Wheel Well Replacement

This project’s purpose is to rectify a problem pertaining to there being a hole in the rear floor of the vehicle. At some point, someone that owned this vehicle before me decided it was an idea to remove the wheel well from the rear hatch floor. This project aims to put a wheel well back in the car.

The first step was to clean up the metal from the donor vehicle that was left over. The car was apparently a Colorado car and the underside was entirely like this.

I started by heating up the edge with a heat gun and then simply pulling at it with an assortment of plyers. This worked just fine and it came off quite easily. The downside is that it left over a bunch of rubber adhesive from the original installation. This would get grinded down later for a flush fit.

After removing most of the crustiness, you can see all of the areas that needed some slight fiberglass repair. This was my first ever attempt at fiberglass, and I have to say I was pretty disappointed with the result. In the future I would opt not to use fiberglass sheets + 3M Fiberglass Infused Bondo. It was simply too dense to work with, and that is because it is meant to be used primarily as a filler rather than a fiberglass resin. Fiberglass resin would have allowed me to get more layers of sheet up there which would have made it both smooth and more uniform, as well as stronger.

That’s something to keep in mind for next time.

Anyways, I proceeded to mix up the stuff and apply it very very liberally over the repair surfaces. Filling in the holes with this stuff was not the easiest. I also learned a lesson in curing-speed, as the curing agent worked pretty quickly. Later on I would add a bit less to get a slower cure time.

After the initial application, I waited a day for it to cure and then did some sanding. Wearing a 3M respirator as to not die an early death, I spent some time sanding and priming. For some reason I had determined that the garage was the best place to sand down fiberglass. I was wrong, as I am writing this after spending a day hosing down and wiping down every surface in the garage to remove the dust.

It came out okay, although not as smooth as I would like. It could probably have one or even two more coats applied and then sanded down, but I opted to go straight to paint as it is a wheel well, not something that will be seen ever.

Paint turned out okay at first. Used Rustoleum primer and Matte Black paint for the inside and Plastidip for the outside. It was soon after discovered that the layer of plastidip was far too thin and it peeled when attempting to install this item into the car. Later went back over the whole thing with some black trim paint after an undocumented second repair job due to some damage while test-fitting.

I glued my hole in! Using 3M two-part panel adhesive, this was a breeze. It was also very messy. That stuff is crazy tacky, and crazy black in color, leading to tons of smears all over my body. Anyways, it went in pretty well. Not quite the OEM fit, but it will do. The reason it looks like it isn’t flush to the body is because it isnt. The original wheel well was cut at the edge, leaving the “lip” rubber-glued onto the metal still. I was not about to cut any more metal out of this shell as it is a very clean, rust-free shell, so I opted to adhere the panel over the old panel. This also leads to a better seal on the underside as the rubber is in place. I glued in from the bottom side as well, then added some wheels to weigh it down during curing.

Next up — Carpet install. It is currently the original Ecru color, which will need to be cleaned up and dyed/fabric replaced. I am not sure how the cardboard backing will hold up to being dyed, but this would be my first preference, otherwise I will have it re-upholstered to match the rest of the car (black). I am still in the process of acquiring this from the same guy I got the wheel well from, as I forgot it at his house. \