Unibody panels need to be replaced when they are rusted or damaged. After spot weld drilling and panel cutting is complete, it is time to begin fitting the replacement panel. This guide will apply to most panel replacements, including roof skins, rear quarter panels or patches, floor pans, cowling vent, taillight panel and trunk floor. It will take you through the steps of replacing a panel.
- Dolly (a variable shaped iron straightening tool)
- Drill or Air Punch
- Clamps and Vice Grips
- Sheet Metal Screws
- Impact Driver
Body Panel Replacement Process
- Drill all spot welds and remove the old panel. For further information on this step, please see our guides on Locating Spot Welds for a Unibody Panel Replacement and Drilling Spot Welds for a Unibody Panel Replacement.
- Use the hammer and dolly to insure all flanges are flat and free of distortion. This can be done by placing the dolly on one side of the flange and hitting it with the hammer from the other side of the flange. This will straighten the flange.
- Using a grinder, grind all excess spot weld bits and pieces smooth.
- Next, fit the replacement panel in place. Some panels require slight trimming or slight reshaping, depending on the reproduction panel. This is done with shears and/or grinder for trimming and hammer and dolly for reshaping. NOS parts fit the best with minimal reshaping, but are not readily available.
- Once the panel has been nipped and tucked and fits reasonably well, clamp it into place using vice grips, C-clamps or sheet metal screws. Helpful tip: if you are installing sheet metal screws to hold the panel in place, an impact driver is a big help.
- Look at the panel very carefully and mark any areas that need additional fitting work. Rework these areas as necessary.
- Once you are satisfied with the fit, remove the panel and drill or air punch holes in the replacement panel every few inches on the weld flanges (the new areas that will be drilled will be similar to where the old panel’s spot welds were drilled).
- Re-clamp the panel in place.
- Next, begin to weld the panel in place. Use the plug weld method, in which you weld through the hole of the new replacement panel, filling the hole which attaches it to the backing flange.
- After welding is complete, grind any excess weld buildup. The welds should be flush with the new panel. If you installed sheet metal screws to hold the panel in place, remove them now and then weld the holes shut. Grind these welds flush also.
- Replacement is now complete and ready for any refinishing that you desire.
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