Dave backed his 2002 Escalade into a brick wall and ripped about a three inch tear down the right quarter panel. He also hit the rear bumper and tore the right molding. Here’s the real problem: Dave’s got to have his SUV back the following day, which is exactly 24 hours, because he’s got a big meeting for a new movie he’s doing and he can’t show up with his ride damaged.
Now he’s asking to get this fixed in 24 hours (seemingly impossible, right?) so I’m thinking how to create a process that can make this happen in 24 hours. I’ve got to replace the quarter panel, the rear bumper and the molding. To top it off, he says, ‘I’ve got zero budget’ so this is a ‘bro deal.’ I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do and use what I have on the table.
Here are the steps and the processes that I used to beat the clock. You can judge if I was successful. The first thing I decide is ‘no parts,’ we’ve got to fix everything. I see that I need to cut a window—try to keep everything as small as possible—especially to cut and replace a piece with another piece of metal. The metal was actually 20 gauge, so I checked the gauge of metal to make sure I was replacing it exactly.
I cut a piece out of the quarter panel, then cut the ripped area out of that so I can flatten the panel. I was able to get inside it and get the structure part of it straight using a slide hammer. When I cut my panel I made sure that the top and the lower part of the quarter panel still had a spot weld holding it to the inner structure. This way when I come in with the slide hammer the quarter panel is still going to move, because otherwise I’ll have to put this up on the frame rack and pull it. I needed to avoid all that because of the time constraints.
This actually worked out pretty well. I got my window in there, cut out the damaged piece of metal. Now I can flatten out the piece that I cut out to use as a pattern. I get another piece of metal, I use the break and bend it. I clamp the piece I cut out of the metal on there, scribe it, come back, cut it out. I actually keep them both together and use the nibbler to follow around it as close as I can get it and then follow up with the grinder. That means it’s exactly the shape and size I need.
If you’re putting your template on the outside, you’re going to be a little bit smaller on the inside because where that break is. It’s actually going to cause you to be a 20 gauge short so make sure you keep the length at the end if you’re coming from the inside. If you want to use the pattern on the inside then you’ll be an 1/8th inch longer because you want this piece to fit.
So you can either TIG weld it or MIG weld it. You’ve got to take your time either way. I’m going to TIG weld it. I’ll actually put it in with the MIG welder just to get it set where I need it and then come back with the TIG welder but before that I need to shape the metal with the English Wheel and flatten it all out. To get it the right shape you’re going to need to fit it a couple times, go back and forth, fit it until you’ve got your contour right.
As soon as it’s fitting as close as you can get it, you’re ready to tack it in. Take your time as you weld it. Weld very small areas, keep heat control because you don’t want it to warp and then you’ve got to watch the rest of the metal. If you see it start to suck in, get your nail gun and pull out your low areas. Every time you weld it, check it. This will save you a lot of time and a lot of Bondo™. A lot of guys want to slap Bondo™ over it but try to outsmart the metal. That gives you more seat time under your belt to where you can utilize this process on another project.
So after getting it welded in, I have a little metal finishing to do. I’ll do a skim coat of mud over it just to true it in, get some of those low spots because I don’t have a lot of time to metal finish it completely with a file. So I shape it with a skim coat.
I usually never skim coat anything any more than twice—once just to get the 36 grit scratches out and any pinholes. Using the 3M Dynamic Mixing System is key for me. Ever since I started using it I don’t have any pinholes. I don’t have to mix Bondo™, I don’t have to worry about the mixture, don’t have to worry about air making the pinholes. If you don’t know about the 3M Dynamic Mixing System, check it out. It’s a big time saver and gives you better quality results, less waste, more productivity. It’s everything you need in one gun.
Once I get the body work done, I’m come back in with some PCL Primer. I’m going to load the primer up and hit it with some 80 grit, 3M longboard. Then I’m going to come back and get rid of the 80 grit scratches with 150. Then I guide coat it again, come back with 400 wet. Now I’m ready for paint.
