Tweaking it in
Posted by Jonathan
We received the Charger back from the frame straightener yesterday and immediatly began work on finishing it up. With the bumper and bumper support painted on Thursday, all we had to finish on the car is the cleaning up of this repair and the car would ready to assemble.
The first picture shows the car as we received it back. The bent support was straightened, but a fame machine isn’t designed to completely repair a bent place, only to pull the car back into factory specifications. It is up to the body man to make the repair pretty.
In the second picture I am pecking away at the repair with a body hammer, pounding down a high spot. Even though this bit of the car is completely hidden behind other bodywork, I wanted the car to be as near factory perfect as I could make it … even if some of the repairs cannot be see. It’s just how we roll here at JMC AutoworX.
After pounding down the high spots, you can see in the third photo that I started grinding the paint off the creases and folds left by the crash and straightening process. The frame machine got the metal close, but I needed to tease a couple of low places out a bit using a slide hammer. For the stud to stick to the car properly, it needs to attach to clean metal … and clean metal means no paint. Using the air grinder made short work of removing the paint.
The fourth, fifth and sixth photos show how a dent is pulled using a slide hammer. The fourth photo has me welding a couple of studs to the car. A stud is just a piece of metal that looks like a copper colored nail. The stud is attached to the car by the stud gun, the big yellow thing I am holding in my hand. You insert the stud in the gun, press the end against the car, and pull the trigger. In just a couple of seconds the stud is welded to the car and the gun can be removed.
After attaching the stud to the car, the slide hammer is used to pull the metal into position. In the fifth photo you can see me banging away with the slide hammer, inching the metal ever closer to the proper position. The slide hammer is a simple, if clever device. First you attach the nose of the slide hammer to the stud, then you slide a heavy weight, seen in my left hand, long the length of the slide hammer until it strikes the anvil sharply, located just in front of my right hand. The kinetic energy from the blow is transferred from the slide hammer though the stud to the car, moving the metal in the direction of the blow. Normally you just tap the slide against the anvil, but this is some pretty heavy metal and I needed to move it a fair amount, so I am smacking the anvil pretty hard … hence the grimace on my face.
Oh, and a bit of advice … if you ever use a slide hammer … you need to keep your fingers, and especially the web of skin between your thumb and first finger, behind the anvil. Ask me how I know this.
After the dents are beat out, the studs are ground off smooth, which is what I am doing in the sixth picture. Once again, the air grinder made short work of the job.
The next three pictures, numbers 7-9, have me smoothing over the repair so it becomes invisible. Well, it would be invisible anyway because it is covered up by other bodywork, but you know what I mean.
In picture seven I am mixing the body filler. Body filler has gotten a bad reputation over the years, a reputation it doesn’t deserve. Body filler is designed to fill and smooth shallow dents. That is why I pulled the metal out first with the slide hammer. I could have filled the dent with filler and sanded it off, and it would have looked great for a while, but the thicker the body filler, the greater the chance for it to crack or fail. Better to make the repair right and use the product as intended. Used properly, as in this case, the body filler will last the life of the car.
After mixing the filler and catalyst you only have a few minutes to spread the filler before it begins to set-up. In the eighth picture I am quickly spreading the filler over the repair in a thick layer, building the filler out past the body line. After the filler is spread there is a 10-15 minute wait while the filler hardens.
After the filler dries it is sanded until the filler matches the lines of the car and is smooth. You can see me sanding away at the repair in the ninth photo. Once again an air powered tool, in this case a DA (Dual Action) sander, makes short work of it. Unfortunately, the sander can’t reach into all the nooks and crannies, so even with the best tools, you really can’t replace the Mark I sander … your hands and fingers.
After all the body filler is sanded, I masked off the area and shot it with primer. The primer covers and protects the repair so that it can’t be attacked by the elements. It also provides a surface that allows the paint to really sink its teeth into for good adherence. You can see me priming the car in the tenth photo, and the primer after it dried in picture eleven.
The last three photos, numbers 12-14, are the car being painted. The car is carefully masked to prevent the paint from going places you don’t want it to go. The last step right before painting is always to clean the surface thoroughly with a cleaner that removes any dust, wax and oils. That is what Jordan is doing in picture twelve.
Pictures thirteen and fourth show the car after the repair has been painted. Even though this part of the car will never be seen, well, unless someone takes it apart, it looks as good as it did when it rolled of the assembly line.
The reason we do this is really very simple. My good name is on the line here, and I take a lot if pride in the work that Jordan and I do. I repair every car that comes through the door as if it were my own. Had this Charger been my car, I would have fixed this spot, even though it would never be seen. I figure if I’m happy with the repair, the customer will be happy with the repair. That philosophy has worked out pretty well so far.