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Cleaning Your Apparatus

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  • Captain Gonzo
    Guest replied
    I am a clean car fanatic, have an automotive detailing business on the side, and wrote an article on Fire Apparatus Detailing in the November 1992 edition of Firehouse Magazine.

    Here's a few things I can pass onto you...

    Washing: use a professional quality liquid car wash soap. Powdered car wash soap can scratch paint if it is not totally dissolved.

    DO NOT USE DISHWASHING DETERGENT! It contains chemicals that cut grease, ie., strip the wax from the vehicle.

    Use a quality sheepskin car wash mitt or a soft bristle brush. To judge the softness of the bristles, run your hand over it. If it feels stiff, it will scratch the paint.

    After washing use either a chamois or cotton towels to wipe the rig dry. If you have an air compressor, you can blow the water out of the nooks and crannies (I use a leaf blower,...it does the same thing!)

    Paint cleaning: if the finish on the truck feels rough (like a fine grit wet/dry sandpaper),or has other contaminants on it (soot, tree sap, bird droppings, road tar, etc.) the paint will have to be cleaned.

    Washing removes surface dirt...these contaminants listed above are actually imbedded in the paint.

    Paint cleaning can be done by hand, orbital or rotary polisher. Rotary polishers should only be used by experienced personnel. Paint thickness on a fire truck can be anywhere from 3 to 6 mils thick...about the thickness of a trash bag!

    Polishing: Polishing brings out the gloss in the paint and gives it the wet look. Like cleaning, polishing can be done by hand or machine.

    Waxing: once the paint is cleaned and polished (it should feel as smooth as glass), then you can wax the paint to protect it. Wax comes in paste or liquid form. Liquid waxes go on easier and can be applied with an orbital polisher. A little goes a long way, and it's easier to apply two light coats of wax to a panel as opposed to one thick one.

    Note: care must be used around any kind of lettering, especially gold leaf! This goes for all three steps!

    Wheels: brake dust buildup can turn a painted, chrome or aluminum wheels black in no time at all. The proper chemical wheel cleaner must be used to prevent damage to the wheel finish. Wheels should be cleaned when they are cool, as elevated temperatures can affect the chemical compound of the cleaner.

    Tires: rubber oxidizes in sunlight, and brake dust from the pads adheres to the tire, turning them brown. A good quality tire cleaner and a brush should be used to clean the tire. A protectant can be used if necessary afterwards, if desired.

    Interiors: the vehicle's interior should be vacuumed/swept and the dashboard and seating areas wiped down on a regular basis. The California Dash Duster (available in most auto parts stores) makes the job of removing dust a lot easier. Don't use a vinyl protectant on the seats..it makes them slippery and dangerous. On the
    dashboard, they can cause unwanted reflections on the windshield.

    Maintenance: vehicles should be washed on an as needed basis. If you wax a panel or two after every wash, it's easy to keep up the shine. If you go out on a call when it's raining or snowing, rinse the truck body down when you get back to quarters. If there is a good wax finish on it, most of the dirt will roll right off!

    Products: Here is where spending a few more dollars can save money in the long run. The cheaper the wax, the more synthetics it contains. The best waxes contain carnauba wax. There is no 100% carnauba wax. In it's natural form, carnauba is as hard as a rock. You can spend anywhere from $3 to over $10,000 (yes, you read that right!!!) on a container of car wax. The $10K version has a chemist who does a spectral analysis of the vehicle's paint finish, and then the company will custom belend a formula for just that paint finish.

    Think about it...would you spend hundreds of thousands of $$$ on a new fire truck, then use a $3 can of no-name paste wax on it? Unfortunately, there are people who do (and I know a few)!

    If you go into any auto supply store, there are products from many different manufacturers. Here are some of the brands that you should look for
    Eagle One
    The Wax Shop
    Auto Magic
    Griot's Garage
    The Wax Depot

    Most of these car care product manufacturers and vendors have websites where you can access more information or order directly.

    Their stuff costs more, but it's worth it!

    PS: my Department waxes the rigs quarterly. They are usually washed on the first day's tour of duty and on as needed basis.

    Firefighters: Today's heroes protecting everyone's tomorrows!
    Captain Gonzo

    [This message has been edited by Captain Gonzo (edited 06-17-2001).]

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  • Neal_HP105
    Guest started a topic Cleaning Your Apparatus

    Cleaning Your Apparatus

    We are presently getting a new set of standards for keeping our apparatus clean. I would appreciate any input in regards to what other depts. do to keep theirs clean, how often the cleaning is done in detail, and what products are used for cleaning,(what works and what doesn't). Thanks to all and as always stay safe.

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