Auto Shop Owner Switches To Environmentally-Friendly Paint

SOUTH YANKTON, Neb. — Children have a way of getting their parents to look at the world through a different set of eyes.

Tim Steiner, 45, experienced that first-hand when he decided to purchase Riverside Auto Body & Auto Sales, Inc., in South Yankton, Neb., from Joe Schieffer earlier this year. Steiner's three daughters are focused on being environmentally-friendly, and it was with their encouragement that their father decided to install a "green" paint finishing system.

"I have to give my middle daughter, Amanda, all the credit, because she's the one who really got me thinking about it," he said. "When I started to research it, it made sense — especially seeing how long the car companies have been using (waterborne paint systems). With the newer cars … we were always struggling to get a paint match. We found out why — because they're all sprayed with the water-based paint, and we didn't have it, nor does anyone else around here."

After making some changes to his paint booths and filter system, Steiner switched to PPG's Envirobase High Performance waterborne paint system last week instead of a conventional solvent-based system.

According to Joe Bruntz, a sales manager with Auto Body Specialties, which distributes PPG products, Riverside Auto Body is the only shop in the Yankton area that uses the waterborne paint system. He was at Riverside Auto Body this week to assist Steiner and his employees with questions about the new system.

Bruntz said the PPG product results in up to 80 percent less volatile organic compounds being released into the air and contributing to the creation of smog. The paint doesn't carry the severe odor of traditional paints, he added.

"What's also nice about this is, it never settles," Bruntz said, noting that 30 minutes of stirring daily is recommended for solvent-based paints. "You shake (the PPG paint) a little bit and go ahead and mix it."

In the future, Bruntz said shops may not have any choice when it comes to reducing the amount of volatile organic compounds they release. Legislation has been passed in California and elsewhere mandating the use of low-volatile organic compound products.

"What's happening out there will eventually reach into the Heartland, and there will be requirements that you'll have to use something that is a low-VOC product," Bruntz stated. "Aside from the advantages to the shop itself, legislation may dictate that you have to do it."

Steiner admitted the green system will cost him more in the short term.

"We did get some pretty decent backing from (Auto Body Specialties), but most of it was an expense to me in the form of work on the paint booths and changing the filters," he said. "I was lucky that our paint booths were modern and good enough to make the change. With just a little bit of tweaking here and there, we were more than where we needed to be."

The paint itself is more expensive than traditional paints, Steiner added. However, he said it will save the shop time because it doesn't take as long to prepare or clean up, and it is much easier to get a paint match on the first try. Using solvent-based paints, Steiner said it is rare to get the right color match with the first attempt.

"I figure it's going to more than pay for itself because it's a quicker product to use," he said.

And the quality of the paint job is also better, according to Steiner.

"It made a believer out of me," he said. "The first couple jobs we did, it was like nothing I had ever used before. You can do a way better job."

For a decade, Steiner and his brother, Joe, jointly operated Steiner's Locker Service in Yankton after their parents got out of the business. Eventually, Steiner said he decided to go his own direction.

He had always enjoyed working on vehicles and spent much of his free time in his shop.

"(Auto body work was) what I always went back to, no matter what it was that I did," Steiner said. "When the opportunity to buy Riverside Auto Body came up, it seemed like it made the most sense. It's got a real good reputation, good standing with the insurance companies and it's been a good fit. It's a big adventure, and it should be well worth the battle."

And while Steiner said his daughter encouraged him to pursue a greener workplace, her influence over him does have its limits. She's been a vegetarian for more than a year, but this former meat locker owner does not have any plans to follow her lead.

"That won't happen," he said, before adding, "although my three girls have really cut down on the amount of meat consumed in our house."

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