B Post and Rocker (Outer Sill) Replacement
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The text and images are for information. I hope this will make the job easier for someone else. I also want others to see that it is possible to replace rocker panels and B-posts without the aid of professionals. Some of the tools are specialized (welders, cut off tools, spot weld cutters, etc) but they are necessary to do bodywork. No one said owning a Triumph was cheap or easy.cheap or easy.
What you will see during the next several months (years ???) are my efforts to repair rust damage to the TR-6 body. This includes both outer rocker panels and miscellaneous parts of the floor boards, inner rocker panels and inner fenders (both front and rear). I hope my efforts may inspire other to do the same (fix rust damage and document their efforts on the Web).
I am replacing the rocker panels and repairing the body before I remove the body from the frame. Since the door, hood, and bonnet alignments were good, I felt that repairing the damage with the tub on the frame would prevent me from messing up the alignments. I was afraid that I might twist the body as I was taking it off the frame. If I didn't get the twist out, I might weld new panels into a twisted tub and create a problem when I remounted the body onto the frame. If the warped tub was bolted to the frame, it might cause door openings, hood alignments, fender gaps, etc. to be grossly incorrect requiring major tweaking.
Some background info on the welders I am using. I have an arc welder (stick) and a small oxy-acetylene gas welder. I am using the gas welder for all of the repairs although most people prefer to use a MIG welder for speed and ease of use. Since I bought the gas welder many years ago for Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration repairs, I decided to use it for body repairs instead of buying a MIG welder (meaning I didn't want to spend the money!). The benefit to a gas welder is that I can weld, braze, solder, cut, and heat metal for bending. It does take practice and some skill but the results are just as good as MIG welding (in my opinion). I took a one semester welding course from the local community college to make sure my welds were strong because you can make good looking (but extremely weak) welds. I spoke with the instructor about what I was trying to accomplish and we set up a course that had dedicated half the semester to arc welding and the other half to gas welding and cutting (I spent the last week doing MIG welding as a little bonus). I highly recommend taking a welding course.
I started this task on the passenger side of the car. I removed the interior (seats, carpet, panels, etc) to get to the rusted sections.
The amount of rust damage was more severe than I thought. Pictures included with the text show most of the rust damage. After close examination, I decided to make home made metal patch panels for the passenger foot well and behind the passenger seat near the wheel well. The rocker panel and B post were beyond repair. While I was sandblasting the lower portions of the fenders, the rust holes continued to grow in size and the fenders began to look like Swiss cheese. The front fenders had severe rust damage around the headlight buckets and the rear fenders had damage around the taillights. I purchased new fenders, rocker panels, and the rear half of the B posts.
These images show how extensive rust damage can be
The first picture shows the vehicle with the rear fender and door still attached to the vehicle. It didn't look too bad. You can see the rust, but it looks like it could be repaired with some sandpaper and bondo (HA - keep reading!).
I removed the rear fender and found additional rust damage. I knew some of it was there (such as the rocker panel end - I could see it when I worked on the brakes) but some of it was hidden underneath dirt and undercoating. I thought I would be able to repair the damage with patch panels before I started cleaning the area. The more I cleaned - the bigger the holes got. If you look very closely at the image, you can see the holes in the B post, the passenger compartment panel, and the area near the trunk lid. After I removed the post, I saw rust and pits on the back side of the post. Any superficial repairs would have failed very quickly. I decided to replace the back half of the B post with a new one. Now I had to find the spot welds. The image to the left is not a pretty sight. I don't know if this is common to most TR-6s but it is something I would look for if I was buying another TR-6.
This image shows some of the ongoing work, newly uncovered rust damage, and a number of drilled out spotwelds (The grayish white area is primer sprayed over welds). At the very bottom (near the seat belt mounting point), much of the metal has been eaten away. This was very noticable after removal of the B post. I cut away all of the rusted metal, making sure I cut into solid metal. I have already trimmed away the backside of the rocker panel. I used a cutoff tool to get straight, clean cuts. In the full size image, I have circled and pointed to the seat belt mounting point. Half of the metal was rusted away! I fabricated a new mount out of 2"x3/16 flat bar and used the gas torch to bend it to the proper shape. I reattached the captive nut and welded the new assembly into place. I definitely did not think the seat belt mount was this bad before I started the work.
