metal shavings.
  • Prior to mounting equipment, apply a compound like ECK® Electrolysis Corrosion Control into the hole between part and on screw treads. This will help prevent corrosion blistering from dissimilar metal electrolysis.
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