Tips for at home rust repair?

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
Hey guys! I'm thinking of starting a project this summer involving my Avalanche. Like most I see on the road in the Chicago/NWI area, most of the 02-06 Avalanches are riddled with rust cancer on the wheel wells. About 4 years ago, my paint above the passenger side rear wheel well bubbled up and its been getting worse and worse from there. It's gotten a bit bigger since Winter has started to pass (hopefully). So far this particular wheel well has rust, while the others are still in tact without any major signs of rust, however my driver side rear rocker panel has been fully eaten through and taken by rust. A small part of the driver side rear corner panel behind the cladding is starting to show some surface rust as well.


Basically, I know nothing about clear coat, paint, and body work. Are these things something I can tackle myself at home? The rocker panel repair doesn't have to be pretty since its pretty much covered by the running boards and rear door 90% of the time. However, I do want to try and see if its possible to patch up that rear panel. I did find an exact full body panel for that side from a salvage yard in Texas that I was going to try installing myself, but after seeing how many welds are used to hold the thing to the body I dropped that plan. Most of the body shops in my area gave either outrageous quotes, or told me to just let the truck rust out completely since its not worth putting the money into. Personally, I feel it is worth putting money into since the miles are low enough, and just not wanting to deal with another car note.

I've attached images of the problem areas, I'm well aware of the rust coming back but if I can at least hinder it that would be great. The frame has some ugly surface rust, which is another project this summer to try and clean it as best as I can before doing fluid film or POR it before winter.
 

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MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Give these Guys a call... Their Replacement Panels are Dirt Cheap (pretty low prices here) and would save you the enormous amount of time, effort and money that can often become unsuccessful right after trying to Dig Out, Cut Out and Bondo In all of the damaged areas on the Vehicle:


As for the Skill Set needed to do this work... You would need to know How to Braze Thin Steel Sheet in such a manner as to be able to align, clamp and Tack Weld them in place with such care that they Do Not Warp and get mis-aligned. There are a large number of Youtube Videos that cover this topic of Body Repair and Paint in Fine Grain Detail.

The nice thing about performing this work is that it does not require cutting out and installing ALL of these Panel Segments ALL at the same time. You can purchase inexpensive sheets of 3/16" Mild Steel to practice upon and become familiar (and safe) with the Oxy-Gas Welding, Rod Brazing and MiG-Wire Tack Welding needed to perform portions of this work incrementally. I have great confidence that with the Proper Tools, Practice and Using the Best Procedures... YOU can do this work, too.

Mind you... I'm not minimizing the issues of difficulty involved. But welding and Grinding on Fresh Metal is one Hell of a Lot EZR than trying cutting out asymmetrically damaged areas on Rusty, Corroded Painted Panels... mostly in the PITA Vertical Plane and then trying to braze in hand-formed Mild Steel Segments along with Bondo Repairs. But if its a Project you want... this one could prove enormously satisfying. Once the Metal Repair Work is finished... leave the Paint Job to the Experts and they won't be able to empty your Wallet as well by doing the Panel Swaps:

Here is a Chevrolet Avalanche undergoing Extensive Body Cancer Repair:



 
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Mike534x

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
Give these Guys a call... Their Replacement Panels are Dirt Cheap (pretty low prices here) and would save you the enormous amount of time, effort and money that can often become unsuccessful right after trying to Dig Out, Cut Out and Bondo In all of the damaged areas on the Vehicle:

I was actually thinking about calling them not too long ago! The more challenging part, that I'm pretty limited on is cutting out the rocker and that wheel arch and welding it in and then painting that area/blending it all in.
 

MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
This Video comes from one of our more Illustrious GMTN Members who calls himself "ChrisFix" on his Youtube Channel. There must be something quite comprehensive, instructive and worthwhile to watch in all of his Auto Repair Instructional Videos... because THIS one particular On Topic Auto Body Rust-Cancer Repair Video has yielded him 8,764,182 views as of May 14th, 2019.

