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Ask Doug & Kian

Who are Doug and Kian? Doug Snow and Kian Amirkhizi lead a company called MATRI-X. MATRI-X is dedicated to the education and training of interior repair industry technicians. Doug and Kian have a varied and extensive background in training and almost 50 years combined experience as expert repair technicians themselves.  Each are past winners of the Mobile Tech Expos’ Leather Repair Contest.

“Safety should be your first concern.”


Yeah, that’s what we’ve all heard…(“Famous Last Words?”) Gone are the good ol' days when you used to spray MEK dye on the carpet of a van with the doors closed. Or how about the times when you did those intricate repairs with a cigarette hanging half out of your mouth and the only concern was keeping the smoke out of your eyes?  I‘ve had people tell me that it was safer to smoke while doing vinyl repair because the cigarette has an air filter on it (don’t try this at home, kids).


Well, for some of us those days are gone, but there is still a lot to be concerned about. I am constantly surprised to see how many people are quite careless with their health and safety when it comes to this industry. At our last training class I asked for a show of hands of the people that wore a mask while working and not a single person raised their hand. (I hope all of you are shifting uncomfortably in your seats right about now.)


Let’s start with some basic concepts:If your hand touches a chemical it should be gloved

I buy box after box of latex exam gloves (although I don’t refrigerate them like my doctor seems to). The cost of gloves is very reasonable and they should be changed often throughout the workday. These gloves are a simple yet effective measure in preventing unneeded exposure to toxic chemicals that enter your body through skin absorption.What you spray will be inhaled

Wearing respiratory protection should be as automatic as such basic safety concepts such as “don’t stare at the sun”. Ever see ol' timers hacking up a kidney? It’s not a pretty sight. When first working in aesthetic repair and being over-exposed to DNA-altering substances, I’d hack up stuff with veins in it on some days.


However, wearing a mask has a hidden danger: wearing a mask improperly can be even more dangerous than not wearing one. It is important to select the correct mask for the particular type of contaminant. A mask that is worn improperly or in the wrong conditions may become more dangerous since the wearer may not avoid exposure or breathing harmful elements because they believe they are protected. I found a great web site that helps you chose the proper type of mask for the particular contaminant at www.northsafety.com . It has a section called “EZguide” where you select the chemical and it matches the proper filter to use and it even offers the same guide for hand protection.


What about vinyl repair compounds?

Vinyl repair compounds are what are called plastisols, which are a mixture of PVC and plasticizers. PVC, according to some experts, can be extremely toxic - especially when heated. According to these experts, when PVC items are caught in a building fire, PVC releases a toxic hydrogen chloride gas that forms hydrochloric acid.  This may prove deadly if inhaled by firefighters and/or building occupants.  Firefighters face frequent harmful occupational exposures when battling fires laden with PVC building materials and consumer products.  Building occupants may even be killed from inhaling toxic PVC fumes before they are able to escape. 


This means that when we are curing vinyl repair compounds using heat, this is probably not the best time to practice our Zen deep breathing exercises, since the gases escaping during the process are probably not very good for you. When working with PVC and heat, make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area and avoid breathing any of the fumes generated when curing the compound.  A really important fact to remember is that even if you are being smart and wearing a mask, make sure that it is the proper type or just hold your breath.


Crosslinkers present a serious issue as well. Crosslinkers are catalyst compounds that make resins turn into an irreversible molecular alignment. This process is technically known as polymerization or commonly referred to as being “crosslinked”. Some crosslinkers in past years have been known to be quite toxic. In fact, at one of our training seminars there was a gentleman who reported that he experienced severe respiratory distress whenever he refinished leather inside a vehicle. It didn’t take long to figure out that his body had become sensitized, or allergic to his crosslinker. Once he changed to a different, less toxic, crosslinker his symptoms disappeared.


We encourage all manufacturers of products to carry accurate MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets for those in Rio Linda) and supply them to their customers. In the end, we are all responsible for our own health; it’s ultimately up to you to protect yourself properly. Let’s make sure that we treat our body as a temple, not a toxic waste site!

