The Difference Between Repairing Early Model Cars and Cars of Today – Metal Straightening

Repairing Early  Model   Cars 

On early  model  vehicles the metal was thick, which had advantages and disadvantages. First of all, they had a lot of metal to work with. This allowed body men to hammer, dolly and pick on the metal, then file the top surface knocking the high areas down. Then they could repeat the process, work the metal and file the surface level. This allowed the body man to metal finish much of the damages without the need of body fillers. This is called metal finishing. If there were still a few imperfections remaining, the body man would use lead to fill the lows and file the surface level and smooth.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantage they had was the possibility to straighten and work the metal without the use of fillers. If we tried to use those methods on vehicles today, we would have a hole in the part from filing through the part. If we didn’t file a hole through the part, it would be very thin and weak. Another advantage of working on early model vehicles is being able to get to both sides of the panel. Vehicles today have limited access. It is hard to get behind most panels to use the hammer and dolly method. The disadvantage of working metal on early  model   cars  was the strength of the thick steel; it hard to move, unlock, and reshape. It took a lot more force to move the thick metal when straightening. The lead filler that was used also took more time and skill to fill the small imperfections. We are also more educated about lead today and the safety hazards of it.

Repairing Vehicles of Today

Today’s vehicles are thinner and have very limited access. However, improved fillers, such as body filler and tools have made the job easier. The most common tool to use for repairing dents is a stud nail gun. The cost of a stud nail gun ranges between $200 to $500. This tool tacks a small nail to the surface. Then you get a slide hammer or t-handle to pull on the nail. Therefore, you tack the nails to the low areas and lightly tap on the high areas with a body hammer. It is important to do this at the same time. Just pulling out on the low area will cause the metal to be over pulled and stretch the metal. Just hammering in on the highs may cause the entire area to be hammered in too much. This is referred to as chasing your damage around. It is always better to have multiple forces at one time. You need to think of it as rolling the damage out, rather than hammering or beating it out. The metal wants to go back to its original shape, you just need to help persuade it to. Forcing metal will result in stretched metal.

KISS Keep It Simple Silly

When you have access, a hammer and dolly can be used. This is probably going to be the fastest way to repair the damage if you have access. When performing auto body repair, think like electricity. Electricity move where ever it is easiest for it to pass through. The path of least resistance. This is why a ground wire is used on homes. If lightening hits your house, it will follow that ground wire that is attached to a ground rod that in hammered in the ground, as that is the path of least resistance. When determining how to repair a dent, just try to think of what would be easiest. Just because you have an expensive piece of equipment does not mean that you have to use it every time. If you can reach behind the panel and pull out on the low with one hand and push down on the high with the other hand, then simply use your hand to repair the damage. It may still need a little hammer and dolly work afterwords, but I have repaired many dents with nothing but my hands. Remember today’s metals are thin and it does not take much to dent or repair it.

What Ever It Takes

Whether you’re working on early or late model vehicles, just remember to select the tools that will make the job easiest to repair. Don’t over work the thin metal on late model vehicles, as the metals are thin. The use of body filler will help repair the surface back to its original shape.

by Donnie Smith