Ergo... In lieu of him using any Metal Cutting and Welding Techniques... he takes a different simple approach here using some Auto Body Repair Kit stuff donated to him by the 3M Company (Minnesota, Mining and Manufacturing, Inc.) for this complete demonstration repair:

 
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Mike534x

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
Wow....thats a heck of an amazing job he did!

My only worry is I'm not sure if I can do a similar job he did. My main concern is how much of the metal near the wheel arch itself is salvageable after the sanding process. I highlighted it below, but a big chunk of paint came off after the heavy rain fall we had. I went to inspect the metal and it has a a bit of flex and a view from down below near the tire shows the metal is already in "layers" from how eaten through it is. So would the process of using the body patch be able to make up for a chunk of what will presumably be missing once I actually sand and remove most of the rust? Everything else is pretty simple to follow.
 

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Blckshdw

Moderator
Seems like the patch method in the video would work great for you. The size of the spot he repaired seems bigger than what you have, and since you have the layers visible, should be easy to wedge a piece of the mesh in there to start your base to work from. That video was pretty impressive, I didn't think rust repair could be done so easily (provided you catch it early enough)
 

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
From what I see of your wheel arches, and the fact that you've never welded before (neither have I); I'd at least attempt body filler, first. Attempting a rear quarter replacement as a first welding project is a lot to bite off / chew.

The blessing / curse is the composite panels that make up the bottom half of the well.

'Blessing' in that they make for less area to rust out / patch up (compared to a Silverado / Tahoe).

'Curse' in that they attach to the metal panel - so if that area is also weak, you'll have a lot more work later on (but if it is, and you tackle it now along with the visible cancer, it'll be an easier fix)

I'd estimate you'd get a good 2+ yrs out of a good bondo job, done right. That'll buy you some time (if for nothing else, to pick up a welder & start practicing!) I live in the metro area as well (up north, near the Chain), so I know what you're facing from a weather / rust perspective. The trick is addressing it early. I have a small spot on the qtr panel of my Voy that needs addressing (thankfully, it's small enough I can knock it out with a dremel, if I get to it soon)

I'd prolly also get some POR-15 or similar, and apply that once you've got the loose stuff off, before the body filler (not sure if they're compatible or not, but you want to keep that panel from rusting further behind the filler patch.)

As for the rockers...there are kits for the full-size pickups that can either cover up or outright replace the rockers. Since a 'Lanche is essentially a crew cab, I'll bet you could adapt a fix for those, too.

Now...if you go the body filler route, and it doesn't last / you don't like the result...you'll still have the welded panel kits as a backup.
 

MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Mike.... Oxygen is REALLY refreshing to Breathe... and Steel and Cast Iron are REALLY Cool because that are so Incredibly Strong and Durable... but once combined.... RUST HAS ABSOLUTELY NO STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY OR STRENGTH. So no matter how much RUSTY METAL is either sanded away or ground down to Bare Metal.... Removing ALL of it allows you to Create a Layered Sandwich of Incredible Strength and Durability... and as long as ALL of the Rusted Areas are removed... Inside and Out...whatever it is that you create to replace IT means that the progress the present Rusty Metal is making as we speak... Right Now... will be STOPPED. Period.

The combined Matrix of the Cleaned Wheel Well Panel + The Stainless Steel Mesh/Grid + the Fibre-Glas or Bondo Layers will provide more than an adequate and attractive result once that small area gets Gray-Filler Primed, Painted in multiple coats of GM OEM Touch Up Paint...and then Clear Coated, Sanded via 1,000 -> 5,000 Grit Sandpaper and finally Buffed out (Very Gently) with Simoniz Hard Carnuba Wax... and finally Spraying Rust Inhibiting Paint and then an Under Coat inside of the Wheel Well Backing side ... you will be more than satisfied. When comparing what have right there to the example provided by Chris-Fix... as mentioned by @Blkshdw ...Yours is an even easier challenge to deal with (No Creases, No Folds, No Curves and No Contours).
 

