Our Complete Guide to Classic Volkswagen Blast Cleaning
We’re huge fans of classic Volkswagens here at Soda Blasting Ltd; in fact, it was an original Beetle restoration project that sparked our love for revamping old vehicles in the first place!
Despite the manufacturer’s origins, the Volkswagen name has stood the test of time; with Beetles and Campervans cementing their place as beloved pop culture icons the world over.
If you’re embarking on a Beetle or Campervan restoration project, you’re probably curious as to how we can help. Stick around as we answer 6 common questions about how we help classic VW restorers bring their cars back to their former glory.
What methods of blast cleaning do you generally use for classic Volkswagens?
Depending on which component is in need of cleaning, we generally use soda blasting, glass media blasting, and/or vapour blasting.
Soda is generally used for larger, flatter areas such as the roofs, doors, and bonnets. This is chiefly because soda cleaning doesn’t create heat – these large, flat pieces could risk heat warping if other methods are used.
Glass media blasting provides a bit more of a heavy-duty clean and is generally used to remove filler and small amounts of rust. We tend to use glass blasting to clean stubborn interior paints.
Our vapour blasting booth is on hand to remove grease and dirt from smaller components and generally bring them back to their former glory. Our vapour blaster leaves internal components like engine casings with a satin-shine finish – like they were fresh out of the factory!
How do each of these cleaning methods work?
Soda blasting is a method of abrasive cleaning used to remove paint finishes, dirt, and grime from a wide variety of materials. It works by propelling bicarbonate of soda crystals on to a surface at high velocity. The high impact of these crystals strikes the surface just hard enough to remove any coatings without causing any damage to the materials underneath. Soda blasting is one of the gentlest methods of abrasive cleaning, making it essential for restoring older items that need to be handled with care.
Glass media blasting is a similar concept; tiny glass “beads” are propelled onto the surface at speed, impacting the surface and causing paint finishes to come away. This is more abrasive than soda blasting, so it’s reserved for situations where the existing coating proves quite difficult to remove.
Vapour blasting (sometimes called aqua blasting or wet abrasive blasting) builds on this concept further, blasting the surface with a mixture of tiny glass particles and water. At high velocity, this “slurry” peens the surface, leaving metals with a soft, satin-like sheen. Because there is water involved, we can’t use this process on any metals that rust. Vapour blasting takes place within our 1m square specialist cabinet, so larger items need to be cleaned using a different method.
Are there any problems when cleaning Beetles and Campervans? Are there any parts you can’t or won’t clean?
The two most common problems we come across with classic Volkswagens are rusted rear wheel arches and stubborn white underseal. Though soda blasting can be used to remove smaller amounts of rust, we don’t advise using it to get rid of thorough corrosion.
None of our cleaning methods can remove white underseal; the only way it can be removed is to burn it away. Even acid dipping won’t shift it! However, we’re more than happy to remove any paint covering the underseal leaving it to be repainted over. Most people opt to leave this underseal intact anyway because it’s so hardy – it’s obviously doing its job!
What experience do Soda Blasting Ltd have with classic Volkswagens and similar vehicles?
In terms of whole vehicle bodywork, we’ve worked on about a dozen classic VWs in our time. However, we’ve worked on countless “sections” – engine parts, internal components, single panels, etc. One of the first vehicles we ever worked on was a classic VW Beetle, and it solidified our love for helping automotive enthusiasts make their restoration projects a reality.
Additionally, we regularly work on classic Porsches, Audis, and BMWs. Many classic German vehicles have striking similarities in terms of materials and paints used – not least that stubborn white underseal!
What makes Soda Blasting Ltd an ideal partner for my Volkswagen restoration project?
We use the best possible processes to paint strip vehicles of all kinds (including boats and planes!) and we have a very personal interest in Volkswagens in particular. Our MD owns two campervans – because one just wasn’t enough! We have all the tools to hand at our Wolverhampton facility to tackle most blast cleaning requirements, and we are surrounded by VW expertise. Our neighbour, BC Automotive, specialises in Volkswagen repairs; and just a few doors down there’s Coven Body Repairs, an experienced vehicle restoration company. Put simply – if we don’t know how to do it, we know someone that probably does!
As well as removing paint from vehicles, we can also provide an epoxy priming service following any blast cleaning work. This helps to ensure that your components are protected during transportation and storage. All priming work is carried in a purpose-built painting booth – that just so happens to be big enough to fit a campervan into comfortably!
In addition to our esteemed neighbours, we also work closely with a number of highly regarded companies who specialise in VW restoration; most notably Retro Refinishers and VagCar near Cannock, and Leicestershire-based Edmonds Restorations.
What does the process of working with Soda Blasting Ltd look like?
Before any work takes place, we will generally liaise with the client to get as much information about the project and the desired outcome as we can. We will usually ask clients to email over photos and information; but in the case of smaller components, we may request that you bring the item in or send it to us by courier to be assessed. In these cases, we sometimes clean a small test patch to get an idea of what’s involved.
Whichever way we assess the work, we will then advise of costing, how long the work will take, and the methods we will most likely use. We don’t offer set pricing because no two items are ever quite the same! But once we quote, the fee doesn’t change – even if the work is more involved than expected.
Provided the client is happy with the quote, it’s time to get to work! We generally ask that all vehicles be brought to our facility in Wolverhampton if at all possible. As a part of the service we provide, we photograph any areas of concern and pass those on to the client; giving them a good working knowledge of their vehicle’s condition.
At the time of publishing, we generally aim for a 7-day turnaround, and we have a waiting list of 2 weeks minimum.
If you have any queries about finishes, processes, or generally how we operate, please just give us a call or pop into our Wolverhampton site office.
At SBL, we always strive to be approachable and reliable. We’re vintage car enthusiasts ourselves, so we know how nerve-wracking it can be entrusting your beloved motor to a third party. We’re well-known throughout the West Midlands and beyond as a trusted and experienced abrasive cleaning provider, and lovingly care for each component as if it were our own.
So why not get in touch for a free quote? Speak to our expert team today on 0800 774 7632 to discuss your blast cleaning needs.