How to Fix Auto Body Repair Panels Without Welding

by Paul Miceli
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car repair image by Przemyslaw Moranski from

An auto body repair or restoration project can often come to a sudden halt if welding is required. Welding requires extensive specialist knowledge and expensive equipment that many enthusiasts might not have. There are also instances where auto body panels cannot be repaired by welding because of fire risks. This leaves car enthusiasts with little choice but to find an alternative method to execute the repair and there are some simple fabrication techniques that provide excellent results with the need for welding.

Step 1

Take a P80 sanding disc and place it onto the pad of a random orbital sander. Sand the damaged area thoroughly until a surface of bare metal has been exposed around the repair. Ensure that an additional two to three inches of additional exposed metal is sanded back beyond the area to be repaired. Paint edges should be feathered out to assist with the priming process at a later stage.

Step 2

Mark a square two inches outside the damaged area with a metal scribe. Drill a half-inch hole into the middle of the square to allow access and use an air-fed nibbling tool to cut out the square, making sure that the guide stays just within the confines of the scribed line.

Step 3

Take a panel flanging tool and create a flange around the cut area of the auto body panel. The flange needs to be deep so that the addition of a metal patch will produce a flush surface. Apply a light coating of zinc spray to all bare metal as a means of protecting against corrosion and while this is drying, find a suitable piece of scrap metal in the same gauge as the auto body panel and cut out a patch that will fit exactly into the flanged recess. Use a piece of cardboard to act as a template if required.

Step 4

Lay the metal patch into the flanged hole and secure into place on the corners with masking tape. Take the drill and make a series of holes through the patch and the flanged area, making sure the patch stays in place. Two to three holes on each of the four edges of the square will be sufficient. The holes need to be big enough to accommodate the rivets you will be using in the next stage.

Step 5

With the patch still held in place, insert rivets into the holes and activate the rivet gun so the metal patch is secured to the flanged recess. Complete all the way around the square until every hole has a rivet attached to keep the patch in place. Use a panel hammer to tap down any high spots and to ensure the heads of the rivets sit below the surface of the auto body panel.

Step 6

Apply a coat of galvanized body fill over the repaired area. Leave the filler to dry then sand down with a flat block and P80 grit sanding paper. Several applications of body filler may be required before a completely flat surface is assured.

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