Repair Body Panels and Paint
Automotive bodywork is time-consuming, messy, and frustrating, but when done correctly, gives the most satisfying results. There is no shortcut or "easy way" to doing restoration-quality bodywork. Learning to use body tools properly requires patience and practice.
With few exceptions (Corvette, Avanti, etc), classic car exterior panels are made from sheet metal. Repairing body panels requires specialty tools and skills. If you want it done right, you can repair rusted sheet metal yourself, or pay someone else a lot of money to do it.
Automotive Body Tools
At the core of doing metalwork is the hammer and dolly. Caution: It's not the same technique as using a hammer to bang in nails! It's all about precision and moderation with automotive body work.
Shop Body Tools at HandsOnTools
What's Underneath Your Paint?
Have you ever seen rust bubbles on a car that was painted a couple of months earlier? The person who fixed it most likely ground down the rust to sheet metal, applied some body filler and painted over it. This is known as the "quick and dirty" way to do bodywork.
If you're not completely familiar with your car's history, how do you what's underneath the paint? Layers of older paint, rust, patch panels, and plastic filler are what you may find. Going down to bare sheet metal is the only way to know for sure.
There are several methods to strip paint from cars, including acid-dipping, sand-blasting, and media-blasting. The least expensive (but most time consuming) of paint-stripping techniques is mechanical stripping. If you're working with a budget, paint stripping by hand is the best choice.
Having an air compressor and air tools in your garage will save you time and allow you to work more effectively. Like other shop equipment, they are an investment, so buy quality name brand tools when you can.
read Best Air Tools For Automotive Restoration
Learning To Weld
Cutting out rusted sheet metal and replacing it with new is the only proper way. Replacing body panels or patch panels on cars requires welding. If you are sincerely interested in restoring old cars, learning to weld is a must.
read Best Welder For Automotive Projects
Contrary to advertisements you may have seen on the internet, nothing you can buy will make you "weld and cut like a pro." Only time and practice have that ability. If you're just getting started with welding, a wire-feed (MIG) unit is a good first choice. They are easy to learn on, cheapest to buy, and most people can produce quality, good looking welds with minimal practice.
read MIG Weld Sheet Metal
Paint A Car Yourself
Automotive painting has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Back in the day, the first car I painted was a 1971 Camaro, which had been in several shades of primer for longer than I care to admit. After I was given a free gallon of blue lacquer, I went home, masked the car up with old newspapers, and painted the car with a $50 spray gun. I drove it out of the garage the same day.
If you're willing to put in the time and energy, painting your car yourself will be worthwhile, but you have to set a realistic time schedule. Outline a plan, but keep it flexible. Things can and do go wrong.
A great paint job includes proper sanding and priming techniques. Tools required include body files and sanding blocks.
- Buy quality tools - they reduce fatigue and last a lifetime.