At the very top, where the holes for the fender mounting bolts are, the metal is rusted and weak. This was replaced with new metal.
This is a photo taken after I had rebuilt the corner of the body behind the passenger seat. I used about 4 different pieces of metal to complete the job. Each was welded in place to repair the body. Since this will be covered by carpet and interior trim, I decided not to grind the welds to make them smooth. I will show additional detail about what I did when I get around to the driver's side.
Here is what is left of the front of the rocker panel. Although it isn't apparent, the rust extended into the passenger compartment. A fiberglass patch on the inside of the compartment wasn't doing much to stop the rusting. Generous use of the cutoff wheel and metal patch panels was required.
To expose the inner sill, I cutoff the rocker panel using a spot weld cutter, a cutoff wheel, and a reciprocating saw. I believe some repair shops will cut the existing rocker panel off close to the body, cut the new rocker panel accordingly, and weld the new rocker panel to the parts of the old rocker panel remaining on the car. I wanted to remove the entire rocker panel, remove rust, prime, and paint the normally unexposed portions of the body tub, and weld in the new rocker panel. When I removed the rocker panel, I found that the lower inner sill was in poor shape. I decided to cut it off about 1/4" from the floor. I cut a long strip of sheet metal to replace the inner sill. These images show some of the cutting required to remove the some badly rusted sections and the rocker panel
HINT for those who want to remove their rocker panels in this manner - The spotwelds were quite numerous. You have to look carefully for small dimples. I found it was easier to see the spotweld dimples by using wire cup brush in an angle grinder to remove the old paint and any remaining weatherstrip adhesive. If you look closely at the images, you may see the drilled holes for the spot welds in the door posts. There are about 8-10 spot welds you have to drill out.
The left image shows that I have cut out a portion of the passenger's foot panel. I did this for two reasons - 1) to remove rusted sections of this panel and 2) to cut the spot welds so I could remove the rocker panel. This will also make it easy to weld the new rocker panel in. There were rusted holes allowing water, noise, and fumes to enter the passenger compartment. . After removing it, I took measurements and fabricated a patch panel out of sheet metal. I got the proper bend in the panel by clamping a piece of 1 1/2" pvc tube in my vise and carefully hand bending the sheet metal around the PVC tube until I had the proper 'arch'. I bent mounting and welding flanges on the panel using pliers and the vise. The right image shows the new inner sill with tack welds. I welded the entire seam in small sections to reduce the amount of distortion. The inner sill was left long both front and back so I could cut it off to match the length of therocker panel.
The left image shows the replacement upper inner sill and the lower inner sill before final welding and the right image shows the sills after final welding. If you look at the lower inner sill, you can see that I have drilled a large hole and installed a grommet. The factory has the scuttle vent draining directly into the cavity between the fender and the inner panel. I think this is what caused most of the damage to the rocker panel and fenders. I am going to install a longer drain hose and have it extend through this grommet so it drains under the car. I will try to post a picture of this when I am ready to install the fender. There is another hole and grommet in the top of the rocker panel. You will see this later in a picture showing the installation of the rocker panel.
To install the rocker panel, I used vise grips and 1/4" bolts. Using bolts allowed everything to be aligned prior to welding, eliminated gaps between the panels and held everything in place VERY securely. In the full size image, I have circled the bolts in yellow. After I was satisfied with the alignments, I welded the top of the rocker panel to the body, removed the bolts, and welded the bolt holes closed. I ground the welds flush to the surface and primed the panels.
