Car Fixes

The mustang has been in her stall all summer as I slowly worked through removing all her layers of grime. First a hot wash with dish soap to strip her of wax; then a traditional clay-bar polish (I guarantee this was the first time ever for this step- wow. so. much. yutz. and blue paint); then a hot foam as lubrication for the new Mother’s “clay” micro-cutting pad- again, wow. even. more. yutz; then it was time for the pneumatic polisher. I decided I would not attempt to use cutting fluid or a cutting pad, as the 45 year old repaint from some archaic shop in Great Falls, Montana is a question mark regarding thickness and stability. Pros have a thousand dollar meter to read how thick the paint/clear coat is, so they know whether to cut or just polish. I decided I could live with some scratches and swirls vs creating a real disaster, and went with a microfiber polishing pad and polishing fluid. For a minute I thought of using cutting fluid with the polish pad, but decided to just try out the polish/polish first. Dead clear-coat and blue paint loaded the pad really quickly. No matter how many pros tell you that seeing the paint load up the pad is normal on an old car, it is a bit nerve wracking. I had to stop every cubit of surface and blow out the pad- it would create a cloud of debris (I wore a particle mask!).

Today I began the final step: ceramic coat (Avalon King). I completed the hood and the trunk, or all the upward facing surfaces. I hope to complete the rest tomorrow morning. The old girl really pulls down a lot of product, and requires a long fussy hand buffing. The results were worth it. I rolled her back into the garage for a “dust-free” environment for the first two hours of cure, then rolled her back out into full sun for an hour or so of UV fix for the ceramic. The day climbed from 80-85, then I pushed her back in the stable as the real heat came on.

Rear 3/4 view.
Trunk from driver’s side rear.
Closer view, trunk from driver’s side rear.
Trunk skinscape.
Trunk and surround, from passenger side looking back.
Trunk midline at hinge seam.
Trunk, passenger side sparkles.
Hood, front view.
Hood, from passenger side looking forward.
Closer view, passenger side Hood.
Driver’s side, front quarter panel and hood. sparkles.
Driver’s side hood. Universe.
Almost full view from high perspective, shot while balancing on narrow truck bumper.
E spotted this online for free, and thought tandem bagging mowers at the ranch.
Husquivarna 7021P, with a Honda GCV 160 Easy Start motor ( spark plug BPR5ES; blade 5802581 size 20 7/8″ center star, commercial mulching- I have yet to find one)

Does this look like a free lawn mower? It looked and ran in the “free” category when I picked it up last weekend. No “before” picts (I thought it might just be a hopeful fail), and though it had belonged to an urban lady with a tiny yard, it looked like it had been used to cut fire breaks along stream beds, set low to the ground and run over rocks, winding the wettest tall grass, and binding it all on the deck with a spray of oil, then left in the Utah sun to bake it all in, with a bag full of whatever it ran over, turning the bag sickly pink and rust. And it ran rough and burned oil- but it ran.

I took the carburetor apart, cleaned and refitted it, snapping off a lead to the fuel petcock in the process and had to order one in. It arrived after a few days and I parted it out, changed the oil & spark plug and air filter, and put in non-ethanol gas. And I sharpened the blade and refitted it while the machine was empty of oil and gas. It fired right up, blew a last little cloud of smoke as it warmed up, then settled out and ran clean.

Now it just has to make the 530 mile jump to Montana.


The patient presented with kidneys this damaged after only 400 miles since the latest (in-line fuel filter) kidney transplant. This is the patient’s 4th kidney since 2009. The kidney original to the car was a tiny mesh that was the size of the inside diameter of the tubes at each end of the filter, and was problematic probably for the life of the car. It caused me all kinds of grief when I didn’t know it existed while driving it my senior year of high school in 1986. My dad retrieved the car and cleared the mesh, without showing me, then took me out for a spin to show me how much I didn’t deserve the car.


