Salvaging a Panel


There are times when you may want to cut a good panel out of a junked car. You will want to do this if the part is no longer available from the manufacturer or if it is only available as a complete sub-assembly. OEM sub-assemblies are usually expensive and will give you much more than you need in terms of the actual part and all of the accessories that come with it, which you probably don't need because you already have them.

Antique auto restorers especially find it useful to salvage parts. In fact, it is almost impossible to find body parts for older vehicles anywhere else.

Remember: just because your vehicle is rusted or corroded in a certain place, it doesn't mean that all vehicles have the same problem. There can be significant differences between vehicles, even if they are the same model and year.

To salvage a body panel, you will need a small, portable welding unit preferably with a cutter. Before removing the panel from the vehicle, make careful note of how it fits onto or into the parts around it. You will want to make your cut(s) so that you don't cut too close and ruin the part.

Caution: Make sure there is no fuel tank nearby or any other combustible materials before you start.

You can use a welding torch if you have no cutting tool. Start by putting a hole in the metal. Then turn the oxygen up to high and you will be able to cut, although it is a slow process.

Tilt the flame in the direction you are travelling. You can take more of the part than is necessary and cut out what you don't need later. After you are done cutting, be sure to take any of the pieces you will need to install the panel into your vehicle.

Once you have all the parts you need, you can go about installing the panel on your vehicle. Cut the panel again if necessary to make it fit properly or to get rid of unwanted sections. For horizontal cuts you may want to use a cutter especially developed for this type of work, one that will not bend or distort the metal. For vertical cuts, you can simply use a hack saw.

Remember to tuck away any wiring or other material that might burn or become damaged by the welding. Weld the panel in place as needed, taking care to use the appropriate type of weld for load requirements, if any. Apply reinforcing material if necessary to seal any gaps. Use a wire brush to clean off any burnt paint. Fill the area with body filler, finish and spray paint.