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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