32 years from that drive with my dad, and the patient needed a new gas tank. Ghost dad has been discouraging this tinker, but I’m going to do it anyway. The old tank came out easily enough. Things were pretty clean. No real issues with rust. Just cleaned out and replaced the old rubberized stripping. The patient is lucky, as the original stripping hadn’t been laid all the way around and tended to roll up onto the tank rather then seat under it.


Old and new gas tanks. The old has a sludge mix of rusted grit that continually grows from the rusted inner walls. The drain plug was fused in place from the inside. More than a year ago I siphoned the tank, but that didn’t really effect the heavy silt- it sounds like a gallon of wet sand and pebbles when tipped back and forth.  The fuel sender had quit working long before she came into my care, so the gas gauge didn’t operate. The connective rubber section of gas line to the engine was rotten out as well.


I laid strips of rubberized caulk under the tank to seat it firmly, put in new screws, reconnected the goose neck to the gas cap with new rubber hose & clamps & gasket, and put in a new section of gas line down below.  And a new fuel filter up front in the engine bay.


Tomorrow I’ll head over to the local garage that carries non-ethanol gas and fill up my cans, treating the gas with Archoil to stabilize it. If there are no leaks, and the fuel gauge works again; then she will stretch her legs. Getting rid of the silty tank should cure her of many of her performance issues e.g. low fuel pressure at speed making choking rpms, and choking on whatever bad bits were sliding past the filter (nothing too bad as the jets are still clear).

update: The new gas tank and connections were all fine, so I took her up Emmigration Canyon on Halloween for speed trials on the back bit of “flat” road off the summit and she ran like a whole different car- quieter, no hesitation, no bogging down when pushed; just a clean and smooth response all the way through her full range in each gear, and falloff was just as clean.


She took me for a spin up Emigration Canyon to thank me for changing her oil (RedLine 10/40 full synthetic race oil) & filter (Mobile M301a), and I gave her 6oz Archoil friction modifier and Archoil fuel additive (after E and I ran her out of gas a week ago to make sure all the old gas was gone). Good “blat’s” coming down, and growls all the way up. It takes some finesse on the clutch not to chirp the tires pulling away at stoplights.


All the fiddling with E’s Subaru and my truck is practice for detailing this blue bombshell. I’m still working up the nerve…


289 D engine (same as the 302) 442 setup (4 barrel carburetor, 4 speed (five with reverse, jokers), 2 barrel exhaust.  



My dad special ordered her back in 1964, getting as close to a race package as Ford could put together- with a convertible top. She is built on the frame of the Falcon. She is essentially all original & un-restored, original owner (I count in my dad’s stead). Today’s odometer: 99,672


Vertical scratches: dog of prior owner. Horizontal Scratches: “cowboy pinstriping” of prior owner (fire-fighter) driving to remote fire sites. Plus, whatever dings I’ve added. And daisies.

With E’s suby tricked out, and the bumpers redone on the Frontier (and I built a heat shielding platform behind the seats with aluminum faced foam-core as the twin tailpipes converge into one large pipe back there and bake the pets on road trips, half carpeted for Nora, and the other half covered with a wood platform with tie-downs for the cat carriers: that is, after getting under the truck and sleeving the tailpipes under the cab with 10 feet of heat shields); it was time for Paint Correction. The first time for the truck to have a real Paint Correction in her 15 years, and it took an hour for her every year old to complete, and maybe a bit more. Just cleaning the whole truck with a clay bar took many hours, as it kept giving up more and more yutz. Then I go section by section- roof, hood, cab side driver, cab side passenger, etc with each section taking 1.5 to 4 hours, timing the work for early morning or late afternoon to beat the near triple digit heat and keep the surface out of the sun. I use my pneumatic random orbital polisher with a cutting microfiber disk and cutting fluid to remove the heavy scratches and oxidation; next I switch to a polishing microfiber disk on the orbital with polishing fluid to shine her back out; and finally a polishing microfiber orbital disk with finish wax, and buff that off with a microfiber towel. I use Meguar’s fluids, as they invented the microfiber disk and proprietary fluids/compounds. I used Mother’s on the suby, and found the Meguar’s more responsive and less likely to overwork the paint as it is made to break down as it cuts which helps to indicate when the pad is dirty/the paint is clear.


