What’s the Best Way To Get Rid of Those Annoying Spot Welds?
When you’re tearing down your project vehicle, it’s inevitable you will come across some spot welds that need to be removed. They can be a pain to remove — especially when you want to save as much of the original metal as possible. The good news is that with a little elbow grease and patience, you can remove spot welds from metal and move on to the next task. This guide goes over the five easiest spot removal methods that can be done in a DIY shop.
Just like many aspects of automotive restoration, there is more than one way to do the same task. It all comes down to which method works best for you. All these methods for removing spot welds accomplish the same goal. Which one you choose depends on what tools you have and how in-depth you want to go.
Let’s start with the simplest method: spot weld cutters. These tools are used to separate spot-welded panels and are less likely to damage the sheet metal than a panel cutter. But even these tools have multiple variations.
- Cutting Spot Welds
The first and most common option is this spot weld cutter. It utilizes a small centering pin that makes contact with the panel first; this stops the cutter from wandering. The pin is on a spring, so once you put pressure into the panel, it will depress and begin to cut through the panel. The cutting wheel is similar to a hole saw for wood, which is slightly larger than the spot weld. These can be swapped out with different size cutting heads depending on your project.
This type of cutter has an advantage over the rest because once the cutting head bores through the first panel, the panels can be separated. You will not be left with a hole cut all the way through both panels. Spot weld cutters like these range from about $25-$80. This costs more than some other methods, but it is the most professional, accurate method for cutting spot welds.
- Drilling Spot Welds With a Special Bit
The next spot weld cutter is slightly cheaper and performs the same basic function. This spot weld drill is essentially a very wide but flat drill bit with a self-centering tip so it will not wander. (If your drill bit does not have a self-centering tip, you can reduce wandering by making a small divot in the spot weld using a metal punch.) These spot weld drill bits have the advantage of being made from one piece of metal so there are no pieces that could break.
The main drawback is that each cutter is for a specific size spot weld, unlike the first option, where the cutting head can be changed out to accommodate various spot weld sizes. At a price point of $30-$40, they may be more expensive than a standard drill bit, but they are far more accurate and last much longer than a standard drill bit (and won’t drill through both panels as easily).
Tech Tip 1: When using either this spot removal method or method #3 below, you should select a drill bit that is 1/8- to ¼-inch larger than the spot weld itself. This will ensure the weld and any spillover is completely removed.
- Using a Regular Drill To Bore Through Welds
The next method is, by far, the simplest and easiest way. However, this doesn’t necessarily make it the best option. No special tools are required — all you will need is a drill and a set of standard drill bits. Simply select the correct drill bit and start drilling. This method works very well, but it takes a lot more time, and it can wear down your drill bits quickly.
Although it’s the easiest way to remove spot welds, using a normal drill does present two other significant problems. The first is that it is nearly impossible to save both panels since you will have to drill completely through both. The second problem with this method is that you will not be able to remove a lot of spot welds because even the best drill bits will get dull over time, which means you’ll constantly have to purchase new bits. One way to reduce the wear on your drill bits is to drill a small pilot hole first and then use a larger bit to remove the spot weld. This method is very time-consuming and can be frustrating if your drill bits become dull.
Tech Tip 2: Whenever you are doing any type of drilling, whether it is with a specialized spot weld cutter or with a normal drill bit, you should always use some type of lubricant or cutting fluid. This will help keep the bit cool and increase the longevity of your bits.
Tech Tip 3: For all three cutting methods, keep the cutter or drill bit spinning as you remove it from the metal. This helps pull out debris/shavings and prevents jamming. Use a wire brush or vacuum to remove any remaining debris.
That covers the three spot weld removal methods that involve cutting. (For more, check our guide to Which Spot Weld Cutter is the Best.) Now let’s look at two other methods for getting rid of these welds.
- The Star Method for Spot Weld Removal
If you don’t have a drill or drill bits, but you still want or need to remove spot welds, there is another method that is more of a last resort. The tools you’ll need for this are a cut-off wheel and either a hammer and punch or an air hammer with a chisel attachment. First, cut a star-shaped pattern directly over top of the weld; you will only need to cut through the top panel. Then, using the punch or chisel, hit the center of the cut lightly to break the rest of the metal free. If you can get to the underside of the panel, this step may become easier with the use of a screwdriver to pry the two pieces apart. This method should only be used as a last resort when you don’t care about the top panel.
- Grinding Spot Welds Away
The last method is also somewhat of a last resort, but in a pinch, it will complete the same task in less time than the star method. In effect, you grind the spot welds and remove part of the metal to make the actual removal process easier. Using an angle grinder, remove the metal directly above the spot weld without burning through the panel. Once you have removed the majority of the first layer of metal, use a punch or chisel and hammer to break the rest of the metal free. If you are unsure of how much metal you have removed, hit the center of the spot weld, and the outline of the spot weld will appear.
All of these methods will remove spot welds from sheet metal panels. However, only the spot weld cutter and spot weld drill will allow you to remove the weld without damaging the other panel. In the long run, the higher price of these tools will be worth the time they save in terms of the removal process and being able to reuse the panels.
Check out the Eastwood Blog and Tech Archive for more how-tos, tips and tricks to help you with all your automotive projects. If you have a recommendation for a future article or have a project you want explained, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.