No-Weld Body Panel Repair

There are many kinds of auto body repairs that do not require the assistance of a welder. When the panels of your vehicle, like fenders, quarter panels, floors, firewalls or doors, acquire imperfections, it is important to know how to fix them. Below, we take you through the process of a no-weld, vehicle body panel repair.

Step #1: Panel Preparation

The first step in preparing for a no-weld panel repair is removing all paint from the effected area. Use a stripping disc or 180-grit sand paper to remove all paint until you expose between one and two inches of corrosion-free metal surrounding the damage. Scribe cut lines at least two inches from the damage or near the edges of the panel or parting lines. Feather the paint about two to three inches around the cut lines to make it easier for blending later in the process. Use a drill or pneumatic nibble to cut out the scribe lines. Then, use a panel flanger to accurately flange around the opening of the cutout section. Check the flange with a piece of the same gauge metal, ensuring that both pieces for a steady, level surface.

Once the flange is done, lay out the dimensions of your cutout area on some cardboard, and cut the cardboard to the precise shape (measuring from the outside of the flange) in order to transfer it over to your patch panel. Cut your patch panel to the same shape, using the cardboard as a guide, and adjust the patch panel to make sure it is exact with the flange area. It is important to note that the patch panel should be the same gauge as the original panel. Now, lay out a rivet pattern along the edges of the patch panel, making sure to keep the rivet holes centered in the overlap area. Start the rivet layout at the corner to make sure that it will lay flat when the process is complete. Depending on the size of the patch, space out each rivet in 3/4 inch and one inch increments along the panel. Once that is done, it is time to apply the patch panel.

Step #2: Panel Patching

Now that the rivet pattern is completely laid out, clamp the patch panel in place with the original panel using edge clamps or c-clamps. Use a straight edge to make sure that the position of the panels is completely accurate and level. Drill each rivet hole with a 1/8 bit, starting with the corner rivet holes to secure the panel. After drilling each hole, remove the clamps and the patch panel from the original panel, and clean out the debris from all of the holes. Now, dimple each hole on both the patch panel and the original attachment area using a pair of dimpling pliers. Straighten any edges as needed with a hammer, and install the patch panel onto the attachment area with some blind holders to test the fit, as it should be completely even with the surrounding area. Remove the blind holders, and clean the flanged area of both the patch and the original panel with a Pre solution or high quality lacquer thinner. After wiping off the thinner and letting it dry, take a panel adhesive applicator and install it into a caulk gun adapter.

Using the caulking gun, carefully squeeze out the adhesive (it should be a consistent, dark gray color) to the original panel along the line of rivets in a 1/4 inch bead. Install the patch panel again using the blind holders in every hole, making sure every edge is level and even. Be sure to soak each of your blind holders in a thinner before placing them in each rivet hole so that they can resist the adhesive. As the adhesive begins to work, replace each of the blind holders with a permanent rivet. Once all of the rivets are in place, use a spreader to smooth the adhesive along the entire flange area. Lastly, let the repair sit for four hours, letting the adhesive become fully effective before you sand, fill and paint over your new panel. Once that is complete, you will have successfully repaired a body panel without the use of a welder.

To learn more about auto body work and for more DIY car tutorials, be sure to visit Eastwood.com.

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