Same door, now with Nora checking her reflection. The color shifted because the dirty and oxidized clearcoat was cut clean, then cut clear of scratches, then polished back up, then waxed. Just the nose, door, and back leg of the cab took 4.5 hours to bring along.


The blurry haze on the paint is all the scratches, plus some big gouges as well. 


It’s not your imagination, it really is a different color now.


The cab took all morning, and a bit into the afternoon. At five pm, when the shadow of the house moves over the truck, I head out again for another 4 hours and do the roof of the shell and this passenger side of the bed.


At 5% humidity the pads dry out fast, and I have to stop and blow them clean with the air nozzle, clear the haze of residue off the truck, then re-wet the pads with fluid and head back on.  


So many layers of scuffs and scratches…


Now a mirror finish.


From an opposite angle, still clear.


The nose and front flare, with a little pile of dirt on the bumper that vibrated loose from an infinite store of Montana that rides in every nook and cranny.

Next I’ll see if my little jar of touch-up paint is still good, and clear up all the dings.


The trailer can fit two shipping containers. It is a beast.

A buddy of mine has started a business as a trucker; his rig is a stout MAC tractor and this flatbed trailer. He lives up a steep winding road in Park City, and a neighbor lets him park the flatbed down at the bottom at a vacant lot. The underside railing of the trailer needed to be cut out and replaced. The outfit is too big turn on a city street, so we couldn’t use my shop. He picked up a nice little welder that would run on 110, but provide 140amps, and we lifted his big generator into the back of his truck and worked in-situ, or en-plein-air if we really want to be artsy about it.


There are six tubes that span the underside, aligning with “flying buttresses” of pipe that support the width of the bed. Here I have replaced 3. It took all day.


The prior owner of the trailer had covered five of the six rail pipe in carpet to stow things below. The pipes were severely corroded, and many of the welds had sheared. This would get his operation shut down at any inspection point. We cut out all the old pipe, all but the last pipe way down by the wheels as it hadn’t been carpeted and was fine. The inside diameter of the new pipe is bigger than the outside diameter of the old pipe- nice upgrade.


Small shielded welding wire on a little welder hooked up to a generator that would pop its circuit if I made any mistake, coupled with gusty wind, made for tough welding conditions. The original pipes were all cut short to ensure their fit, then steel disks were welded on each sidewall of the big beams to gap in the pipe, and the pipes were welded to the disks. I ground out the pipe-weld, and re-welded to the big circular platforms. This took a lot of grinding… my birthday present Cestus gloves with long cuffs were essential. My xmas present of a Home Depot card had Santa’d my burly 10amp Bosch grinder with vibration dampening, which proved up nicely. 


I returned the next morning and had it all finished by 11am. Each run of pipe is just under four feet long. This should be noticeably smoother under load.


Fitting the tubing was the technical part. We cut the tubes a bit long, then I ground out the old welds on the giant I-Beams, then cut and ground down an end until the pipe was just just too long to fit. Then I whanged it into place with the sledgehammer (visible btwn the 2nd and 3rd rail). This assures that I’m putting structure back to the buttressing pipe and supporting the platform above, rather than the weld pulling against the sidewall, which would also increase the likelihood of the weld shearing under load stress.


8 years ago I did a rust triage on the rear bumper; now the surgery is a bit more involved.

When you finish a two day rust triage on the big deer bumper up front, it is tempting to forget the sad rusty bumper on the back. It is so small though. And so so rusty. I bet you could just pop it off and make a light day of it in the shop. Sure. Let’s do it. and that’s how I got my tennis elbow back.


The bolts were seized with rust, but wd40 and a wire brush was joined with steel tubing leverage on the end of a wrench- backing off for cleaning then pushing forward, then back, and no bolts sheared ( and no tools died) but my knuckels did get a bit bloody.


