How to start a successful Headlight cleaning business
Today modern acrylic projector headlights can cost well over a thousand dollars a piece.
One mistake with abrasives or sandpaper can put you out of business before you can get started.
What you need to know to start a successful headlight cleaning business.
CRITICAL AND SUBTLE ELEMENTS OF THE BUSINESS.
#1 Know your craft. Guessing will not suffice if you seek longevity.
#2 Learn the difference between
UV damage, Oxidation, Surface damage and how to prevent them. The wrong solution can cause more harm than good.
#3 Value your customers. You want these people to come back and recommend you to their friends. Keep in mind, “people spend their money where they want to”.
#4 You are supplying a service and the quality of that service will determine the life or death of your business.
#5 People pay a professional when they want it done right. Be that professional.
What you need to know before starting a Headlight Cleaning Business.
The automotive headlight cleaning business is a booming industry and if you know the basics and have the proper training and tools you can make a comfortable living.
Fact: Most of the information you get about headlight cleaning does not apply to the most common problem. “oxidation” .
The worst place to get information from are forums dominated by members who parrot each others beliefs. The information they offer are almost always redundant and obsolete.
Most people do not understand how today’s composite headlights are constructed and therefore will advise you to sand away a part of your headlight that is critical to its clarity, the UV layer.
Oxidation is the main problem customers want addressed but the sanding method commonly suggested by uninformed individuals is one you should avoid.
Sanding is necessary in cases of severe damage and sometimes even sanding won’t help.
It takes training to know which methods are available and which work best for which problem.
90% of all headlight cleaning requires the removal of oxidation.
A naturally occurring opaque coating that builds up on the outside of the headlight.
It can appear to be on the inside to some but it never is. It is an external problem that can be fixed quite easily with a deoxidizer.
The other 10% may require polishing where abrasives are used or even worse resurfacing where sandpaper is used to grind away layers of lens surface and buff it back smooth again.
The abrasive method is costly and time consuming. Fortunately it is not required in most cases.
Pricing should reflect the amount of time and labor involved in the job. Resurfacing can take hours per headlight, which limits the amount of jobs you can finish in a day.
Deoxidizing takes less than five minutes per car and the over head cost is nil by comparison.
Do you need to invest in a headlight kit to resurface headlights?
No but you will need power tools and an understanding of sandpaper grit, abrasive compounds like polish and the application of clear coat.
Once again only severely damaged lights need to be resurfaced. Avoid resurfacing jobs because they will take time away from your easy money job of oxidation removal.
There is both a safety and liability factor involved when you decide to resurface a lens. If you cause damage to the paint or are unable to resurface imperfections or get the yellow out of the lens, it could end up costing you money and customers.
You should note, a lens that has yellowed because the UV layer had been removed at a earlier time cannot be made clear again.
With a deoxidizer you can test a small section of the lens before you begin the job in order to be certain the problem is oxidation. There is no danger of damaging the lens or the area around it.
You will have to buy a deoxidizer
Your cost per vehicle is from 10 to 50 cents per vehicle depending on the cost of the Deoxidizer.
Bulk purchases of a deoxidizer save you big money in the long run.
Knowing if a headlight is Glass or Acrylic is also important.
You should value your customers!
Stay away from untested methods on customer cars, such as toothpaste. Sure it works on glass because glass headlights can be polished and benefit from the application. Acrylic or plastic headlights should not be cleaned with toothpaste. It will leave a cloud of scratches on the lens just as polish will.
All of headlights you deoxidize will be acrylic not glass.
Oxidation is not a problem for glass headlights.
Wax will not help keep a lens clear, wax has a tendency to dull and yellow. An acrylic conditioner will keep oxidation from reforming on headlights.
The cost is about half that of the Deoxidizer per vehicle and it too must be purchased.
Knowing the difference between oxidation and surface damage is critical.
The average person cannot distinguish the difference between oxidation and the aftermath of abrasive an abrasive cleaning. They do not know that oxidation is not corrosion and causes no damage.
In fact many believe the damaged crusted and scratched surface of a headlight is the result of oxidation when in fact it is the result of a previous abrasive cleaning and sealing.
With a deoxidizer on hand you don’t have to guess if the problem is oxidation or abrasive damage. You can give your customer a quote that will be based on the amount of time you expect to spend deoxidizing on their headlights.
Suggested price for headlight deoxidizing: $20.00 to $40.00
Suggested price for headlight resurfacing: $80.00 to $125.00
Resurfacing is best done in a shop where you have access to electricity an air compressor and paint spray gun. These are things needed for properly applying clear coat after resurfacing the headlights. Hand sanding and brushed on clear coat cannot provide a professional quality finish product.
Deoxidizing can be done anywhere from car washes to gas stations. It is both the easiest and fastest way to make money.
In addition you can offer your customers a yearly service package to re deoxidize the lens when oxidation returns in the future.
In this way you build and keep a loyal following based on good customer service.
Resurfacing does not lend itself to such offers. It would be a costly and time consuming service to offer your customers.
Give your customers an option to purchase a service plan at any time after the initial deoxidizing.
Acrylic conditioning will prevent oxidation from reforming on headlights if applied once every two to three months. PITTMAN KMOD ALR/APC 360ID is the only system designed to perform this service.
Before you professionally service anyone’s vehicle, sharpen your skills on junkyard cars.
Some junk yards will be happy for you to improve their chances of selling headlamps by restoring them to a usable condition.
They are unlikely to pay for the service so only practice on ½ of the headlight. You don’t want to hurt your business by clearing the whole lens for someone else to buy later.
Good places to start offering your service are:
Used car dealer
Always offer deals on volume jobs and a service plan that keeps you and your customer connected.
Tips & Warnings
When using a deoxidizer and acrylic conditioner, it is very important to follow the instructions. Do not deviate from directions when using these products. With this system more is not better.
Value your customers
Always alert customers in advance of the fact that surface damage and oxidation are two separate problems which require different solutions.
Inform your customers that lens that has yellowed from a previous abrasive cleaning cannot be made clear again.
Keep your customers expectations realistic, give them a honest evaluation of their problem and the expected results.
Sandpaper should only used by customer request in severe cases where the plastic lens is, so badly damage it must be resurfaced. Customers must assume responsibility for possible damage if they request this method of cleaning / resurfacing
Damage like this usually the result of abrasive cleaning or the break down of a earlier resurfacing and sealing.
Sandpaper should not be used on glass.
Polish is best for glass
Polish is abrasive and can create a cloud of scratches on the surface of an acrylic / plastic / polycarbonate lens
People can sue you if you mess up their headlights with sandpaper,
Be Smart protect yourself and your business.
Always avoid using sandpaper or power tools unless the customer specifically request it.
Advertise! Promote your business every chance you get, Church, Social events, Internet, Local media.