Precision Painting in northern Indiana gives motorhomes exterior makeovers.
By Pamela Selbert
What do you do when the exterior of your coach just doesn’t have that “wow” appeal any longer? One option is to trade the motorhome in and get a new one with a sparkling finish. But if you can’t stand the thought of parting with your coach, you can have it repainted by a company that specializes in making older coaches look like new. One such place is Precision Painting in Bremen, Indiana.
Tony Box, vice president of sales at Precision Painting, suggested that the best way to envision what the company offers is to see “before” and “after” examples of their work. The “before” on this occasion was a dun-colored 1996 Mountain Aire motorhome practically devoid of decoration, at least compared with the fancy paint treatments new coaches are given today. The unit had arrived earlier in the day and sat looking slightly morose inside Precision Painting’s 37,500-square foot facility. According to Mr. Box, the Mountain Aire’s owner decided it needed a new look.
While we watched, several of the company’s 60-some technicians began removing the awning. The awning hardware can be rehabbed, or the awnings “” patio, slideout, and entry “” can be replaced if a customer wishes to have them color-coordinated to the new paint job. The company uses A&E, a Dometic-owned company, to supply the new awnings.
Mr. Box said that during the next couple of weeks, the Mountain Aire would receive new slideout seals, plus a new dryer vent, air-conditioner cover, and other plastic parts. In addition, the myriad small dings and dents that pocked its sides (collected during its 11 years on the road) would be ground out and filled with fiberglass.
Stick-on decals would be removed with a heat gun or vinyl-eraser tool. Likewise, all the caulking, which could cause a new clear coat to “lift,” would be removed. The coach would then have a sealer coat applied, a base color sprayed, and then be outfitted with a spray mask and have the stripe colors painted. Finally, three coats of clear coat would be applied, totaling some 15 gallons, and the project would be finished with a full buff and polish to remove the “orange peel” in the clear coat.
“By the time we’re finished with this coach, it’ll look new “” or even better,” he said. “And the price is also a lot better. Owners thinking about buying a new coach often see the cost of new units and instead decide to invest in what they already have.” A full-body paint job by Precision Painting “” no decals are used by this firm “” generally costs between $12,000 and $16,000, he said.
Next we viewed an “after” example, a 1999 Dutch Star (with a trio of stuffed animals visible on the dash through the wide windshield) that was nearly ready to be returned to its owner. This coach was being finished at a former RV cushion factory elsewhere in Bremen that Precision Painting had leased a few weeks earlier. With business being so good, the company couldn’t wait for completion of its recently opened second state-of-the-art facility (12,500 square feet) that’s located on the firm’s 15 acres.
Even with the new building, Precision likely will continue to use the leased facility, Mr. Box said. The company will then have the ability to turn out six fully painted coaches a day, with between 30 and 40 in the works at any given time.
The Dutch Star glowed in its new “premier paint job” (Precision’s term for the work). In this case the motorhome featured four shades of tan and brown. The colors were so vibrant and the shine so rich and deep that it appeared the coach had been encased in glass. Carl Arman, who runs the repair shop, explained that the work includes three layers of clear coat, a full wet-sand treatment, and buffing and polishing. “We particularly pride ourselves on our wet sanding and buffing process,” Mr. Box added.
Precision Painting Inc. was founded a dozen years ago by Todd Hundt. Todd’s vision for the Precision Painting was to build a company grounded in values, with a reputation for quality paint work. During its first five years, Precision, which began operating in a modest facility in Bremen, offered skirt painting and some striping and repair work for local RV manufacturers.
Then, in 2000 Precision Painting partnered with Travel Supreme Inc., a luxury motor coach builder in Wakarusa, Indiana, and, responding to customer demand, shifted to full-body paint. The following year, recognizing the potential for growth and the need for additional experience, Mr. Hundt added new partners, Dan Miller and Mike Leman, both of whom had worked with full-body paint at Newmar.
A year after the partnership was established, the firm expanded the facility and installed a downdraft spray and bake booth. This allowed motorhomes to be painted in a controlled environment and heated for faster and more consistent curing of the paint. The facility’s current bake booth is heated to 160 degrees, where it remains for 40 minutes in order to adequately cure the paint.
Precision, which has painted new Travel Supreme coaches exclusively for the past six years, and recently began painting some of the new coaches built by Forest River Inc. (in Elkhart, Indiana) and Gulf Stream Coach Inc. (in Nappanee), grew rapidly, but in its original location had no room to expand. Owners then purchased the acreage where the firm now stands.
The company’s current state-of-the-art facility, with three downdraft spray and bake booths, opened in the fall of 2004 and now has more than three dozen employees. The technicians take care of prepping the coach (washing the unit, masking the windows and areas not to be painted, sanding, scuffing, solvent washing for contaminants, and fixing imperfections in the substrate). They also perform striping, base coating, clearing (the process where accent colors are sprayed and the gloss finish is applied), buffing, and repair.
While Mr. Box led us on a tour of the huge facility, he illustrated other terms by pointing out work in progress. The base coat, he said, is the initial color that is sprayed on the unit, typically the lightest and background color. Prior to this stage any required primers or sealers also are applied. Once the color has been sprayed on, the unit is inspected for any imperfections and repaired before the next stage begins.
During the striping process, the selected design is laid out with a spray mask “” ostensibly a huge stencil “” that’s computer-designed and cut by a plotter to ensure crisp, exact lines. Several technicians work together to apply the spray mask, standing on lifts while peeling away low-tack paper from both sides of the mask and then applying it to the coach’s surface.
Once the gloss finish or clear coat is applied and has had the chance to dry, the paint is finely sanded and polished for the glass-like shine. Finally, the unit is thoroughly inspected for any imperfections in the paint finish. Should any area not meet Precision’s quality standards, mobile technicians make repairs.
According to Mr. Box, the company’s name aptly describes its paint process: every step is designed to provide each customer with the precise and quality paint finish for which the company has become known. Precision’s reputation attracts customers from as far away as California, Florida, and Canada, he said.
He noted that while Precision’s turnaround on newly manufactured units is five or six days, it takes more than twice that amount of time, generally around 12 to 14 business days, for retail units (used coaches), as they require some 200 shop hours to complete. Precision currently paints more than five dozen new units a month (an amazing 67 units this past March), and approximately two retail units a week, though the firm hopes to increase production in this area.
Before any work begins, customers flip through a dozen or so loose-leaf binders in the firm’s conference room to choose the new design and colors, of which about 50 are available. (The company mixes its own colors and will paint custom and template designs.) Tours of the factory are offered. And when the work is under way, some customers stay at local bed-and-breakfasts or motels (where Precision can arrange a customer discount), while others travel elsewhere in their towed vehicle, or fly home to await completion of their “new” coach.
Mr. Box noted that while Precision Painting focuses on full-body painting of motorhomes, fifth-wheels, and cargo trailers, the firm also has painted school buses, cars, trucks, boats, fire trucks, motorcycles, and even horse trailers.
“We’re one of the top companies (for full-body painting) in the country,” he said. “We provide quality service at a fair price to our customers. And we make sure that when they leave here, they are happy and satisfied.”
Precision Painting, 730 High St., P.O. Box 214, Bremen, IN 46506; (866) 909-4473; (574) 546-4473; www.precisionpaintingrv.com.