If you’re restoring a collector’s vehicle, you’ll most likely encounter rusted or heavily damaged body panels. Sometimes you can repair the damaged panel, but other times you’re better off replacing it. There are several factors to consider when determining whether to repair or replace a damaged panel:
Whether you decide to repair or replace the panel, Eastwood has the products you need to get the job done right. In fact, even if replacement panels are not readily available, Eastwood has the tools and equipment for you to fabricate your own replacement panels. A few of the many helpful products for body panel replacement we carry are: sheet metal kits, cut-off tools, shrinker/stretchers, metal shears, welders, weld-thru primers, body fillers, seam sealers, panel flangers and panel-holding systems.
Before installing a replacement body panel, first hold up the replacement panel and see how much it will replace. If the damaged panel suffers from rust, you need to make sure you cut out all the rust. If the replacement panel would replace more than is necessary, trim the replacement panel to replace only what is needed, so that you can retain as much of the original metal as possible. By doing this, you assure that you’ll be able to weld to good metal, should you ever have to perform this repair again.Before you begin to cut out the damaged panel, be sure to make reference marks and take measurements. These will allow you to fit up the replacement panel.
Once you have your reference marks and measurements, cut out the damaged panel. Eastwood’s heavy-duty Air Saber Saw, metal shears, air nibbler, or pneumatic shears work well for cutting out the panel. If you are replacing a full panel, use our spot weld drill bits to drill out the spot welds. Removing the old panel is time-consuming and tedious, but to get the best results, you’ll want to take your time.
Once you have completely cut out the damaged panel, trial-fit the replacement panel. Often you will have to trim, bend, and hammer the replacement panel to get it to fit. Our large selection of body hammers and dollies work great for massaging the panel’s fit. Make sure to use your measurements and reference marks to properly fit the panel. Before the panel is welded into place, take the opportunity to apply Rust Encapsulator to those hard-to-reach areas. Once you are happy with the panel’s fit, use a panel-holding system, rivets, vise grips, or sheet metal screws to hold the panel in place. Before you start to weld, double-check the fit and alignment.
Once you are completely satisfied with the fit, begin to tack-weld the panel into place, making welds every few inches. Take your time, and jump between the welds to fill the gaps. You want to make sure that you do not heat up one area, or you could seriously distort the metal. Our Anti-Heat Compound helps keep heat damage to a minimum.
Once you have the panel completely welded-in, use a flap disc on your angle grinder and grind down the welds. Again, be careful not to heat up one area, or you may distort the metal. Once you have the welds ground down, wipe the panel down with PRE Painting Prep to remove any contaminants from the surface. Now you can apply seam sealer to the seam, or you can use a body filler to blend in the repair. Once you have seam-sealed or blended the repair with filler, you are ready to prime and finish the repair with paint or undercoating (depending on the repair).