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Old 09-28-2006, 08:57 PM
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Can I fix damaged corvette door myself?

I have a '96 Corvette, and someone on CorvetteForum suggested that I ask my fiberglass question here. Over a month ago, someone pried out my driver's side door handle with a screwdriver, damaging the surrounding fiberglass. It looked a little something like this:





Since then I've disassembled the door enough to remove the damaged handle and lock cylinder, and I've bought new ones. Everything's ready to go except for the fiberglass damage:


Here you'll see the main damage, around where the lock cylinder is held in place. A crack formed between the lock cylinder's hole and the little slot above it. Fortunately, most of the structural support for the handle comes not from this part but from two screws that fasten the handle in an area that is undamaged. The holes for these screws are seen in the next picture:


Note the area above, below, and to the right of the lock cylinder hole. This is where the prying action from the screwdriver came in, and after the handle goes in these are the only damaged spots that would be extremely visible. Making these three spots look decent is my most important challange aesthetically speaking.


As you can see, the part where the handle screws in was undamaged.

When the repair shop guy (repair shop deals with corvettes frequently) looked at the damage he stressed that it would not be an easy fix. He noted that his sanding tools would not be able to reach inside the door handle, and that he would have to sand it by hand (is this really such a big deal?). He quoted me $400 to patch up the fiberglass and to put only minimal effort into paint blending (only blending around the immediate area of the handle), and not putting the door back together.

$400 is more than I pay for rent each month, and this is for doing what he said would be "minimal" repairs to what amounts to a total of one square inch of my car. I personally am not willing to spend $400 on such a small, inconsequential part of my car. I'm instead going to rely on your all's knowledge to guide me through fixing this without spending so much money. If possible, I'm going to try to smooth out and fill in the fiberglass myself, and then apply touch up paint to the smallest area that I have to. Since the handle covers up everything but a few spots, I'll allow the paint to not blend perfectly, as long as it's not the first thing a stranger sees when they look at the car.

I have read online that the fiberglass in the '96 Corvette body panels is actually Sheet Molded Compound (SMC) fiberglass, which is resistant to bonding to repairs. I believe I read in the Haynes manual and on forums that epoxy resin must be used for repairing it. Is it that simple? Do I just sand the damaged parts to smooth them out and fill in the damage with any type of epoxy resin until it's the right shape, and then smooth it out with sandpaper after it dries? Heck, I can do that for a lot cheaper than what they were going to charge.

What about painting it? After the fiberglass is filled in and smoothed, will a little primer and touch up paint make the repair look less obvious? Again, only a few small spots of damage are visible once the handle is in place, so the paintjob doesn't have to be perfect, only enough to make the small repairs not glaringly obvious to someone who isn't specifically looking for paint inconsistencies.

Alternatively, let me know if you think a professional paint shop would be willing to paint over my non-professional fiberglass repair. What the repair shop quoted me was mostly for bodywork labor ($252) and only $84 for the paint labor, so perhaps a paint shop would charge even less. $84 is a lot more reasonable, and a real paint shop would do a much better job than I would at covering up the repair.

Thanks for your help, guys.

EDIT: I have removed my question of whether or not it was a good price, because it's really not a relevant thing for me to have asked anyway; I plan on doing this myself no matter what. I need a cheap fix and it doesn't have to look wonderful.

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Last edited by LouisvilleLT4; 09-29-2006 at 02:11 PM.
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Old 09-28-2006, 09:27 PM
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I would have to say that price is about right. You figure average shop rates are $65/hr and looking at what needs to be done they will easily have 4 hrs in it. If at all possible, I would let the shop do the work considering the depth of the repair and you not being experienced in that. Good luck with the vette. By the way I had a '92. You know the 2 happiest days of a vette owners life? The day he gets it and the day he sells it. At least that was my experience.
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Old 09-28-2006, 10:10 PM
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Thanks for the good wishes, but let me put it this way: There is no way I'm paying $400 for this. After all, I could put the new door handle on as it is and reassemble the door, and have a functioning corvette right now for free. The appearance of a few spots around the handle are simply not worth $400 to me, especially considering how little I paid for this car. I will do this myself, it's all a question of whether I use a bad technique or a really bad technique.

