If you have rusted rocker panels, you may be wondering whether you are going to eek by on your next inspection. Although rocker panels are one of the easiest forms of body damage to repair, you can still run into complications. Therefore, we have put together a comprehensive guide to help you pass your next inspection.
Repairing rusted rocker panels is the only surefire way to pass an inspection. There are many different ways to quickly and easily repair rusted rocker panels. You may even fare better by fixing them yourself rather than taking them to an auto body shop.
In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to pass your next inspection by repairing your rocker panels.
The Various Methods to Pass Inspection with Rusted Rocker Panels
Rusted rocker panels are very common on vehicles as they age. This is because the vehicles generally sustain incidental damage to the lift points located below the rocker panels. The lift points are reinforced metal nubs that are designed to hold the weight of the vehicle when jacked up or put on a lift. However, because they are still bits of metal and can deform, they often allow oxidation to begin.
Once the rust starts to get a footing from scratched paint, it can quickly spread. The rockers also tend to rust because the tires kick up mud and road salt on the rocker panels. This softens the paint, wears it down, and opens the door for rust over time. It is this lethal combination of pressure from lift points and damage from road debris that puts your rocker panels in a precarious position.
The importance of correctly placing a vehicle on a lift is of such paramount importance that a detailed lifting guide was created. Many vehicles have been damaged by car lifts because they were not correctly set. There are numerous ways that you can fix the rocker panels and save yourself the hassle of renting a vehicle or getting a ticket. Let’s consider the full scope of the topic below.
Inspection Stations Have Lots of Discretion
Inspection stations are reluctant to pass a vehicle with rust because it can affect the structural integrity of the vehicle. In any regard, rust tends to spread and will depreciate the value of the automobile over time. The rocker panels also tend to collect debris, mud, and snow and may rot out quickly if they are not fixed.
Inspection stations have varying interpretations of how much rust is allowable. As a general rule, you should get the rusted rocker panels fixed before you have the vehicle inspected. Otherwise, they may even scrutinize the quality of the repair and find additional reasons to fail your vehicle.
Some inspection shops are dishonest and have a limited number of inspection stickers. They give their regular customers an easier time and will become hypercritical whenever they can get away with it. Other shops may be concerned about the potential for criminal and civil liability if they pass a damaged vehicle.
Having your vehicle inspected at a shop where you normally have service and repairs will help to reduce the potential difficulties in receiving a fair inspection. In some areas, the inspections are as simple as checking the onboard computer for codes. In other states, extensive examinations of the vehicle are required.
Finding a Body Shop
You will find that most body shops don’t want to bother fixing rusted rocker panels. They are reluctant to interrupt their current workflow on an accident or full car spray. These small jobs tend to have rust that they won’t warranty and can be more of a hassle than they’re worth.
Finding a reasonable quote can be difficult. Of course, it all depends on the personality of the auto body staff. If they see you as a damsel in distress who doesn’t have many options, they may patch it up quickly. They may simply cover the damage with a body filler patch. These small patches can be applied to any body surface and simply seal the repair. They are often a dark color that will blend in subtly with most paint near the rocker panels.
While these patches are a quick and easy fix to restore the appearance of a healthy rocker panel, they do not address the underlying structural problems and may not hold up if your vehicle is placed on a lift for repairs.
Fixing Rusted Rocker Panels Yourself
It is easy to fix rusted rocker panels because you don’t have to jack up the vehicle or invest in many tools. To repair the panels, you should wash them thoroughly with soap and water. Clean out any debris before you start the repair. Next, be sure to purchase the following items:
1 can of fiberglass body filler
1 putty knife or application kit
80 grit metal sandpaper
1 metal file
1 can of color-matched spray paint
1 can of clear coat spray paint
1 can of spray paint primer
1 can of Rust converter
1 can of spray foam insulation
1 Razor blade
1 pack of paint prep wipes
After you clean the rocker panels, it is time to sand them down with the 80-grit metal sandpaper or a metal file. If the rust is more of a cancer and the metal is scaled, the metal file may be necessary. Once you have the rust thoroughly removed, you can wash it again and apply a rust converter after it dries. The rust converter will help to address oxidation at a molecular level, beyond what you can see, to slow or eliminate the chance of the rust reemerging in the future.
Now is the time to fill the rocker panel with foam insulation. The foam will expand and puff out from the hole in the rocker panel. After the foam dries, simply work away at it with the razor blade to make it level with the body. This provides mere support for the repair and doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.
Once the foam is evened out, it is time to apply the body filler. The fiberglass filler has to be mixed before application with a hardener. The filler kit contains everything that you need. If you have a loose tile or another hard, smooth surface, mix the filler and hardener on it and simply apply it over the foam. Using the application kit or putty knife, you can smooth out the repair as much as possible. Try to eye up the filler to make it flush with the body because this will form the final contours of your repaired panel. Next, use the sandpaper to smooth out the ridges in the filler after it dries.
Once the filler has cured, it is time to prep for paint. Wash the surface off and allow it to dry. You can also use a solvent to remove any residues, such as Trisodium Phosphate, rubbing alcohol, or paint prep wipes. Rinse off any chemicals and allow the area to dry. Now it is time to apply the primer paint. Getting a good paint job out of aerosol cans is very dependent on the weather. Ideally, you’ll want to paint in summer weather with relatively low humidity. If not, the clear coat may look hazy.
Layer the paint on from about eight inches away, allowing each coat to dry sufficiently before applying more. The final clear coat has to be layered on in thicker layers until it looks wet but not to the point of dripping. Although it might make sense to tape off other parts of the vehicle to prevent overspray, the location of the rocker panels doesn’t pose great danger from overspray.
Overspray is most serious when the particles suspended in the air stick onto the glass. The particles won’t stick to a waxed body surface. If you are concerned, you should roll down your windows or cover them with plastic sheeting, such as taped-on lawn and leaf bags.
Once the paint has cured and fully dried, be sure to apply a hard Carnauba paste wax. This will help to keep the paint from absorbing moisture or being damaged by the weather. If you didn’t quite get the right look, you can always sand it down and repaint it. The clear coat is the trickiest part and may take some practice or better weather to perfect.
Once you learn how to repair body damage to your vehicle, however, you can save yourself thousands of dollars in repairs over a lifetime. It is an afternoon job that anyone can do with a little patience and know-how. We hope that this article has helped you learn how to save time, money, and energy – not let’s pass that inspection!