 Tech Tip - More About Flexible Epoxies



As promised, we are continuing our feature from the last issue on the subject of flexible epoxies or flexible adhesives as requested by one our readers, Donald Loomis. Flexible adhesives can be one of your best friends for some challenging repairs. We will look at some typical repairs that work well using flexible epoxies. First, we want to thank our good friends at SEM (especially James Hussey) and Urethane Supply Company (USC) for their extensive technical expertise and much-needed help with this article.


In order to discuss epoxies, we need to talk first about the types of plastic we will “be fixin’” (as my good friend Clay Williams from Georgia would say).


(If you’re acronym-phobic, then skip this section.) Most plastics today are identified using an acronym such as ABS, TPO, PP, PPO, EPDM, TPE, TEO, PC, PUR or RIM.  Plastics such as TPO and TEO contain a nasty little compound known as “olefin”. This olefin compound closely resembles a kind of wax.


Olefin is an important component in resolving the difficulty of recycling plastics as well. It can be difficult to recycle plastic since many different and incompatible types of plastic must often be processed together at the same time. In the recycling process these many types of plastics are run through a hopper that chips them up in small pieces. Then they are heated. Olefin is added to melted plastic to get all the different types of plastic to combine. Think of it as the “glue” that holds the different types of plastic together. The problem that arises for us technicians lies in the nature of olefin. Due to its waxy nature it can be difficult to get anything to stick to it.  However, don’t be intimidated.  With today’s technology and a little know-how, most of the plastic you will encounter can be repaired quite easily.


When repairing any type of plastic, it is important to choose the right product for the job.  Equally important is to clean the plastic using the products and methods recommended by the manufacturer of the repair material.  This usually includes a cleaner to remove water-based contaminants and a separate cleaner to remove solvent-based contaminants.  If the surface is not cleaned properly, poor adhesion of your repair material may result. Additionally, some manufacturers will recommend using an adhesion promoter to improve the adhesion of the repair material to the plastic. 


SEM offers several solutions when it comes to plastic repair.  One solution includes using epoxy-based fillers, and the other includes using polyurethane-based adhesives. 


Epoxy-based fillers bond mechanically to the substrate while providing superior sanding characteristics for cosmetic repairs, such as cracks, gouges, abrasions, and punctures.   SEM recommends 39767 PROBLEM PLASTIC REPAIR MATERIAL to repair most thermoplastics, including ABS, PP, TPO, PPO, EPDM and TPE. The nice thing about this product is that an adhesion promoter is already built in, saving the user time and money.  SEM also offers 39927 FLEXIBLE SEM WELD, which may be used on very flexible thermoset plastics such as PUR and RIM.  Both products provide 3-5 minutes of working time and can be sanded in just 15 minutes. 


Polyurethane-based adhesives rely on a chemical bond for durable structural repairs, but lack the sanding qualities of epoxies, making them more suitable for multi-purpose bonding applications.  SEM offers 4020 QUICK SET 20 and 4050 QUICK SET 504020 QUICK SET 20 has a 20-second working time, while 4050 QUICK SET 50 has a 50-second working time. These versatile adhesives are perfect for bonding backer panels, moldings, emblems, small plastic, metal and aluminum parts, as well as repairing or replacing broken tabs. Both set in less than 5 minutes and can be drilled or tapped, making these products extremely valuable in the time and money they save the user.


According to Keith Lammon from Urethane Supply Company, the company recommends that you use their plastic welder for the structural part of the repair and then use their epoxy filler for the cosmetic aspect of the repair. They designed the epoxy filler to be easy to sand, which compromises the strength of the epoxy but is not an issue since the structural strength of the repair is in the plastic weld. 




 We Need Your Help


We are planning for a future article and we need your help, so get out your crayons! We are looking for those special moments that have happened to us all in this business when things didn’t quite go as planned. We want your stories of those unplanned disasters. First time repair horror stories, or such as the “oh, my bad…no charge for this one”, or how about “oh ****!” moments (like spilling an entire gallon of bright yellow dye on a Mercedes Benz dealership lot). 


We all have these stories - the question is, can you “cowboy up” and tell them to us? It’s time for (cue announcer voice) “True Confessions from Frustrated Vinyl Repairmen”. Don’t worry; we’ll keep you anonymous if you would like us to. Please email them or any other questions, comments or cathartic excoriations to kian@thematri-x.com or doug@thematri-x.com .