I’m going to apply the sealer, the base coat and the clear coat. Whatever system you guys are using in your shop, go with that.
I still have the bumper and the side molding to fix. I don’t know how many guys are using the 08115—the panel bonding adhesive—but I love this stuff. Every day I find a new use for it. This stuff sands really well, it dries and hardens really true, and it’s flexible—so I’m using it as a plastic repair product. It usually takes 24 hours to cure but if you hit it with a heat lamp you can get it to cure within an hour or two. I know a lot of guys use it for putting quarter panels on, which is a better process, less welding, less work. It’s a better repair at the end of the day because when you’re priming each side of the panel and the inner structure of the quarter panel then it’s taking the place of corrosion protection, less welding, less sparks, less interior that has to come apart. It’s actually a stronger bond then a weld. This stuff is amazing. Technology is changing and you’ve got to change with it. The gun makes it a lot easier to apply it. I’m usually feeling pretty spoiled by 3M, they’re definitely the go-to for me when it comes to new products, anything and everything. 3M just about carries it all.
Getting back to the body work, I lay the panel bonding adhesive on the damage area—the bumper—instead of using Bondo™. This is going to adhere and it’s not going to shrink. I sand it with 80 grit on the plastic. I shape it just like the Bondo™. You want to heat these panels first, shape it, get its best shape, take all the low areas out, file it down with some 80. Come back for the cracks and any low areas, and fill it with the panel bonding adhesive. I sand it with 80, feather everything with 150, then 320 around that. Then back with the PCL flexible primer. It’s more a flexible, durable product for anything moving. You want to make sure you use the right products, especially on a project like this where I don’t have any extra room to breathe. I can’t take any chances of something messing up on me.
Next is getting into the paint booth, getting my color on, come back in with my Transtar clear with the HT hardener, zap that on there. I didn’t use a two-hour clear which is a bit more yellowish. I apply my three coats as I always do.
Now we’re down to about three hours before Diggity comes to pick this vehicle up and that gives me just enough time to put the bumper and the bumper sensors on, apply the molding, and get the tail light back in.
That’s another project, another clock, another challenge under my belt. Diggity comes and is just blown away that I ‘pulled another rabbit out of the hat’ as he put it. I tell people ‘never think negative, always go with the positive.’ Think “hey, I can do that,” put yourself to the challenge. Make sure you keep your quality because that’s everything. Make sure you do your fits, stay at your level, ask questions. I’m glad I was able to help a good buddy out, Diggity Dave from Pimp My Ride.
Hopefully, this will help some of you guys in similar situations when you get into a time constraint or even if you want to save a few bucks if you’re doing this for a friend or family or somebody that doesn’t have the money to fix it or if you owe a favor to somebody, this is a good way to utilize the money because this job would run about $4,000 maybe $4,500 by the time you got done buying the rear bumper, quarter panel, tail light, molding, and all the materials involved in it.
So Diggity Dave came up $4,500 to the good. He owes me a favor now so I’ll hit him up when I’m ready for my favor and maybe I’ll have to put him through the same test he put me through. A challenge on the table, race against the clock, at the end of the day, his car’s done in 24 hours and I’m on to the next one—that’s what I live for. Live, breathe and eat building cars, fixing them—never too good to work on anything.
My daily focus is waking up and having something else to work on and always trying to get the cooler projects. If you don’t use it you lose it, that’s the key to my game. I’m never too good to do something and I expect you guys to be the same way, always try to better yourself at what you do, everyday try to learn something new.
I want to thank 3M for their products, especially what I call the ‘Bondo gun’: the 3M Dynamic Mixing System, and the panel bonding adhesive.
Tune into Car Warriors every Wednesday night on Speed channel, go to my Facebook fan page, Rich Evans Designs, and stay up with me on my daily challenges and projects. We’ll talk to you next month!