Our T4 California’s rusty rear wheelarches were getting us down, but a trip to Phil Norman’s Brickfield VW put a smile back on our face!
T4’s aren’t getting any younger, and ours is no exception. There are a couple of nasty areas on our California that a combination of road debris and the weather has got the better of, so we decided it was about time we did something about it.
The worst area on our Van was our rear wheelarches, so that’s where we started our rust repair work, and looked around for a company who was well experienced within the VW restoration industry to undertake the aforementioned task.
Brickfield VWs have been around for years and, if you’ve ever seen any of the cars they’ve worked on, you’ll know why we decided to trust these guys with our project. We obtained the required repair panels from T4sRUs and were extremely impressed with the quality. Here’s how to perform a rear wheelarch repair. Time to start cutting…
- TOOLS USED
Welder, grinder, sander, nibbler, various other metalwork fabrication tools
- SKILL LEVEL
- TIME TAKEN
1.5 days per side
- COST DIY
£230 including paint & primer per side, plus price of repair panel
Brickfield VWs 01233 611985
Transporters R US – www.t4rus.co.uk
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 1
As you can see, our T4’s rear wheelarches were starting to look a bit tired. It may not look too bad here, but those bubbles and rust stains are a sure sign that things are worse underneath. It doesn’t help that they’ve also been bodged up previously with filler.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 2
The first step is always the worst, but remember things have to get worse before they get better. Start by grinding back the paintwork to check the extent of the rust. It wasn’t actually as bad as we first thought, but repair work was still well overdue.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 3
Once Phil had gauged the extent of the rust, he cut down the rear wheelarch repair panel to a more suitable size for our application, keeping the cut away from more awkward areas to weld.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 4
The cut-down panel is offered up to the vehicle again and drawn around, checking the vehicle for a solid area to weld the new panel to. The reason there are two lines is because we will be underlapping the repair panel, so it needs to be cut slightly oversize to allow for this.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 5
Now move inside the Van to ensure there is nothing behind the area you’re about to cut into. Being a California, there is lots going on behind the interior panels. Any insulation must be pulled aside and wires and electrics moved as far away from the working area as possible.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 6
Phil then carefully cut along his marked-out lines with a 1mm cutting disc on an angle grinder, keeping the cuts as neat as possible, before drilling out the spot welds around the curve of the arch. Note the cables and ancillaries visible within the wheelarch area.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 7
The cut down repair panel is then given a stepped edge, which will underlap the existing panel on the vehicle. This is done using a tool called a joggler, or an edge setter. Not everyone does wheelarch repairs in this way, but it makes for a strong, neat join.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 8
The step is formed around the edge of the whole panel, so it will neatly tuck inside the original metalwork. Note how all the paint has been removed from the new panel prior to this procedure, as all areas to be welded must be fresh, clean metal.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 9
Once finished, the panel is offered up and tweaked so it fits snugly all the way round. Like most work on cars, it’s all in the preparation, and more time spent getting this stage correct will make life easier when it comes to welding.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 10
With the body trimmed to match the panel, and both areas cleaned back to bare metal, we’re almost ready to start welding. Before you do that though, disconnect the battery.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 11
With the panel clamped in place, check one last time to make sure you are happy everything lines up along all seams and edges, then it’s time to bust out the welder…
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 12
Start by dotting a series of evenly spaced spot welds around the edge of the panel, working end to end. Take your time and allow the metal to cool down to avoid distortion.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 13
It’s a tedious task, but patience will pay dividends here. Keep going back over the join, adding spot weld between spot weld, letting it cool sufficiently between welds. The more patience you have here, the better the result will be.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 14
Keep plugging away until you have a continuous join all the way around the panel, then go and make a nice cup of tea to give it plenty of time to cool down.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 15
Next job is to grind the welds flush. Go carefuly here for two reasons: firstly, it’s important to keep as much integrity in the joint as possible. Secondly, you can do just as much damage by overheating the metal with a grinder as you can with a welder. Note the lower front edge of the repair panel has just a couple of tack welds, that’s because Phil chose to stick it in place here using heavy duty sealant.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 16
If you’ve done the work right, there should be no pin holes visible in the welds (you can check this by having someone hold a torch behind the panel) and only a minor skim of filler required to cover the join.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 17
Applying filler can take some practice, but keep adding it, sanding it back and checking with the palm of your hand until you are happy there is no evidence of the repair. The area is then ‘keyed’ for paint.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 18
Always try and mask up to obvious panel joins or pressings as it easier to disguise paintwork joins in these places. The paint process starts with a couple of coats of primer, then top coat. As our Van was still in its factory colour, Phil was able to get a perfect colour match.
T4 rear wheelarch repair: Step 19
When the paint is dry, remove the masking and polish the whole area. Finally, treat the inside of the repair with a good quality anti-rust treatment such as Waxoyl, and you’re done. Compare this picture with the opening photo and we think you’ll agree things look much better now. Cheers Phil, nice work!
For more technical guides on fixing problems or making modifications to your Volkswagen T4 or T5 Transporter, have a gander at our: VW Transporter technical guides