Thursday, September 9, 2010

Door panel repairs

The economics of repairing Beetle doors are to a great extent affected by the wide availability and attractive prices of second hand doors — go to any major Beetle show or autojumble and you should be able to acquire a pair of doors in good condition at a reasonably low price. Against this, door skins and repair panels are far from cheap, and far from easy to fit.
Moreover, the main part of the door panel is large and susceptible to denting when being manhandled and fitted and, if a door skin is rusted then it would be very unusual for the base to be good enough to weld to, so that the repair would consist of replacing the base then removing the old skin and fitting the new. The cost of the panels would represent over 60 per cent of the price of a new door and could never be as good — sooner or later other rust would start to bubble through.
However, most doors rust firstly at their base and in the lower portion of the door skin, for which repair panels are available at not too high a cost. The repair sequence is to cut away and replace the base firstly, and to leave the existing skin bottom in situ to help position the repair panel correctly.
In cutting away the door bottom edge. you will also have to cut the skin panel partially; this will still leave the skin attached sufficiently strongly to allow it to be used as a guide for fitting the bottom repair panel, which is best MiG butt jointed.
Because the main outer door panel is so large, it is very prone to buckle if you attempt to gas or MiG weld it, no matter how careful you are. The best method of carrying out the lower door skin repair is to cut away the rotten metal, to clean it and then to spot weld a strip of steel on the back. The repair panel can in turn be spot welded to this, to give a neat butt joint ready for body-filler.
The door panel is also prone to rot out in its centre, because water which gets past perished window seals can lie trapped underneath the patch of material stuck to the inside of the skin. Very few people will have access to the long spot welder arms which would be necessary if a repair patch were to be let in and, from personal experience, the author can vouch that the most careful attempts at MiG welding in a patch will buckle the panel. If a door skin is rotted in the centre, GRP and bodyfiller repair might be a short-term solution — better to obtain a good second-hand door.

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