I pull the rubber cap and find that the entire thing has rusted out under the cap, and the back side is no better. The only spots with good paint are under the two stickers…


I used a spring hammer while wishing for a needle gun, then a wire wheel on my big grinder, then a right angle pneumatic with a 30 grit disk to reach all the inside corners- then a heavy duty grind just to smooth things out a bit. I stopped short of sandblasting the whole thing. A bit of ball-pein hammer to press out a dent from the back side as well.


The next step is degreasing and etching. The metal turns to a zinc oxide, which seals the metal.


The zippy marks along the midway portion are the only places the paint was still good; I cut the surface of the paint to help the new paint adhere.


Detail of etching transformation.


POR15 layer went over the etched metal, then after 3 hours of drying when it was just past tacky, I finished it with a por15 brush-on layer of textured rubbercoat for lining truck beds.


I did a small triage on the tow rig and the bumper arms as well.


Reinstalled, and with another rubber-coat layer.


I also did the front bumper, but it was in comparatively great shape and didn’t need to be removed.  The back side was a tough prep job, but goggles and a dust mask and a full tyvek head cover helped. The bottom facets, and anything facing the front wheels was compromised with thick rust flake.


The only facet not facing the wheels is the logo, everything else is ground out and redone in por15- even the top of the bumper was beat up from under the front fender out to the tubing rail. I put on a final coat of por15 rubberized spray-coat to help defray Montana road rash. I sprayed under the front wheel wells too.


The other side may have been worse…here is a blown-out fix from many years ago on the rear passenger side: non-matching black paint, no topcoat, hard tape line, rumply body fill, rusted out from the back. I have already redone the driver side, and had a learning curve over there on blending the body work (no skin coat, so still lumpy) and painting (too thin on my layers, so there is crackle).

In May, while waiting to install the Ibis, I decided it was past time for the Subaru to get a do-over for my old attempts at rust fixes. She turned 20 this year, meaning she is now a “Classic Car”. She is the same age as the Mustang was when I was in High School, which seemed old to me then, but now 20 seems pretty dang new as the pony car is an “Antique” at 54. E is the car’s second owner as of 2006, the car’s first owner drove it up and down Parley’s Canyon (I-80 to Park City) daily, and she has driven it to work in Kansas and here for 12 years. So it is peppered with rock chips and well salted, plus it was not garaged and tree sap and bird-poo took a toll. I did quite a bit of online diy tutorials, and each car panel that I dealt with improved. By my last fix I wanted to go back and redo my first fix, but there are still more fixes to go…

Doing it right requires removing the wheels and grinding out the dead metal inside the wheel well and out, then sandblasting, then rebuilding the surface. I decided to go with the POR-15 system to seal and rebuild. POR-15 requires chemically etching the metal to cure the surface and allow the polymer coating to adhere to a chemically altered steel surface. This is the best method for keeping rust from returning, and the rather lengthy and problematic process dovetailed with my patina work on bronze- the logic behind it is much stronger than other systems. The polymer surface can be painted with other matching polymers from the POR-15 catalogue, and recently they added a primer coat that allows body paint. So I ordered in the matching Subaru pearl black and clearcoat.


Look for a daily-driver Suby from the 90’s, and you’ll probably see this wheel-well issue.


This little spot at the front of the panel goes under the trim, and well back into the wheel well. Still a learning curve on this side, but much improved from the driver’s side. I have all the finished pictures at the end of the post…



This is my first run at the whole system, the finished drivers side, an embarrassment aesthetically, but solid on the rust triage. The entire inside of the wheel well is now POR-15 to metal, with their rubberized coating as an over-layer. All the body work is done with a polymer putty that does not absorb moisture like a paste i.e. Bondo. Figuring all that out is part of the bad surfacing, and the rest is just gaining experience.


Other than the lumpy triage, the paint line shows because I did not go heavy enough with my color layers and should have done more clear coat layers. Sanding and buffing thin paint exposed all these issues and more (crackle), and I had no choice but to leave it alone or make it worse. I found better instructors online, and tried to trouble-shoot and change things up. (see the little spot of rust below the tail light? got that seamlessly on the next round.)


After I thought I’d fixed the area, this original paint shattered off of the car due to my use of wood shims to hold the rubber trim out from the panel. I used foam shims from then on- a suggestion of Elizabeth’s!


