When you are looking to clean your car, some parts are too tough for your normal cleaning agents. For example, a wheel wasted by brake dust or road salt, a rusty stain or an old accessory on your well-maintained engine. Often times, such stains will require you to get past the paint and reach the original surface. The most effective way to reach the bare metal is by media blasting. A media blast helps you rip off the paint fast while preventing damage to the base material, even when it is wooden or plastic. Traditionally, sand was the main blasting element. However, sand is no longer a viable material as it poses serious health risks by exposing you to silica particles, which cause respiratory complications.
What Is Media Blasting?
The media blast process involves the use of a nozzle, a process similar to pressure washing, but with tiny pieces of material (media), which are more abrasive than water.
Some of the most common blasting media includes:
- Aluminum oxide – It is suitable for surface protection and blast finishing. It contains sharp and durable blasting abrasives you can use repeatedly
- Crushed glass grit – Crushed glass has an aggressive surface making it suitable for surface profiling, removal of surface contamination and cleaning of coatings.
- Glass beads – They come in round shapes, and give a smoother and brighter finish than angular media. You can reuse them for up to 30 times.
- Silicon carbide – It is the hardest and most re-usable media available.
To successfully media blast at home, you need a huge cabinet to protect your garage from the mess. You can find a media blasting cabinet, which often contains a pair of heavy-duty gloves and a blasting gun inbuilt. Once you have the working area set up, you need to get your tools ready. Get a strong air compressor, one that can deal with at least 80 psi at 5m3 per minute if you do not own one. If you are working on larger parts such as wheels, make sure you get a handheld gun and protection equipment for yourself. You should also consider making a simple protective enclosure with plastic sheets. Buy at least a gallon of media blast; alternatively, you can re-use media from a friend or a previous cleaning job.
Some of the safety precautions you should take before a media blast include:
- Safety glasses or a face shield
- Ear plugs
- A breathing mask
Prepare your car for the media blast by cleaning grease off the surface. If you have anything greasy or sticky on your car, it will foul your media before you can get the job started. The best way to go about the cleaning process is to apply the lowest pressure possible with a light abrasive. Before you get started, test the material of a hidden surface first. Additionally, note that that media may give you a rough finish that may need polishing after the blast.
Beware of flash corrosion that happens when moisture in the air mixes with the exposed material. If this is a risk, avoid working when the humidity is above 75 percent and prepare to treat the metal with a protectant such as a primer.
The initial media blast job will require a significant investment; however, you can re-use the tools and media repeatedly. Consider consulting experts from Z-One Automotive for advice on the best tools to buy. They will offer you expert advice, help you identify cleaning jobs that may need more experience, and offer after sales services for your equipment.