After the top of the rocker panel was welded, I began to work on the bottom. Vise grips and C-clamps are handy for clamping the panels together. I put the rocker panel end caps into place (but did not weld them in yet) to help shape the rocker panel when I clamped the bottom panels together. I used plug welds to replicate the factory spot welds. To replicate the factory spot welds with a gas welder, I used the following technique (which isn't necessary for MIG welding). I drilled a 1/8" hole through both panels. I then carefully drilled a 1/4" hole into the top panel only. I placed a vise grip about 1" on either side of the hole and clamped tightly. This brought the two panels tightly together. I started by welding closed the small 1/8" hole and expanding the weld puddle until I had filled the 1/4" hole. (I found that the 1/8" hole allowed the torch flame to pass through it, heat the edges of the hole, and easily start the puddle. When I tried it without the small hole, the flame spread and started to melt the edges of the 1/4" hole before I was ready to weld the edges).
After the rocker panel was welded in, I replaced the inner panel section. The rocker panel comes with a hole in the top of it. The second picture shows it very clearly. As it currently is, I see this a way for water to get into the rocker panel cavity and start rusting metal. This hole and the one I drilled into the lower inner sill are aligned vertically. I will put a grommet in both holes and will run the drain hose through both - as a result the water will be discharged underneath the car instead of into the fender and rocker panel cavities.
After the rocker panel was welded in, I looked in the cavity and saw many spots where the primer and paint were burned away by the welding heat. I hadn't put the end caps on so I decided to repaint the interior of the rocker panel. I took a push broom handle and put a hunk of foam rubber on the end. I dipped this into a can of paint and repainted the interior. I used two coats of paint and am pleased with the results.
This section will tell you how to become a G*%D&mned Dreaded Previous Owner !!!
When the paint had dried, I put the end caps into place and marked the inner sill for proper length. I removed the end caps, cut off the excess material and replaced the end caps. I used vise grips to hold the caps in place as well as crimp the edges together to eliminate gaps. I used about three equally spaced tack welds to secure the caps. I made small welds using minimal heat so I wouldn't burn the paint on the interior of the rocker panel. I don't believe these caps are structural members so I am not worried about the strength of the tack welds. I wanted to seal the edges to prevent water from entering. I thought about using caulk, body sealer, poyurethane sealant, etc to seal the joints. I finally decided upon a high quality epoxy glue!!! (I thought about gluing the caps in place and skipping the tack welds) I mixed up more than I needed, sealed the edges, and closed a hole that was in the cap and filled other gaps where water could enter. I looked at the results - thought about water and chip resistant epoxy and the abuse end caps receive from being hit by stuff kicked up by the tires - and decided to coat the entire cap with about a 1/16" layer of epoxy. I did the same for the rear end cap.
After I had all the panels in place, I noticed there were a number of gaps where the panels joined. I imagine this makes it easy to join and align the panels but it does allow an entry point for water, salt, dirt and other road debris to get into the inner cavities and begin rusting the panels from the inside out. The factory used a 'seam sealer' to plug these gaps but I found that they weren't always effective. I took a more permanent method of sealing these gaps by welding the gaps closed. The top left image shows the top B-post seam welded closed. There is no way for water to enter the B-post cavity from this area. The middlet image shows the bottom of the B-post seam. After welding this seam, I used a factory hole (accessable from the passenger compartment) to paint any bare metal exposed by the welding heat. I am hoping this will slow down the formation of any new rust. The lower left image illustrates what I did in the front fender cavity. I welded the seams closed so water couldn't penetrate. Some future owner may hate me for this if he has to replace any of these panels. It's water tight but it will be a job to remove the panels.
Some Before and After Pictures
The B-post before (left) and after (right).
The front panel and rocker sill before (left) and after (right).
Another helpful hint? - - - If you cut out rusted areas, you will most likely be welding in a new patch panel. To make good welds, a gap of about 1/32" should be left between the patch panel and the existing metal. If youcut out the rusty metal first, you can spend quite awhile making a patch panel fit into the opening. I reverse the process. The gray area you see in the third image of the above paragraph is primer. I cut out the patch panel first (making sure it is large enough so I can remove all of the rusted area). After I have the patch panel, I place it against the rusted area in the exact location I want to weld it. I lightly spray the edges of the patch panel with fast drying gray primer. When I remove the patch panel, I have the outline of the patch panel remaining on the rusted area. I cut exactly on the line and it leaves an almost perfect 1/32" gap. Clean the metal so the primer doesn't contaminate the weld and weld the patch panel in place.
