Specifying an Unpainted Body?

 


  Prior to the introduction of stainless steel and aluminum apparatus bodies, fire departments contended with steel body deterioration — rust. The chipping and damaging of painted surfaces exposed ferrous metal to the elements. Manufacturers initially addressed the problem by offering...


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Prior to the introduction of stainless steel and aluminum apparatus bodies, fire departments contended with steel body deterioration — rust. The chipping and damaging of painted surfaces exposed ferrous metal to the elements. Manufacturers initially addressed the problem by offering optional aluminum and steel scuff plates. Bright finished stainless-steel and aluminum replaced painted steel fenderettes and treadplate was provided in wheel-well panels — both areas prone to paint damage. Manufacturers began offering treadplate rear step compartment doors. The introduction of non-ferrous metallic bodies lessened the requirement for paint protection, but did not eliminate body deterioration.

The phenomenon known as electrolysis or galvanic corrosion can be problematic with all metallic bodies. To quote one supplier of thermal and moisture protection: "Electrolytic corrosion (electrolysis) occurs when dissimilar metals are in contact in the presence of an electrolyte, such as water (moisture)…and the dissimilar metals set up a galvanic action that results in the deterioration of one of them." The metals include aluminum, steel, brass, copper, nickel, and the 300 and 400 series of stainless steel.

The 1980s and '90s saw design features and product improvements that led to the non-intentional introduction of totally unpainted bodies, primarily those equipped with roll-up (shutter) compartment doors. When introduced, roll-up doors were not painted. Aluminum and stainless bodies were offered featuring unpainted interior hosebed side sheets and compartment interiors. Unfinished aluminum hosebed dividers replaced those of painted steel.

Meeting the Needs Of Departments

Responding to purchasers' requests to maximize storage space, manufacturers designed equipment compartments with larger door openings. Compartment headers and door jambs were made smaller, increasing the usable door widths and heights. (The header is that portion of a compartment above the actual door opening and the door jamb is the area from a compartment's side wall to the door opening — both notoriously inaccessible storage spaces.)

The design resulted in less visible surface area requiring painting. The painted sides of running board compartments facing both the pump panels and the rear of the apparatus were susceptible to damage and manufacturers started installing treadplate on those front and rear exterior vertical panels. Wrapping the treadplate around those vertical compartment corners to the leading door edges afforded additional protection. Compartment tops, constructed of or capped with treadplate, could also be wrapped over the top to the leading door edges. Pumpers, especially those featuring multiple rear inlets and discharges, found painted rear body panels subject to extraordinary wear and using all treadplate in this area negated the problem. Concurrently, the fabrication of aluminum and stainless steel pump houses and supplying stainless or vinyl covered pump panels virtually eliminated all paint in the pump house area.

Purchasers should note that apparatus with painted bodies may be supplied with unpainted pump modules and vice versa. Read or write your specifications carefully. By design, manufacturers today are offering unpainted bodies. In response to a questionnaire, Rosenbauer America has marketed unpainted bodies for over a dozen years; HME Ahrens-Fox has been doing the same for eight years and Smeal has started within the past year.

Paint liftoff, a headache for any apparatus manufacturer, is a non-issue with non-painted bodies. Liftoff, commonly called but not always caused by electrolysis, occurs when moisture penetrates the paint and primer to the surface of the body. If a hole is drilled in a painted surface to mount an accessory such as a light or door handle and the hole is not properly sealed, road wash and particularly road salt, can work its way between the paint and the base metal — regardless of its composition. The paint may blister or bubble, then peel off in large pieces. To prevent this, manufacturers usually pre-drill and install, then remove bolt-on or screwed-on accessories before painting. Ensure that the requirement is in your specifications. Granted, there could be an occasional problem with a particular paint product or process; however, read your paint warranties carefully. End users may have a written obligation to perform paint maintenance for normal wear and tear.

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