Auto Body Work

Body work takes time, and a lot of patience. There are 3 types of bodywork you can encounter, sheet metal work, bondo and fiber glass.

The tools you may need for body work are: (my prefference)

5" air grinder
Auto body hammer
Sharp auto body hammer
Flat welder's hammer
Sledge hammer
Set of iron or metal dollys
Set of bondo spreaders (metal)
Laquer Thiner
Scotch Brite Pads
Bondo (Golden Extra)
Auto body long board
Sanding block
35 Grit sand paper
80 Grit sand paper
320 Grit sand paper

Sheet metal working is tricky, you will need to learn how to manipulate it with heat, stretching and shrinking. This is the major part of body work. First you will need to prepair the sheet metal for bondo.

Start with using a 5 inch air grinder to grind off all the paint off the effected area, I usually grind off about 3 inches more around the effected area just to have more space to work. Cliean off the pain all the way to the metal, you'll appreciate it when you start applying bondo. Also, note, grind off hte paint first, before trying to straighten the metal. That way it's easier to get to all the spots, once you start beatting the metal up you'll create dents with your sharp hammer and you won't be able to get into them with your grinder.

Once the area is clean of paint we can start on getting the metal straight. Use the sledge hammer to roughly straighten the metal, get it mostly straightened. Use a sharp auto body hammer with the sledge hammer to beat in the areas that stick out. Hold the sledge hammer behind while lightly hammering the areas that stick out with the sharp auto body hammer. Then to get it even straighter, use the two auto body hammers. Hold one's flat end behing the metal while hammering the areas that stick out with the sharp end, then to flatten hammer with the flat end while still holding the the other hammer behind.

You should have the mettal pretty straight, should start looking like a car about now. Get it as best as you can as if you were going to leave it like that and paint right over it. That way it will be easier to work with when you apply bondo.

You got the metal nice and straight so now you can start with the bondo. You will find the bondo you like to work with as you get experience, personally i like the soft and light stuff, Golden Extra seems to fit the description. I like to use a couple of metal spreaders to apply bondo.

Work with a little bit at a time, I just get about a 1 cup size ball of bondo at a time. It is much easier to work with and less waste. 1 inch of hadner per golf ball of bondo always works perfect. Mix it up nice and well. When it is ready apply it on to the metal with your spreader. Try to cover as much of the area with it first. the first coat is to get the bondo on most of the metal. It'll take about 5 to 10 minutes to harden depending on the temperature in the shop. The warmer the faster it'll harden.

Once it's hard, start straightening it for the next coat. Use a long board with 35 Grit sand paper.

Repeat the bondo application again, try shaping it as you apply, it's going to be easier to sand it later. Usually 3 to 5 coats will do it. Just keep bondoing as many times as it takes. Get it nice and smooth.

Now use 180 Grit to smooth everything down. You can also use a finishing putty to fill in any tiny pin holes, it's basically micro bondo that air dries without a hardner. Let it completely dry, otherwise it'll stick to the sandpaper. I like to wetsand it with 320 grit, the water keeps the sandpaper clean. Once you get everything nice and smooth, let it dry off.

Get the car masked off. I usually use a combination of 24" & 12" masking paper to mask off the details and a piece of plastic to cover the rest of hte car. If you don't have a piece of plastic that big, take somr blsck garbage bags, cut off the bottom to make it into a wide tube then cut one side so it unfolds, now you got a big sheet of plastic. Do that to a few of them and then use tape to attach teh pieces together. Worked great for me.

To primer the car for painting I use a 2 part urethane primer. It is nice and thick, and will cover up little pin holes pretty well. Spray the car with the primer. Put about 3 coats (more if needed), so everything is nicely covered. Let it flash about 15 minutes between coats.

Once it's all dry (about good 6-8 hours, 12+ hours is best), start dry sanding it. I use a 8-1/2" X 11" sheet of 320 grit sandpaper folded up or rolled up on a paint mixing stick. Block out the primered area(s) in criss-cross motion - if on a side pannel, sand first in a upper-left to lower-right motion once you cover the panel then go backwards going upper-right to lower-left, criss-cross, get it? This way all the spots will get blocked out evenly.

If the sand paper starts getting primer stuck on it, you probably didn't let it dry enough, either let it dry more or wet sand, the water will keep the sand paper clean, most times. Some times even wet sanding won't do it, so you'll have to let it dry more.

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Updated August 27, 2004