How to Fix Auto Body Panels without Welding
If you have a problem with auto body panels, you can fix it without welding. You can repair them with a patch panel kit, rivets and adhesive. Be aware, however, that this isn’t a job for a novice. You should have plenty of experience in auto body repair work before attempting to try this.
Step 1 - Preparation
To begin, you need to have bare metal on your auto body repair panels. To achieve this, you’ll need to use a hand held sander with a 180 grit sanding wheel. Remove all the paint in an area between one to two inches around the panel damage. When you’ve completed this, you’ll need to scribe cut about 2 inches around the problem area then feather the paint surrounding this area. Take your pneumatic nibbler and cut on the scribed lines.
Step 2 - Panel Flanger
You will now need to flange the area around the cut section. Use your panel flanger and make sure the flange goes deep enough to make the repair flush. Check it by using some scrap metal of the proper gauge.
Step 3 - Cardboard
Measure the cut section very carefully and transfer the measurements to a piece of cardboard. Cut it to size and use it as a template for your patch panel; this needs to be the same gauge metal as the panel. The measurement should be from the outside of the flange.
Now, cut the patch panel to the size and shape you need, and adjust it where necessary by trimming it so it’s flush all round the flange area.
Step 4 - Rivets
As you put the rivet pattern on the patch panel, make sure you have the rivets centered on the overlap of metal between patch and auto body. The spacing of the rivets should be about ¾ inch apart. If your patch panel is aluminum, use aluminum rivets, and steel rivets for a steel patch and auto body.
Use edge clamps to secure the patch panel in place on the auto body repair panels. When it’s just right, start to drill the rivet holes. Start in one corner, with holders to keep the panel firm. Deburr all the holes once you’ve finished making them. Take a pair of dimpling pliers and countersink the rivet holes on the auto body and the patch panel.
Step 5 - Test Fit
Use the holders to test fit the patch to make sure it’s flush with the surround and shaped properly. When you’re satisfied with the fit, take the patch off and clean the entire flanged area with thinner and wipes. When clean, allow it to dry.
Step 6 - Adhesive
Mix the adhesive. With a caulk gun, apply a thin bead along the rivet line of the auto body and apply the patch. If any adhesive squeezes out, sand it off later. Once all the adhesive is on and the panel is in place, install the flush rivets in the holes. Once dry, sand, prime and paint the auto body repair panels.