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
The combined Matrix of the Cleaned Wheel Well Panel + The Stainless Steel Mesh/Grid + the Fibre-Glas or Bondo Layers will provide more than an adequate and attractive result once that small area gets Gray-Filler Primed, Painted in multiple coats of GM OEM Touch Up Paint...and then Clear Coated, Sanded via 1,000 -> 5,000 Grit Sandpaper and finally Buffed out (Very Gently) with Simoniz Hard Carnuba Wax... and finally Spraying Rust Inhibiting Paint and then an Under Coat inside of the Wheel Well Backing side ... you will be more than satisfied.
After looking at all of that... nah, just get rid of it...LOL (kidding!)
Yeah, it's a lot of work, but I'd do it. Lot of effort, but lots cheaper than a car note!
 
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Mike534x

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
Oh shoot....I thought I responded to this thread months ago. :duh:

I'm going to begin tackling the rust hopefully this weekend if the weather permits. I just wanted to show an update pic from the last one I posted, you can see the rust has grown a good bit. The paint flew off while power washing it during the wash...oops. The panel has a tiny bit of flexing in the middle about a 3/8 over the middle half, otherwise it still feels solid. I want to order the supplies listed in the ChrisFix video, but I just wanted to get one more round of opinions before doing so. Of course, thats if the patch work would still work despite how much its grown compared to last time!

After doing some reading, it seems the main contributor is the foam that shove between the panel. If I can pull the wheel arch down, I'm going to see if I can yank it on the rusted side, and do the same to the other since the rust hasn't begun forming yet and get some POR-15 or fluid film inside.

In the meantime, while I figure out how to deal with the rockers (between welding, or getting the ones that can be slipped on), I'll try that rust inhibitor and hit it from the under body, and then get it on the outside when I try removing the running boards.

One last thing, is there a preferred brand to get the paint from? I've seen automotivetouchup mentioned on the site sometime ago, and I know Duplicolor is a good one as well.

If I manage to not botch it up, I'll post progress pics of the finished result.
 

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MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
@Mike534x ... Unless you've already sorted out these "Rusty Rockers and Panels" Issues... One of my Absolute Favorite, Down-To-Earth Mechanic-Tuners on YouTube will show you another way to go with this issue that may not actually permanently sort out the Rust Problem... But for those of us who want to make a Good, Functional (but otherwise... FUGLY...) Truck more presentable or perhaps a bit easier to sell, THIS Video shows what he tried doing for his Silverado called "Goldie Hawn" that may be the practical remedy you were seeking :

 
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Mike534x

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
Thanks @MRRSM. I haven't started the repair yet, mostly due to everything else popping up that needed to be repaired. I'm hoping the running boards come off the driver side of the Avalanche. It seems like GM applied an adhesive, where the boards make contact and seal against the rockers. Which is odd, I haven't seen that done before. If I can't get them done this winter, I'm hoping hitting them with a rusting inhibitor will help in the meantime. Planning on hitting the front portion without removing the running boards, and climbing up underneath and spraying the backside with the inhibitor and maybe spraying in something like 3M rubberized undercoating to keep rocks and debris from getting to it.

The rust on the fender itself has been growing at a decent pace, so I'm not even sure if the patch is a viable option still. Granted, I've been trying to find a shade tree mechanic willing to cut that part out to weld in the replacement section of the fender and I'll just repaint it myself.
 
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Mike534x

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
I also forgot to ask beforehand, but what is the general consesus about Fluid film or POR15? I've been contemplating doing what I can to help keep rust a minimum, and use POR15 on the frame and then fluid film the inside of the doors. In the meantime, I bought a can of Rustoelium Rust Inhibitor and sprayed the rusted portion of the fender to buy me some time while I figure things out.
 

MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
I have a lot of experience using "The POR-15 (Paint Over Rust) System" and an unfortunate experience with putting my "Trust Into The Anti-Rust" capability of Rust 'Oleum Rust Inhibitor ...to a very disastrous effect on the Left Rear Quarter Panel of my Old 1993 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28.

