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Frame Rail Repair


Written by Steve Kupper
Saturday, 17 September 2005
By Steve Kupper

A while back I found a lot of rust in my drivers side frame rail. It seems that at some point in its life the car had a brake fluid leak around the master cylinder or reservoir area. The fluid entered the frame rail from the top and the rust process began.

The frame rails for our beloved cars are still available, but at around $300 each. Or you can find some solid ones of the cars that were crashed or rusted out in other areas. The other option is making a patch as described in this article.
The procedure is not too complicated if you know how to use a grinder and a welder. A little muscle is required to bend the metal and swing the BFH. Required Materials:
  • 16 to 20 gauge sheet metal
  • Cardboard
  • Undercoat Paint
  • Rust Neutralizer
Required Equipment:
  • Air hose or compressed air in a can
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Grinder
  • Welder
  • Vise
  • Angle Iron x2
  • 2x6 Piece of wood
  • Clamp
  • BFH*
  • Small Hammer
  • Metal Sheers
Optional Equipment:
  • Plasma Cutter
  • Second Pair of Hands

Frame Preparation
Clean the frame rail from most of the rust and undercoat paint by using the grinder. Make sure to wear eye protection. Find out how far your rust goes. If rust extended to the reinforced section above the front subframe patching the frame might not be a good solution and a replacement frame rail should be in order. After you are done grinding and polishing hit the frame with a hammer a couple times to loosen the rust and dirt inside. Not too hard, you don’t want to bend it. Get an a air hose and blow the dust out of the rail. When it nice and clean spray the frame with rust neutralizer. Try to get some inside the frame too. If the holes in it are as big as they were in mine, you should have no problems doing it.
Template
While the neutralizer is drying you can start on the patch. Grab a piece of cardboard, a pencil and a pair of scissors and start cutting. The plan is for you to make a patch out of cardboard that will look exactly like the one you’ll be making out of that sheet of metal.

Patch
Once the template is complete and you are satisfied with the fit it’s time to move on to the fun portion of this program. Trace the template on the metal and cut it out. Make sure you are tracing all the cuts and the bends on the inside. This way you won’t get confused later on.

Place the future patch in the vise at the bend line between two pieces of angle iron. Remember which way it needs to be bent and use the BFH* and a 2x6 pound it to correct shape. Do one bend at a time. It will not be perfect but it will be pretty good for a “banged up job.†Make sure to have long enough “V†cuts to allow for a good 3D bend.

Once you are finished with the patch place it on the frame rail and with a help of another person finish the bends for an almost perfect fit.

Weld the patch in its place. Do a couple tack welds first. This will allow you to bang it a little more into a better fit. Remember, the better it fits the stronger your frame rail will be. After the tack welds are done and the fit is good finish welding the rest of the seams.

Let it cool and spray with the undercoat. You are done! Give your helper a hi-five and another beer. Grab one for yourself.

*BFH = Big Fucking Hammer

Thanks to Rob Torres, Jr. of 2002 Haus., who did all the actual work on this frame rail.
If you have any questions, feel free to post them to the Message Board!
COPYRIGHT 2002, BMW 2002 FAQ, Rob Shisler and Steve Kupper. All Rights Reserved.


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