So, considering that, let me know what I can do, with my limited skills, to make it look better than it does now without doing something disastrous or irreversible in the process. Guide me through the steps you would have me take and be specific enough that I can't mess it up. There's gotta be something I can do about the fiberglass on my own, even if it's not ideal. And like I said, then maybe I could take it to a professional paint shop since the job would then be reduced to a cheaper one.

Last edited by LouisvilleLT4; 09-28-2006 at 10:18 PM.
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Old 09-28-2006, 10:18 PM
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I will do this myself, it's all a question of whether I use a bad technique or a really bad technique.

. There's gotta be something I can do about the fiberglass on my own, even if it's not ideal. And like I said, then maybe I could take it to a professional paint shop since the job would then be reduced to a cheaper one.[/QUOTE]


Or a more expensive one
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Old 09-28-2006, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by bigblock454camaro


Or a more expensive one
Okay, then in that case I'll paint it myself, too. I really am willing to accept the consequences of doing this myself. I'm relying on you all to give me some tips on filling in SMC and painting it so I can minimize the damage I do. I can either totally improvise this and do horribly, or I can follow the guidance of the experts here and be at least somewhat better off; even though both options involve me doing it, one is clearly the better choice, so with that in mind I would really appreciate some information on how these repairs work in general and any precautions I should take.
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Old 09-28-2006, 10:43 PM
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OK, I would grind out the busted up part on the inside. Place metal tape over the out side. Pack the hole of the area with a mix of fiber-glass resin and finely cut up matting, and lay a layer or two of matting over the area coated with resin. Make sure to push out any and all air bubbles. Then remove the metal tape. Grind the busted area on the outside. Pack finely cut matting and resin in the low areas. And layer with matting and resin to a little past level. Make sure to have enough material built-up inside and out to carve the right shape out of. Then proceed to carve the correct shape out of it. Use a hobby carving dremil-tool kit. Try the lock and handle till they fit. Finish it out with a little polyester glaze, primer, a little spot blend of color, and then clear the door. It's fixed. It wont really be that easy but, it's doable.

Go for it!

SMC or not I'd fix it with glass. It works well. I've done it.
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Old 09-28-2006, 10:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colormecrazy
OK, I would grind out the busted up part on the inside. Place metal tape over the out side. Pack the hole of the area with a mix of fiber-glass resin and finely cut up matting, and lay a layer or two of matting over the area coated with resin. Make sure to push out any and all air bubbles. Then remove the metal tape. Grind the busted area on the outside. Pack finely cut matting and resin in the low areas. And layer with matting and resin to a little past level. Make sure to have enough material built-up inside and out to carve the right shape out of. Then proceed to carve the correct shape out of it. Use a hobby carving dremil-tool kit. Try the lock and handle till they fit. Finish it out with a little polyester glaze, primer, a little spot blend of color, and then clear the door. It's fixed. It wont really be that easy but, it's doable.

Go for it!

SMC or not I'd fi it with glass. It works well I've done it.
Okay, this really helps, thanks! So when you used fiberglass resin, you did not have any problems with it failing to bond well to the panel, or distorting in shape long after the repair? I've heard bad stories about some materials reacting this way to SMC.

Any more comments and advice are appreciated!

Last edited by LouisvilleLT4; 09-28-2006 at 10:52 PM.
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Old 09-28-2006, 10:54 PM
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[QUOTE=L

I personally am not convinced this should be a $400 repair. I'm
I have read online that the fiberglass in the '96 Corvette body panels is actually Sheet Molded Compound (SMC) fiberglass, which is resistant to bonding to repairs. .

Thanks for your help, guys. Let me know if you think $400 is too steep for this repair, especially for the minimal-quality fix I asked for and that they agreed to do.[/QUOTE]


This is the part of your question that I was answering. I am not familiar with repairing the SMC , but I am familiar with shop prices and some body work, as I am doing all the work on my Camaro as I do with all my cars. Someone gives you an honest answer to a question and you act pissed cause you don't like their answer. Good luck with the vette
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Old 09-28-2006, 10:59 PM
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It's all a matter of good 40 grit scratches for adhesion and allowing the urethane primer to cure for a week or so. Allow it to shrink and move for a week before you try to prep for paint. Now if it was a plastic bumper instead of the door I'd say use 3M Plastic Repair. But those doors are fiber filled Sheet Molded Compound (SMC). Not quite the same stuff as a bumper.

p.s. $400 is really not to bad a price in my opinion either.
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Old 09-28-2006, 11:06 PM
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Follow the guidelines given and you should have no problems. As far as the price is concerned, it does sound about right to me. You did say that they were going to paint it also. Paint costs money too!

