RestoPrep Australia
Automotive Restoration Preparation Specialists
Blasting - Coating - Restoration supplies

Soda Blasting and other soft Media

Very commonly talked up in the automotive world over the past few years is Soda blasting. Although upon intial inspection cars blasted with soda look great, just like they have been paint stripped. However there are several negatives to soda blasting that you don't often hear about. Many blasters you may come across will bad mouth soda blasting or any form of blasting that they don't do simply because they haven't tried it or they have lost work to someone who does do it. They find it easy to put down something they know nothing about. Our opinion is not based on that path.

We have tried soda blasting (for over 3 years), having spent over $30,000 between 2 different soda blasting setups I know what it can do and what it can't do. It is awesome for a huge range of jobs. Cars are just not one of them. (Have a look on ebay and see how many soda blasting business or equipment packages are for sale second hand from people who bought into it for automotive use and then found first hand that it wasn't all it's cracked up to be).

I often see business advertising or displaying pics of cars they have soda blasted. To most people the finish looks great, just like the car had never been painted. However there are several issues with soda blasting automotive panels and bodies.

1. Soda does not remove rust. Which may not be an issue, however from our experience even the cleanest old cars have some rust, inc surface rust. Soda will not remove rust and therefor leaves you with the task of hand sanding or chemically removing it. A step that can be avoided with fine abrasive blasting. Having seen over 700 vehicles come through our various workshops, I'm yet to come across a single quality panel shop who would prefer the rust left on the cars they send in for blasting.

2. Soda is more expensive for no real gain.

3. When blasted with water (very common with inexperienced operators or on-site/open air blasters) it micropolishes the surface causing paint adhesion issues. Many soda blasters will advertise that they can blast your car at home, they will use water to keep the dust down. Aside from the obvious issue of adding water to bare metal, it creates a surface finish that must be hand sanded in every square inch in order to achieve paint adhesion.

4. Soda leaves a dusty residue on the surface of the panels. Although easily washed off with the correct solutions, it's extra work and if you miss any it can react with your paint. (one of the reasons PPG, Spiers Hecker and many other paint companies will NOT warrant a car that has been soda blasted, don't believe that, call them, it's one of the first questions asked when a panel shop makes a paint defect claim).

5. If you have soda left in the cavities of your panels it can react with your paint as most paints are slightly acidic, where as soda is an alkaline.

So at the end of the day, Soda CAN do the job, but it leaves you with a lot more work before you can paint and it will cost you a lot more in both the short and long term.  It IS great for cleaning electrical switch boards, stipping gas and fuel lines whilst still in operation, and numerous other very needed tasks, just not ideal for cars.

Plastic media blasting
As we've mentioned on previous sections of this site, we mainly focus on the fine abrasive blasting, as from our experience, done right, it's the best option for most restorations. However Not every vehicle is steel and not every customer just wants the body & panels of the car done.

Note, as with soda, plastic WILL NOT remove rust. It's basically a pneumatic paint stripper.

Some automotive items just arn't suitable for our fine abrasive and most of our workshops can cater for plastic media blasting jobs were required (they do cost more than our normal jobs as it is a specialised process).

Plastic blasting is safe on virtually any material, be it steel, chrome, glass, fiberglass,
carbon fibre, some plastics, rubber, brass, copper, aluminium and many other substrates.

Plastic blasting will not harm seals, bearings or gears, making it safe to use on engines, gearboxes, diffs,
suspension components (including shock absorbers), window and door mechinisms, anything you want cleaned that can't be done
using normal abrasive blasting or harsh chemicals.

Unlike abrasive blast medias, plastic media residue will not harm any bearing faces or other delicate surfaces.

Ultimately due to the low-friction non heating and non abrasive proporties of plastic blasting, the chance of panel warping are completely removed.
So much so, that we will garuantee that plastic can not warp any steel panels. However we are well experienced with our fine abrasive and in almost all cases would recommend it over the plastic blasting.

This is the customers choice, personally we feel that if in our opinion the panel or part can be blasted with our fine abrasive safely, then we will suggest that it's the way to go as the finish left is ideal to begin your restoration. We will glady explain this more if you call into our workshop.

The lightweight fine abrasive is cheaper than plastic and therefore offers a more cost friendly alternative to full car stripping.

We recommend the fine mineral abrasive as the best option for many older vehicles due to the likelyhood of finding surface rust under the old paint.
It still leaves a finish superior to that of sand, garnet, staurolite, glass bead and other traditional harsh abrasives.

It should also be noted that some other business make some pretty bogus claims when it comes to blasting cars. One business we have come across promotes plastic media blasting as the only option for doing cars. When asked about how they remove the rust we were informed they blast those areas of the car with garnet (thus hardening the steel). When suggested our "quote" vehicle was fairly covered in surface rust we were informed the car must be plastic blasted first to remove all the paint safely, then it would be reblasted (at additional cost) with garnet to remove the rust. The quote provided was almost double our pricing. An overally expensive services sugar coated in lies to pray on customers who they think don't know better. We pride ourselves on our honesty and customer service. Our aim is to have you come back for your next project, and send your friends to us to strip theirs, we give you the true infomation and we aim to do every job at a realistic price without compromising quality.