Rear quarter and side panel replacement
Replacing body side or quarter panels involves quite a bit more work, as most of the interior/boot trim will need to be removed, as well as rear windows and possibly rear screen. Fuel tanks or other mechanical items may need to be removed, depending on the particular vehicle. Sills and pillars must be checked for internal sound deadening, wiring or pipes.
Before removing any of the old panel, make sure you have the new panel at hand. This way you can see exactly how much new panel you get, and also if any brackets, door catches, corner sections, rear lamp holders etc., are included or supplied as separate parts.
Even if the new panel is supplied as a complete section right up to the roof, it is almost always easier to measure, cut and join it across the narrowest or least complex part of the centre and rear pillars. This avoids having to cut into roof support rails and the roof itself, resulting in a major time saving. The same logic applies if the panel includes door pillars or sill sections which are undamaged and do not need replacing
Removing a damaged quarter panel
Once the decision is made on exactly how much of the panel is to be replaced, measure exactly where you want to make a joint across the pillars, and mark it accordingly on the vehicle and also the new panel. The same process of finding, noting and removing spotwelds applies as for front wings. Most will have been hidden by window and door seals, probably with some more obvious welds around rear lamp clusters and boot panel joints. Lower edges of wheelarches are usually spotwelded along the lipped flange, but some models may simply be glued.
Before attempting to cut the pillars or sills, it is worth cutting an “inspection” hole a little further down, to check for reinforcement sections which may be directly behind. If so, more care must be taken, cutting only the outer panel exactly on your marked line. A sharp hacksaw is probably best for a neat cut. Once the panel is removed, clean up all edges to remove weld stubs, metal tags etc.
Aligning and replacing a rear quarter panel
Moving to the new panel, check measurements again before cutting pillars etc. for jointing. At this point it is probably safer to leave a “safety margin” of about 1cm (in the right direction!!) when cutting any mid-panel joints. When the panel is offered up for a trial fit and clamped correctly in place, this overlap can be marked and removed more precisely, or crimped with a flanging tool so that one panel slots under the other. Clean up all surfaces to be welded, drilling spotweld holes in the new panel if required. Refit to the vehicle and adjust so that all panel gaps are correct and window openings aligned.
Clamp in position and weld all points that are required. Butt joints across pillars or sills must be seam welded to regain their original strength. Weld short stretches to avoid excess heat build-up and warping. (Tip – spot weld a thin metal strip behind wide butt joins to help prevent burn-throughs
After all welding is completed, remove excess metal from spot and seam welds before finishing as normal with body solder or filler. Solder is still commonly used on car production lines to fill and hide similar joins. Welds across pillars or sills will probably need to be tapped down slightly after grinding, as the welding process will almost certainly have created some warping, leaving high spots which will protrude when the filler is sanded down. Take extra care around window openings, as tags or bumps may prevent windows from sealing properly, or even cause them to shatter. Joints should be resealed with seam sealer to prevent water leaks and wind noise.
On completion of all filling and sealing work, the vehicle is prepared for primer and painting as normal. Don’t forget that some interior paintwork damage may have occurred around welds, which will need rectification, even if covered by trim, etc. Completed repairs should be treated with some form of rustproofing to panel interiors