Fixing rusty door bottoms

Vintage Don

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Oct 9, 2017
1,831
Medina, Ohio
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Don
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This seems like kind of a small job, after having done the entire cab floor, and later the entire bed floor along with part of the side walls. But when I did those jobs, I had a good buddy helping me on and off - and he is a better fabricator and welder than I am. His guidance and help got me through it pretty well.

Well, since we're all in isolation these days, I decided I was going to try to do this job on my own - and it scared me, I honestly figured I would screw it up, cut it all back out - and wait for normal times to return and get him to hold my hand again. Haha

But I made it, and was all puffed up proud of myself. I truly did not expect to get a decent result. Not saying it's great, but I think it'll do.

Rotted door bottoms are apparently a pretty common problem, and mine are bad across the bottoms on both sides. This is looking up at the bottom of the passenger side, which is actually the better of the two. I've got my chalk cut lines already drawn in here, where the metal is definitely rotted.

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So getting that out of there is more complicated than I expected... The outer door skin has tabs (circled in red below) that bend around from the outside and grab that inner piece, in a crimp. Also a few spot welds. So you have to v-e-r-y carefully pry that open, and drill out the welds - being very careful not to mess up the outer door skin.

Finally getting that stuff cut out (hours) revealed how rotted out the OUTER skin actually was! (arrow) Now, I was really worried.

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And it was up into the lower of those 3 horizontal "ribs" that run across the bottom of the doors (yikes!) which made it all the more challenging, to try to match all that up and look factory.

At first, I was going to try to just piece it in, and save the outer perimeter shape for a guide for what I was trying to build. But I finally decided the whole corner needed to come off, to make a strong enough repair and to have solid metal to meet up to.

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(I ended up cutting it farther forward after that photo)

This meant I had to recreate those little flaps to crimp, including where they go around the door's corner radius, where it is just a tiny little rolled lip. And - recreate part of the bottom and end of the "rib" I had to cut into. I don't know how to do this kind of stuff!!!

I started with my usual plan of action, trying to make the patch that would be required out of card stock first, to understand what the tabs needed to look like.

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And then I just went for it. Used everything I could think of to shape that piece and get a respectable result. Vise, pliers, hammers, anvil, chisel tips, pipe... But a few hours later, I actually had a reasonable looking patch made.

5a.jpeg

And it fit pretty well. Much to my surprise!

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So then it was a matter of welding and grinding. Lots of other holes burnt through, even at lowest heat. Just kept "chasing the rabbits" until I was pretty well sealed up.

This (below) is just after the first rough grinding. I'l weld on it some more, chase some more rabbits, and get the final grinding looking more finished later. Ran out of time this evening.

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And the door fits and closes fine. Gaps are about the same as they were. So old Vintage Don is all proud tonight!

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There are 5 or 6 other areas like this to deal with. The first one is right there just behind this new patch, on the lower end of the B pillar there, as you can see.

But I think tomorrow before I go after those areas, I will try to fabricate the long bottom piece - the door "floor" - and see what that looks like.
 

48cj2a

Bigger Hammer
Nov 16, 2009
127
Central, IL
First Name
ArtC
Willys Model
Wagon
Willys Year:
1962
Outstanding Work!

When I get home I need to rebuild the entire rear floor of a wagon to accept the tailgate hinge again - your pictures are encouraging.
 

Joe B

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Dec 17, 2012
1,135
Sandston, VA
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Fantastic work, Don!
A metal working video popped up in my youtube recommendations yesterday evening.

"Fitzee" demonstrates a unique butt welding technique that makes retaining patch position and alignment much easier.



Here's one for the restoration/modification folks:

 

second_floor_lo

Sharpest Tool
Sep 27, 2013
348
North Carolina
First Name
Paul
Willys Model
Pickup
Willys Year:
1949
"And then I just went for it. Used everything I could think of to shape that piece and get a respectable result. Vise, pliers, hammers, anvil, chisel tips, pipe..."

Yes!... You're doing what nearly everyone does. Use what you've got. It doesn't take a bunch of fancy (expensive) equipment to make most of these repairs. Lots of patience, careful observation before you start cutting and then a handy hammer!

Great job!
 

Vintage Don

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Oct 9, 2017
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@len_m , you were lucky!

Wow, I was surprised to wake up to all these "Likes" and great comments, thank you all!

@Joe B I got watching those videos and it made me have another cup of coffee... I was real happy to see that - for the most part - I'm doing things pretty much like he does.

