Daily Archives: April 4, 2012

Squashed bug

I’m not for the callus destruction of wildlife, but I generally don’t have a problem squashing a bug. As I see it, one less mosquito in the world is a good thing. But not if the bug that is being squashed is a VW Bug.

I like cars, nearly all cars, but I have a soft spot in my heart for air cooled Volkswagens. I own one myself. So it really hurts to see one come into the shop looking like this.

This poor little Beetle was hit by a car crossing the centerline while making a left hand turn … and it messed it up. You can see in the first photo where I had to cut the latch off in order to get the trunk open. And the fender, seen in the last photo … there is no fixing that … it is going to have to be replaced.

I have repaired a few of these in my career, and I can repair another. But what a shame that I have to repair it at all. And all because another driver wasn’t paying attention while behind the wheel.

Brakes! Brakes!

I don’t know as I wasn’t there … but I bet the word Brakes! was was going through the owners mind when they realized that the car behind them wasn’t going to be able to stop. That, and some things I can’t write on this G-rated site.

It is a sickening feeling to be stopped at a signal light and know the car coming up behind you isn’t going to stop in time. It must have been a good thump too because modern cars, despite, or maybe because of, their plastic bumpers, can take a good hit without showing any damage. So to have car as scarred up as this one is …

Scrapes, bumps and bruises are part of the active outdoor life …

I’ve been a little slow in getting pictures posted, but it isn’t because it has been slow around the shop. Here is an Xterra that arrived at the shop on Monday a little worse for wear. You expect a rugged outdoorsy vehicle like the Xterra to have a few bump and bruises from crashing about in the woods … but bent up from a parking lot rub? Nah … not the image you want to portray.

The first five pictures show the damage. The truck isn’t horribly bent, but those scuffs and scrapes are not very attractive. My first thought was the truck was going to need a replacement door panel, but after further evaluation, I realized it would be just as easy, or easier, to ease the metal back into shape using a slide hammer as it would be to replace the door. And less expensive for the owner. A win-win for sure.

After attacking the truck with slide and body hammers, I was satisfied with the results. A slide hammer works on the same principle as a body hammer, but in reverse. A body hammer transfers the energy from a blow to move the impact point in the direction of the blow. A slide hammer does the same, but the direction of the blow is the opposite of the hammer. In other words, a hammer pushes the metal away from you, a slide hammer pulls it toward you.

It is very clever how it does this. First you weld a small stud to the car where you want to pull using the stud gun. You then attach the slide hammer to the stud and by sliding a heavy weight along the length of the tool into a stop, the energy is transferred from the sliding weight to the sheet metal of the car. By varying the force and location of the impact a good body man can tease a section of a car back into near perfect shape. Close enough that filler can do its job properly anyway. You can see what the stud gun and slide hammer look like here.

The next seven photographs, numbers 6-12, show the results of all that beating and banging. After teasing the door and fender back into their rough shape, I applied a layer of body filler to smooth the areas. Body filler, typically called by the product name Bondo, has received an unfair reputation. Like all products, body filler has it place and uses, but used improperly it does not give satisfactory results.

Body filler is designed to smooth and fill slight imperfections in the body work. It was never intended to be used to fill deep dents. Used that way, to fill deep dents or holes, by people who either don’t know better or are looking for a cheap fix has given the product a bad name. But used properly, as in this case, it saves the customer tremendous amounts of money and the repair will last the life of the car. Yes, I could spend a couple of days pecking away at the dent with a slide and body hammers until I had the body perfect. Or I could spend an hour with some filler to smooth over slight imperfections. Knowing the repair will last the life of the car, which would you rather pay for?

Anyway, after applying the body filler and allowing it cure, we blocked it smooth. Blocking is simply sanding with the sandpaper wrapped around a long semi-flexible block that is designed to fit comfortably in your hand. The block, because if its extra length, smooths the filler far better than anyone ever could sanding by hand. The extra length of the block allows the sandpaper to really dig into the high spots, removing a lot of material, while at the same time, lightly skimming over the low spots. This removing of the high spots while not touching the low spots has the effect of making the surface very smooth and even. Exactly what you want for a painted finish.

Pictures 13-15 are of the now repaired and smoothed surface of the Xterra primed and ready for paint. The primer bonds to the filler and fills any marks left by the blocking process. It also provides a surface to provide good adhesion for the paint that follows.

All photos to this point were taken on Monday. Because the truck was primed late in the afternoon, we had to allow the primer time to dry over night. Starting with next picture, the remaining photographs were taken yesterday.

After the primer had dried over night, the Xterra was placed in the paint booth to receive its coat of paint. The first of the photographs taken yesterday shows the truck sanded and with a coat of sealer applied to the repaired areas.

Long time readers of this site have heard me say many times how the sealer comes seven shades of gray, from nearly white to almost black. They have also read as I explained how each paint color specifies one of the seven shades of gray, and that light colored paints use light colored sealers and dark colored paints use a dark sealer.

What they may not have seen though, is pictures of a car that actually has a dark sealer applied. Most cars, way more than 50%, use a medium to light sealer. But not this Xterra. The paint on this truck specified a dark sealer, and as you can see, it is much darker than what I normally use.

The next picture, number 17, shows the truck with its fresh coat of paint. This picture shows the color layer, the base coat as it is properly called. Notice how flat the paint appears? That is because the base coat dries to an almost completely flat finish. It is the clear coat, applied in the next step, that gives the paint its pop. The mottled appearance you see is there because the paint is still wet. As the paint dries the color will even out until that uneven appearance disappears.

The last two photos show the truck after the application of the clear coat. This color clearly shows the difference the clear coat makes. Not only does the clear coat provide protection to the base coat underneath, it also provides the zing to the finish, providing the depth and luster that makes automotive finishes so appealing.

Now that the scrapes, bumps and bruises are healed up, so to speak, this truck is ready to be reassembled and returned to its owner. After all, just because you are the outdoorsy type, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to look good.

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