Quarter panel replacement tips
Face it, most muscle cars are over 35 years old and, unfortunately, due to their metal bodywork are prime candidates for rust repair and panel replacement. How to properly replace these panels is a process that can challenge the novice and veteran alike dependent on the extent of the work involved. On our Dodge Charger, the panel swap out is a significant undertaking due to the size of the panel. But for anyone who has attempted such a feat, the trick is getting the panel in straight and making sure it is structurally sound.
The following are some tips from the pros, guys who have installed a panel or two and know where the most common mistakes are made. The key is having a few of the right tools and the proper welding equipment. Overheating the metal with the wrong equipment will result in wavy panels and poor fitments. Follow along as we walk you through a few of the most overlooked basics - the stuff most worth noting.
Heat is the enemy - The Smith Brothers recommend using a MIG Welder with 0.023-inch wire and an argon gas shield. This will keep the metal cool to avoid panel warpage. Too much heat or using old gas welding techniques will cause huge final repair efforts including unnecessary body shaping to fix these problematic high heat problems.
Cut it clean - Using a 1/16-inch pin cut off wheel works great to make a clean cut to remove the damaged panel and not overheat the area. This kind of cutting wheel takes out a 1/16-inch strip of metal making a good clean surface when fitting the new panel. Remove the old panel leaving at least a 1 1/2-inch margin overlapping the new panel to be welded in place.
Test fit - Fit the new panel to the vehicle and hold it in place with “cleco” after drilling appropriate holes in the new panel and the body of the car. A cleco fits into the drilled hole and holds the two panels together before welding. Scribe around the perimeter of the new panel to denote exactly the size of the panel and where to cut the body panel to fit.