The windshield is to the L, and had a lot of rust along and under the rubber seal to the windshield (yellow tape marks the worst of them). Many rock chips had blossomed much more widely than it seemed from the dimples in the paint. Once I started grinding them out, I saw that the triage was going to be vast. The marks along the rest of the roof and sunroof are from bird poops. Bird poo is like Alien blood, it etches in and burns through to the metal.


Another view of the windshield roof line, the pink and black area under the yellow tape has been etched and is turning the metal peacock and the rust to black.


This was a dimple of damage from bird poo that erupted under the paint. Now etched and ready for polymer.


The rubber windshield barrier is lifted with foam shims made from our work-out mat. This will take a few days of curing the polymer, and moving the shims for new polymer. All the black is the polymer, and the white rings around it is the car’s primer coat.


The polymer is a brush-on, and needs a bit of sanding after it cures. It cures nearly as hard as metal, and much harder than the auto-paint, which makes sanding it a problem.


These are nearly all of the bird poos. I thought I’d do them first. Taped off and the car bagged out in plastic.


I had this idea…direct the spray paint in a smaller area. It worked well at first, but loaded up with runny paint and had to be tossed. While it worked it was pretty trick- but burned through the paint as well.


Three layers of POR-15 primer coat, with some soft and hard edges to blend out.


This is what the tube allowed- focused spray layer out to a dusting allowing a hard tape line thin enough to sand out after peeling back the tape.


Sanded smooth and ready for new tape.


The black under the clear-coat is the POR-15 bulge- and the trouble I had sanding it flat before the primer coat. Anything you don’t get perfect always shows up on the next layer, or the next.


I use a thin frog tape to minimize my paint lines. I’ll be wetsanding the entire roof, as it is in pretty rough shape, and hope I can blend it all.


Tape removed and the topcoat will cure for two days at least before wet sanding. I’m getting braver about sanding the car and will sand the entire band between the windshield and the sunroof, and paint and clear coat the entire portion.


After rough-sanding with 600 grit, I have to primer coat the POR-15 so it can accept auto paint.


I include the worst corner of the sunroof as well, and spray it on in three layers creating fairly heavy tape lines.


The heavier primer layer allows me to smooth out bumpy issues with the POR-15 with more wet-sanding.


4 layers of color coat and 5 layers of clear coat. Set to cure.


This run of door panel was a mess, and I included it as well.


With sanding, the matte finish of the clear coat will go shiny and I hope it will blend.


While I’m waiting for the roof to cure, I fix deep scratches on each panel bordering the trunk. I think the original owners put a tie-down ski rack on the car. This side came out flawlessly (it was in line with the blue reflection).


This side was my first attempt, and still shows some damage. However the mirror-level reflection of the wet sanding corrected the slight permutations in the original paint.


Here is the area between the windshield and the sunroof, sanded and buffed out.


I pulled a dent out of the front quarter panel that had popped off the orange running light, then did a little skin coat to correct. Could have done a few more skin layers, but it blends…


This is the rear panel I started with, that has the issues. From a step away they blend in.


This is the improved technique on the passenger side rear wheel well- from a step away.


Here is the much better body work- this angle gives a clear unblemished line over the fender. The paint is layered much better and blended nicely compared to the other side.


The windshield is to the R, the clouds reflect on the roofline. You can see a few areas of the POR-15 near the rubber border that I could not sand down perfectly without ruining the rubber (or removing the windshield).


Here is the rest of the roof. Some areas blended in perfectly, and others remained a bit hazy- this is from my spray paint having a bit of orange-peel, and not wanting to strip through the original clear-coat. So I backed off on perfection and accepted it as markedly better.


This is a bird poo on the trunk that spanned the seam line. I wet sanded on the L side of the seam and just buffed on the R side. The wet sand removed it. The original clear coat is not at all consistent across panels and pillars, I burned through in one small spot on a pillar and so take a lot of “fixables” as fixed problems to allow.


