Jazzing up rims with spray paint

18 Mar 2019

By Joel Chan

Chang Yong Keen, 24, prepares to work on his next project. As prolong inhalation of spray paint can be harmful to the body, Chang wears a mask to protect himself. PHOTOS: JOEL CHAN

Since his National Service (NS) days, the first-year student from the Nanyang Business School (NBS) had been looking for a means to support himself while studying, and wanted it to be a job that he was passionate about.

Being an avid car lover, Chang observed that most car rims are silver in colour. The uniformity and lack of creativity annoyed him.

“I have been spray painting leisurely for a year and it hit me that I could change the colour of the rims by spray painting them,” said Chang. “This will not only help to beautify the car, but also give the car a brand new identity.”

After extensive research, Chang realised that this market in Singapore is very niche and underdeveloped. Sensing an opportunity, he founded RimsOnly last year with his friend, Gilbert Chandra, 21.

Starting out

Prior to the founding of RimsOnly, the duo dedicated their free time during NS to watch YouTube tutorials on spray painting as well as learn some automotive trade practices, like how to protect a car from damages.

After two weeks, the duo asked to hone their spray painting skills on their friends’ cars.

Prior to the founding of RimsOnly, the duo dedicated their free time during NS to watch YouTube tuto - rials on spray painting as well as learn some automotive trade practices, like how to protect a car from damages.

After two weeks, the duo asked to hone their spray painting skills by practicing on their friends’ cars.

Chang said: “This helped us tremendously as it gave us confidence. It also helped to prepare us mentally for the complaints that we are bound to receive especially when we first start out.

“We are going to deal with people’s babes (sic) and we will definitely mess up somewhere, so we had to learn to willingly take the criticism and backlash in, and work from there.”

The duo’s mutual friend agreed to let them work on his car, despite their lack of experience, as they were offering to do it for free. Chang and Gilbert felt that it was more valuable to gain experience on the job, so they officially launched RimsOnly after practicing their spray painting skills on just one car.

Business operations

In total, the duo forked out $150 on cans of spray paint that could last them for about a month. Other materials such as newspapers and cards were reused from their homes.

Majority of RimsOnly’s customers come from local online marketplace Carousell. Clients have to schedule an appointment slot for a spray painting service, which fill up quickly. In the past month alone, the duo have spray painted 15 cars. Each car takes an average of two hours to complete.

The cost of each job varies, depending on the size of the rim as well as the the colour and type of paint used.

“The average car rim size is 17 to 18 inches. If the client chooses the basic matte black paint, it will cost him or her $150,” said Chang. “More extravagant paints like rose gold will cost them $170 for the same rim size.”

Chang and Gilbert can serve up to four clients on a good day. Chang said that business is seasonal and peaks in the lead-up to big festivals, such as Christmas. During the recent year-end holidays, the duo worked every day for a fortnight.

Gilbert, who is waiting to enter university in August this year, works almost every day. However, due to Chang’s school and hall commitments, he only works during the weekends.

Gilbert does not mind assuming more responsibility as he feels that it is important for RimsOnly to establish themselves in the market.

“It is not like he (Chang) is skiving. It is a little inconvenient for Chang to help on weekdays as NTU is so far,” Gilbert said. “In fact we have an agreement where I will keep the profits on the assignments which I do on my own.”

Just from RimsOnly, Chang earns enough to pay for his hall accommodation and daily expenses, which can come up to about $600 every month.

Difficulties of the job

Even though business is lucrative, it is not easy, said the duo.

Before spray painting the rims, the duo have to thoroughly scrub brake dust off the surface of the rims as this affects the way the paint settles on the metal.

But they can only do so with wet wipes, as their makeshift workspace, a multi-storey carpark at 404 Fernvale Lane in Sengkang, does not have access to running water.

Spraying the rims also requires finesse and precision. Each stroke must be carefully thought out and executed, said Chang.

“This ensures that the surface is smooth. Also different parts of the rim require different spraying techniques,” he added.

Despite the physical demands of the job, Chang said that the hardest part of the job is dealing with customers.

“The overly-cautious ones worry about everything. I don’t blame them because cars are very expensive in Singapore. Also there are the impulsive customers who make last minute appointments in the wee hours of the night,” he said.

“We still have to attend to them because if we don’t, they will find someone else.”

Amid the challenges, Chang loves his job.

He said: “Rims are like shoes for a person and every car deserves nice shoes. Even though I am dead tired after every project, the satisfaction from the customer’s face is priceless.”

Chang packs his cans of spray paint, playing cards and other equipment into his tool bag.

Chang wipes the brake dust off the car rim so that the paint can settle well on the rim’s metal surface.

To ensure that the paint does not stain other parts of the car and damage the sensors,the rim’s border must be lined with cards and a trash bag must be slotted inside.

Chang (R) and his partner Gilbert Chandra (L), 21, work on a Hyundai i30 at their makeshift workspace, a multi-storey carpark in Sengkang. The duo will be coating the car’s 16-inch rims with glossy black paint.

Chang revisits each rim to inspect and touch up on unsprayed patches.

To build rapport and reassure their clients that their cars are not damaged, the duo makes it a point to explain their spray painting methods and the measures they take to protect their client’s car. Chang believes that going the extra mile to provide good customer service helps RimsOnly to get more clients throuigh referrals.