How to Install an Auto Body Repair Panel

What You'll Need
3/8 inch ratchet, with socket and extension
Feeler gauge
Pry bar

A regular part of auto body repair is replacing a panel on cars and trucks. It could be a fender, a door panel or a rear quarter panel; most different panels will require replacement at some time during their lives. Most auto body repair isn’t too difficult and you can undertake the work yourself without too many specialized tools.


Step 1 - Fender Removal

Before you can replace a fender as part of your auto body repair, you need to remove the old fender. To do this, you need to see where it’s attached to the vehicle. This will vary by make and model, but will typically be on the core support, the door jamb, at the cowl and the bottom of the body.

The attachments will be bolts and you’ll need to use your sockets wrench to loosen and remove these. When these are all gone, you should be able to lift off the old fender.

Step 2 - Fitting Into Place

First, you’ll need to remove the bolts from your new fender and put them aside (keep them safe). Now fit the fender into place, making sure the bolts fit through the holes on the body. Hand tighten the nuts in three different places. These should be on the top core support, close to the door and on the top of the cowl. This will keep the panel secure for now.

Now, close the door on your vehicle and adjust the new fender so the door will close and open very freely; check that the fender doesn’t contract when you perform this action. When you’re satisfied and it looks right, you’ll need to fully tighten down the bolt that is on the top of the cowl, using your ratchet.

Step 3 - Feeler Gauge

You need the proper depth of gap between the fender and the door. To do this, set the feeler gauge and then loosen the bolt at the top of the fender. Run the feeler gauge down the gap between door and fender, especially at the bottom of the door, then adjust the gap on the bottom bolt as necessary.

You might need to pull the fender out slightly toward the core support, or possible away from it. Only when the gap matches should you fully tighten down the bolts.

Step 4 - Door Bolts

When you’ve done this part of the auto body repair, you’ll be ready to put on the bolts at the door jamb. Again, use the ratchet and socket and tighten them fully. Once you’ve completely tightened them, close the door and check the curve of the fender. If it’s not right, you might need to loosen the bolts a little then use your pry bar very gently. This will push out the fender. When you’re happy with the look, tighten the bolts again.

Step 5-Finish

Now, tighten the bolts onto the core support. If the gap between the fender and highlight isn’t right, you’ll need to adjust it by loosening the bolt that’s on top of the core support. Use your hands to move the fender slightly before tightening again. Make sure all the bolts are tight to complete the auto body repair.