This is the drivers rear wheel panel again, showing that the earlier image discussing how bad it is may not be quite as bad- as that image captured it at its very worst angle.


Inside the trunk is also all new. There was an issue with the drain plug under the spare tire that led to a long triage with POR-15, rubber coating, and creating a new cover panel for the spare to match the old water damaged one, new carpet, and a sound baffle. And now you can open it with the key again. Plus new speakers.


Black Paint is the hardest to work with, of course, but there were other issues as well. LIke the strip-down & re-seam of the bottom area of  the passenger door with POR-15, and repaint. Two dings in the windshield are also fixed, along with a hole in each foglight. I sanded and repainted the SUBARU lettering on the rear panel, all silver again. Fixed a cracked headlight. Used glass compounding with the buffer to remove most of the skids from the power window on the driver’s side. Used a special liquid to renew the rubber seals and hood scoop. Wet sanded some panels with my buffer, and used a “deep cut” pad and cutting gel to remove 20 years of swirls and dings, then moved to a less aggressive shining gel, then wax and polish. From here you can’t even see all the work I still have to do on the hood.          A week later I thought I’d clean and lube the sunroof, as it can be a bit sticky and slow. It had rust along the rail seam to the inside of the headliner on both sides, and along the front wall. All this was ground out and POR-15ed, plus I had to rebuild some of the worst rust rotted areas with fiberglass and POR15.  As long as I was at it I ground down the bottom of the driver side door, which had rusted a bit, and POR15ed it as well. Then I ground down the peeling paint on the rear window’s aluminum stripping, and POR15, then painted a POR15 rubber coating to blend the bracketing seals and the AL stripping. Also stripped and repainted the windshield wiper arms. All the metal dust and rust dust meant washing the car and detailing the interior again. At some point I’ll get on to basic rock-chip repair… 



Look at any Impreza from the 1990’s and there is probably rust behind the rear wheels, along the bottom of the doors, and assorted little mystery spots. Here I have cut out a section of rust_rot. E noticed it when a fin of metal protruded after she power washed her car.


Here is a chunk of the rusty mess that was cut away.


The first image shows the aluminum screening fit to the hole, with straws behind it to pull water from the wheel well. This is after bondo and grinding and smoothing the bondo, then prepping for paint.


Better than a big rusty hole.


Triage always leaves fine scarring.


The underside of the passenger door was blowing out as well.


It was just a matter of grinding back to clean metal, base coat, and topcoat. easy.


This is a spot that returned, so redo grind/paint.


Invisible enough.


You have to get pretty close to see it, and know where to look.



The Subaru Impreza is 15 years old and has needed some TLC for awhile now. A few years back when I set up the new studio I ground out a few rust blooms and repainted them. I shied away from the wheel well by the gas tank, thinking sparks and gas fumes and “boom!”. My local mechanic is amazed at the car’s mechanical fortitude, and predicting that it will last another 100k miles thought a little body work at our friendly local auto body shop a worthwhile investment. I swung it by for an estimate and they recommended replacing the whole panel- parts and labor were about 1/4 what we paid for the car. So we ignored that whole scenario and since then I’ve noticed auto body guys welding all around under cars and got over my jitters. This spot was left to fester for three years, and I had to cut away about 7 inches x 3 inches of corroded steel. My guess is that a drain between the body panels was plugged with dirt, as both walls needed cutting.

With this big of an area to float, I used a formable mesh wire. I cut straws and put them between the body panels and behind the wire to allow water to pour through. Then it was bondo time. I skinned the wire with bondo and let that set up, then did another layer of bondo from behind and filled in more on the front. I ground that down and added another layer to the front. Then it was tooling with the pneumatic disk grinder to shape it to match the panels. It could have used another thin layer of bondo and fussy finish sanding, but I had lost the sun and the bondo was kicking slowly enough that I brought out the heat gun to help it along. I decided that “good enough” was going to be good enough and wiped the area down with acetone and taped off the boundary. Then it was primer coat, then topcoat just as the light faded and the temperatures sank below spray-paint level.

We’ll see if the repair survives a Utah winter.

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