B Post and Rocker (Outer Sill) Replacement
This is what I found underneath the front fender. It was very similar to what I found on the passenger side.
The story was the same at the rear fender. It was also similar to what I found on the passenger side. I have already peeled away fiberglass patches from the top of the B-post. The end cap of the rocker panel is covered with fiberglass.
I am removing the rocker panel with a reciprocating saw and a spot weld cutter. The bottom of the door opening has marks left from the spot weld cutter. I find it is easier to remove the bulk of the rocker panel by using the reciprocating saw. It makes it easier to get to some of the remaining spot welds. You won't believe where you will find some of these welds! The remaining pieces are carefully removed without damaging the rest of the body. All of the debris on the garage floor came from the inside of the rocker. I have already made a patch piece for the front inner panel - the gray primer outlined the area to be removed and provided a cutting guide.
Another photo showing removal of the rocker. The larger dark areas inside the portion of the rocker panel on the floor were caused by waxoyl. Whoever sprayed it in didn't cover much of the inside surfaces. I guess something is better than nothing, but I think the picture speaks for itself.
As I did on the passenger side, I removed a portion of the inner sill which was rusted away. I will fabricate a replacement piece to weld in. From inside the footwell, I measured the area I wanted to remove and transferred the measurements to the underside of the floorboard. I squared up the marks and used masking tape to outline the area to be removed. I sprayed a light mist of gray primer over the tape and onto the floorboard, let it dry, and removed the tape to reveal a distinct line for cutting.Working from underneath the car, I used a cutoff tool and reciprocating saw to remove the rusted area.
I formed a panel to replace part of the floor and the outer sill. The clips you see in the photo are neat little devices to hold the panel in place while you are welding. They hold the panels in proper alignment and provide just enough of a gap between the pieces to make an excellent weld. You can get these clips from most of the catalog welding supply houses and I believe you will find them to be very useful.
I formed another panel to replicate the inner sill as I did for the passenger side. I put it in place, aligned it, tack welded, and when I was convinced everything was acceptable, I finished welding the panel in place.
The B-post after the back half has been removed.
The left image is the rearward portion of the inner rocker panel. It doesn't look as if it would have taken much more to rust completely through. The right image is what happened after I tapped the corner of the body with a hammer and scraped it with an old screwdriver. The extent of the rust is pretty severe. The lower inner rocker panel has already been cut off - just like the passenger side. The marks from the spot weld cutter are very visible on the B-post.
I used an air powered cutoff tool to remove rusted sections. I was liberal with the cutting to ensure I was back to sound metal and also squared up the edges to make fabrication of the patch panels easier.
This patch panel is part of the floorboard and the inner sill. I made the inner sill portion oversized so it could be trimmed at a later time.
I fit and welded the remainder of the inner sill between the front and rear patch panels.
I have fitted one of many patch panels into the rear corner opening. There are two silver-colored rectangular bars holding this panel in place. They are the welding jigs I mentioned before. These are very handy devices for aligning and holding a panel in place while welding.
Another patch panel fitted and welded into place. Although time consuming and tedious, the corner is beginning to take shape. Trying to form the entire corner with one piece of metal would be a very challenging feat. I think using many "small" pieces and welding them together is an easier approach.
Another panel and the corner is almost finished.
The bottom rear corner is complete and sprayed with a zinc coating. I have started cutting out other rusted areas on the rear panel. You should be able to make out the areas that have been removed as I put white and yellow paper behind the openings. I had to remove some substantial areas in order to remove the rotted metal.
More to come soon. Have to take more pictures as I continue to work on the driver's side.
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Comments? Questions? Request? Send email to Robert and I will try to answer ASAP