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Paint/body filler repairs to alum. panels

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As promised this is my proven method for DIY damage repairs to your 'van. Since I never anticipated writing this article it might get a bit long-winded, due to lack of 'photos, but for what it's worth here goes. ...
Aluminium is, unfortunately, not the best material to use body filler (BF) on, unlike steel or glass fibre (GF),  as BF does not stick to it all that well. I overcome this major problem by 'stitching' the body filler to the alum. using a small (about 3 mm dia.) nail to physically punch holes in the panel & initially using GF reinforced BF to fill the damage. If this has already put you off then you don't have the necessary nerve/ability to proceed further, for which I don't blame you at all. I have decades of experience working on cars to give me the confidence (ie. have-a-go attitude!) required. For those of you who are just that little bit curious read on. ...


There are some ground rules that require religiously observing:
1, Cleanliness at all stages cannot be stressed too much, use copious amounts of water & household soap to float-off debris.
2, Lightness of, eg. applying paint or an abrasive pad, wont do any harm but over application spells disaster. A little & often, & the patience of a saint, is the only way to get successful results.
3, Allow plenty of time & do not be tempted to rush anything. Rushing the job will not produce the best results. If possible allow a day between paint coats to ensure drying, & quicker drying of following coats.
4, To build some confidence try it out on a scrap panel: that's how I learnt!


Now to my modus operandi:
1, Wash off any polish from the area to be painted use petrol or something similar. Do this at least twice using a clean cloth each time. If the damage is within a hand span of, say a locker door or a decal etc. then the finished repair will be less obvious if this area is part of the treatment. This alone can be quite alarming ! 
2, Abrade the damaged area itself down to the metal using coarse grade wet & dry paper (W&D). The object is to provide a 'keyed' surface for the BF. Note '1'!
3, Punch holes into the dent using a sharp point & quick taps so as to avoid depressing the surrounding area excessively.
4, Apply some BF containing GF, pushing it into the holes. It's of no importance if it looks a bit of a mess. If more than 3mm deep this should be done in stages.
5, Using medium W&D backed by a flat pad go over the area in a figure-of-eight motion until the area looks flat. Note '1'! Don't panic as the area being worked on gets bigger. It's amazing what paint will cover LOL.
6, With the repair dry apply a small amount of ordinary BF.   When this has set use fine grade W&D to flatten it. Wash area well! Dry off & apply TR.
7, Using a suitable under-coat LIGHTLY spray the abraded area. It can be masked-off by ripping a hole in some newspaper (to give a 'feathered' finish). Mount the paper on small rolls of masking tape to raise it off the surface. This coat will show-up any less than perfect areas when it is further lightly abraded with fine W&D.
8, Repeat the above, as often as necessary,  until you're satisfied that the surface is acceptably blemish-free.   There's no rush.
9, Abrade the whole of the area to be painted, frequently washing off any debri, with fine W&D, & ensure it is clean. Also wipe over with a 'tacky rag' (TR). From now on ensuring the surface is dry, clean & dust-free is essential. Do not apply any paint unless the weather is reasonably dry. Wait for a better day, if necessary,  as everything hinges on this!
10, Mask-off the total area to be painted with masking tape & newspaper. Note that spray paint easily travels so use lots of paper to mask off a large area around the damage, this is the only time too much is good LOL. Use the ripped paper technique around the damage if applicable.
11, A very light layer of u/coat should be applied to the whole area. The secret is applying several LIGHT coats to build-up the cover.
12, After the paint is thoroughly dry (1 to 2 days) abrade very lightly, using fine grade W&D, with frequent washing & soap applications until a matt finish is evident.
13, Re-mask, wipe down with the TR & lightly apply a top coat. DO NOT OVERDO THIS. Several thin coats should be built-up allowing plenty of drying time in between  & use of the TR. This is where the patience really comes in. The object is to finish with a thick-enough coat to allow final finishing with rubbing down paste (RDP). After the surface looks covered apply at least 2 more coats.
14, Restrain you're enthusiasm  by allowing at least a week for the paint to harden. After, yet again, wiping over with the TR use a soft none-abrasive cloth apply the RDP to lightly polish the new paint in a circular motion.   Use a new surface of the cloth frequently. Any paint edges can be blended in at this point. How much effort you're willing to put in will dictate how good the finished result is.
15, After at least a week (preferably 1 to 2 months) the area can be polished.


It's a bit long-winded but just think of the money you're saving & the knowledge of a job well done. Well it works for me LOL.
Specific paint can be obtained from ebay.

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Great post for anyone who wants to give DIY repairs a go. :goodpost:

Thanks for taking the time share your methods. :) 

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