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Choosing the right railcar coatings

Choosing a railcar coating

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to choosing the best coatings to protect the railcars you own or lease. So how should you know which one to choose?

When it comes to selecting the right product to protect your cars, it’s best to consider your goals for the coating. How long do you expect it to last? How much time do you expect to spend applying it? What sort of abuse do you expect it to withstand? The answers to these questions will provide a good basis for your strategy moving forward.

If you’re expecting a long life cycle for your coating, it goes without saying that a more durable product is in order. But if you know the railcar is brought in every five years for scheduled maintenance, it may not make sense to go with the most durable multi-coat finish when a sufficient, single-coat system could do the job at a lower cost.

Many shop owners worry about long curing times causing a bottleneck in their facilities. Situations like these make single-coat systems attractive. After a sandblast, the railcar can be painted and then moved on down the line, therefore avoiding longer cure times. Epoxy coatings may cure more quickly, but may not be suitable if long-term UV protection is needed.

It is especially important to consider a tank car’s intended use where linings are concerned. The longer handling times associated with baked-on phenolics may be unavoidable if product purity is a concern. Since discoloration, odor or other interactions with the coatings system are unacceptable in the transport of food-grade items or sulfuric acid, a baked-on phenolic will likely be the best bet.

The importance of choosing the correct tank car lining has increased with the prevalence of hydraulic fracturing as an energy extraction method. Since water often accompanies this method as a byproduct, care must be taken to ensure that water, settling at the bottom of the tank, does not corrode and pit the steel. When leasing a tank car, this sort of damage could substantially increase maintenance costs upon returning the car. This is a concern tank car owners have only recently had to consider. There are also significant benefits of high solids coatings for these railroad tank cars.

Choosing the right railcar coating is all about how you expect it to perform. It’s important to consider your expectations for service-life, coating application time and the intended use of the railcar. Once an owner has decided what aspects of performance are most important, then choosing the coating that will provide those benefits becomes that much easier. Visit our railcar coatings page for more information.

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