@Quig7557 the steel I used is 16 gauge, mic's at about .055-.058".

A late start this morning.... gotta get out to the Shop now.
 

Joe B

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Dec 17, 2012
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Sandston, VA
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Joe
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I particularly admire Fitzee's "pin it like a lap joint, cut it progressively with a cut-off wheel at 45 degrees (like a pumpkin lid), push the edges into plane for the butt weld and tack it back" routine.
 

Vintage Don

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Oct 9, 2017
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I particularly admire Fitzee's "pin it like a lap joint, cut it progressively with a cut-off wheel at 45 degrees (like a pumpkin lid), push the edges into plane for the butt weld and tack it back" routine.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Too many of my patches are odd-shaped, and not really square/straight. And too often, I'm trying to weld to pretty questionable, sketchy metal that I'm saving.

I keep telling myself that I'm "fixing it" - not "restoring it"! haha. But I want everything solid and strong, and 100% working like new when I get all done. Some day.
 

RandyP

Sharpest Tool
Aug 30, 2016
384
Central Texas
First Name
Randy
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Willys Year:
1950
I particularly admire Fitzee's "pin it like a lap joint, cut it progressively with a cut-off wheel at 45 degrees (like a pumpkin lid), push the edges into plane for the butt weld and tack it back" routine.
I sure wish had seen this technique a couple of years earlier!

Randy
 

Vintage Don

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Oct 9, 2017
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Haha, thanks for that, @CSPIDY ! There's plenty of Failure going on, trust me. The secret is, I don't think of them as failures, usually - just a "change" in the nature of the problem. Whatever I have done that didn't work must not have been the right answer - so I back up a few steps, and figure out the next method of attack! And sometimes that doesn't work out, either.

Case in point: Today my plan had been to tackle that first door bottom repair. But my morning got filled up with non-Willys stuff, and after lunch I spent a few hours getting the lawn tractor running, "summer-izing" the snow blower and storing it, stuff like that. So by the time I got to the old truck, my time was already getting short.

So I tackled what I thought would be a pretty straightforward repair - that rotted spot on the B-pillar I talked about yesterday. Figured I could at least get something accomplished for the day.

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But it was NOT so straightforward after all...

I cut it out, and it seemed to have solid enough metal all around it.

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So I shaped my patch, got it fitting real nice, and started welding.

And FAILED miserably!

The "rabbits" were definitely winning.... holes popping up all over, even with the heat all the way down....

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I also "missed" hitting the damn seam more than I hit it on the rear! Grrr. I ground it down, chased the rabbits some more....

Rabbits were still winning.

I won't bore you with a bunch more photos, but I cut it back apart, made a bigger patch, and started over.

And I caught MOST of the rabbits, but there were still holes. And I sold out, put some masking tape behind it, and coated it with mud. That "All-Metal" brand suff. Supposed to be great stuff - but it sure smells and acts like good old Bondo, if you ask me.....

I don't mind using it to smooth weld seams, and catch a few pin holes. But these were a tad bigger than pin holes. But I settled for it, because I'd have been going way farther than I wanted to, to truly do it right.

So it's gonna look reasonably OK. Until it falls apart someday - and I'll have to go back after those rabbits with a bigger gun. But I definitely failed to get a result that satisfied me.

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There, I have confessed. I feel better now... haha
 

CSPIDY

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Feb 9, 2020
212
West Newton PA
First Name
Dave
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Willys Year:
1962
Don, what welder are you using?
The reason I ask is I purchased HF mig and blew out more welds than I closed.
Then I bought a used Miller and man what a difference, I weld a lot of Toyota’s and they are made from steel gum rappers.
 

Vintage Don

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Oct 9, 2017
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1948
It's a little Eastwood MIG. Photo when it was new, it's not as shiny nowadays. Buddy keeps telling me to get a Lincoln. But it usually does fine, I think it's mostly the sketchy metal. I never cut away far enough....

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CSPIDY

Sharpest Tool
Feb 9, 2020
212
West Newton PA
First Name
Dave
Willys Model
Pickup
Willys Year:
1962
It's a little Eastwood MIG. Photo when it was new, it's not as shiny nowadays. Buddy keeps telling me to get a Lincoln. But it usually does fine, I think it's mostly the sketchy metal. I never cut away far enough....
I do the same, much to frugal at times. Looks like a good welder.
 
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