Why is it that people think that body repairs should be cheap? In 1990 I had surgery done on my back. The doctor's bill alone was $15000.00 for what took him an hour. The really bad part was that it didn't take care of the whole problem.

Aaron
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Old 09-28-2006, 11:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigblock454camaro
This is the part of your question that I was answering. I am not familiar with repairing the SMC , but I am familiar with shop prices and some body work, as I am doing all the work on my Camaro as I do with all my cars. Someone gives you an honest answer to a question and you act pissed cause you don't like their answer. Good luck with the vette

It's not that I don't believe you when you explain why it's a more expensive repair than it seemed, it's that I'm not willing to spend the $400 on this regardless, because I would rather save the money, have a less-than-perfect repair for a car that's in no way perfect anyway, and learn a little something about repairs in the process. I'm sorry if I came off pissed at some point, I'm not sure what I said that you're referring to. No hard feelings, and thanks for the explanation of the price they quoted me.
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Old 09-29-2006, 06:12 AM
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I agree, the price is about right. A while ago someone knocked a hole about the size of a golf ball in the drivers door of my sons black 04 Vette. He took it to a well respected shop to have it repaired and get the entire car color sanded and buffed. The repair looked great for a few weeks then you could see the repaired area when the sun was shining directly on it. He took it back and they repaired it again. A week or so later the same results. Third time he took it back they kept it for a week. You cannot see the repair at all now and it has been about six months. My point is the newer Vettes require special proceedures and products to repair the SMC panels. The price you were quoted is very reasonable IMO if it is repaired properly.

Vince
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Old 09-29-2006, 11:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colormecrazy

SMC or not I'd fix it with glass. It works well. I've done it.
Really?
I had heard that fiberglass resin doesn't stick well to SMC. I thought you had get use special epoxy based stuff like Duramix.

Here's a few threads I found:
I need some F'glass help
1984 Corvette!! Help Anyone!!
SMC repairs with Duramix

Last edited by roger1; 09-29-2006 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 09-29-2006, 11:45 AM
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Louisville,

If you are going to paint this yourself, I would really advise you to paint the whole door. It will never look very good unless you do.

That is going to involve you to buy primer, basecoat and clearcoat and have a compressor and spray gun and a good respirator to apply it. You will also need to buy some sandpaper and sanding blocks.
It won't be cheap for that suff. Are you prepared to do all that?
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Old 09-29-2006, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by roger1
Louisville,

If you are going to paint this yourself, I would really advise you to paint the whole door. It will never look very good unless you do.

That is going to involve you to buy primer, basecoat and clearcoat and have a compressor and spray gun and a good respirator to apply it. You will also need to buy some sandpaper and sanding blocks.
It won't be cheap for that suff. Are you prepared to do all that?
No, I certainly wouldn't trust myself with doing a whole door and if I choose to get the door painted it will be done by a professional. Before I spend all that money to repaint a whole door though, I would like to try a much smaller-area "quick fix," and if the quick fix does not work to my satisfaction down the road, then there's nothing stopping me from going the expensive route later on, and it wouldn't be too hard to undo my quick fix with a grinder or perhaps a new door molding. But if it does work, I would have saved $400. I know that a "quick fix" would undoubtably look unprofessional and ugly to some, but honestly it would be hard for it to look any worse than it does now. It won't take much to satisfy me since I don't care about the area looking exactly "right;" I just don't want it to look like vulnerable exposed fiberglass.

Everybody, I'll let you in on the reason I'm being so stubborn about spending money. I'll admit that where I live, it's not that great of an area, and vandalism is very likely to happen again, and so I could not justify doing the $400 repair to make it look good again when it's likely to get busted open again a week afterwards by more thieves. I bought this car for its handling, not its looks, so pouring money into its appearance over and over each time someone hurts it is not something I'm willing to do. So that's why I'm looking for a quick fix and like I said, if I kick myself down the road for doing a quick fix, I can let a professional clean up my mess. But hopefully with a little preparation and knowledge about SMC I could make this work for me. So keep bringing in the SMC advice!

Last edited by LouisvilleLT4; 09-29-2006 at 02:15 PM.
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