However... You can contrast THAT sad debacle against what I documented for using the POR-15 Procedures in a Tome that; while proving to be a "Windy Read"... does contain everything you will ever want to know about using POR-15 as covered here:


Other Members will probably chime in with alternative systems that may also hold equal promise with effectively "Stopping the Ferro-Metal Cancer" ...Dead in its Tracks. But... I'm solidly SOLD on using POR-15.
 
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Mike534x

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
@MRRSM Thanks for the suggestion and comprehensive write up! I may end up doing the POR-15 treatment this summer, that way I have adequate time to go through and thoroughly clean the frame to make sure I get good adhesion. I was thinking of just doing a solid power wash of the frame, and let it sit a day or so to dry and spray the underside with Fluid Film to help protect it this winter.
 
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MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Mike... I saw this Rick De Boss Video the other day and I thought..." Hmmmm... Mike needs a "Get Out Of 'Rust Project Guilt' Jail Card"... and watching what happens HERE should provide you with a bit of blessed comic relief about your present situation:

 
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Mike534x

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
@MRRSM Awesome, thanks and what a great watch that was! Something unexpected popped up, the frame appears to be in rougher shape then expected. I went outside to start cleaning it off with the power washer, and found this. I'm thinking the frame is too far gone to try and save it I think.
 

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MRRSM

Lifetime VIP Supporter
Jesus Wept, Mike... What a Dreadful thing to have to deal with. Are you inclined to find another similar vehicle (from the Southern States) and have a Local Dealership make arrangements to drive it up to you? You are so right about not trying to clean up your ride under conditions that are tantamount to being "4th Stage Cancer" down there. If you begin shopping On-Line for a decent, Low Mileage Replacement Vehicle... insist on the Owner taking and sending along similar under-vehicle shots from stem to stern to prove that you are not likely to inherit similar problems with your Next SUV.

Many Decades ago, the Under-carriages of ALL vehicles were sprayed down COMPLETELY with many thick layers of Asphalt Under-Coating that was robust enough and "Rubbery" so impacts from rocks and flying road debris could not make thousands of 'nicks and cuts' into the framing members... but for the longest time ever since then ...unless you actually pay to have this done "Right off of the Show Room Floor" everything down there gets so easily exposed to Rain, The Elements of Thermal Extremes and the awful Brown Snow Slush LOADED with Heavy Road Salt that can collect on everything down there and the sad results of what that can do are all too plain in those photos. I'm very sorry, Mike... I wish it were otherwise. I would never buy any vehicle that hails from north of The Mason Dixon Line.

THIS is what should be the Federally Mandated Under-Coating for ALL New Vehicles:

 
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Mike534x

Mike534x

Well-Known Member
I haven't decided yet if I wanted to get another Avalanche, I love the truck but its a bit "too much" for what I use it for. The thought of picking up another Envoy or Trailblazer has crossed my mind. It seems GM/Chevy had issues with the undercoating on this platform from the searching I came across. Though I'm 100% sure this was the previous owners neglect, it felt like once I started doing undercarriage washes every other week during the past few winters is when it started looking ugly. Several different thoughts did come to mind, since I did begin to question on what I should do with it if the time came that it couldn't be a reliable vehicle anymore. First being ripping the engine/tranny out and keeping it for my Envoy, but I lack the tools/know how to do the job. Otherwise I'd have a low mileage combo ready to go if something were to happen.

At this point, I'm thinking its better to cut my losses and let it go. It looks like it had factory undercoating at one point, but judging from the underside it looks like it flaked off horribly over the years. I'm not liking living in the rust belt either, it sucks worrying about rust/trying to protect against it. Whatever the replacement will hopefully not be in this serious of condition, but downsizing is definitely going to be a choice. So off to find another 360/370 :undecided:
 

Mooseman

Moderator
The rubberrized undercoatings, and possibly the asphalt type too, make it worse by trapping water under it. I remember seeing a lot of this stuff back in the 80's and was just aweful.


I now get my 07 TB oil sprayed. The particular one they use where I go has a similar consistency as Fluid Film.
 
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