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Panel Beating Equipment – The Tools of the Trade

Posted By Revolution Paint & Panel  
09:00 AM

Let's take a look at some of the tools that professional panel beaters use to repair damaged body panels on autos, trucks, and heavy equipment. This work happens in specialised shops where it's not very visible. Beyond the usual tools for removing and installing common fasteners, the panel beating trade has a few tricks up its sleeve.


Revolution Paint & Panel has decades of experience in body repair of commercial trucks and heavy equipment, and has all the most modern panel beating equipment. We are Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast's go-to truck body repair shop, and your one-stop shop for truck panel repairs. Call us on 07 3266 1387 or email enq@revolutionpaintpanel.com.au to find out how we can assist with your needs.


The Old Way and the New Way

In the past, body panel repair often meant working on the damaged metal with handheld tools. Specially shaped hammers and dollies - a dolly is a sort of miniature handheld anvil - were used to bring metal back to its original form, hence the name "panel beating". These classic panel beating tools are still used at times to work small dings and dents, but have largely been superseded. Although few panels actually get beaten these days, the traditional name remains.


In the present day, body panels are made of high-strength steel. It is much tougher and stronger than the mild steel bodies of the past, making it harder to reshape. In commercial work today, bodies are typically disassembled or cut back to good metal, and then a new panel or a flush patch will be installed as needed to restore the original shape.


The same is true of today's body components made from fibreglass or plastic - these can often be repaired, but restoring the original smooth finish is generally not cost-effective. It's better to remove the damaged part and install a good new one.


Sometimes, for an older or unusual vehicle, new body panels may not be available. In this case, the body shop will locate a very good used panel, and work it up to a quality very close to new before installing it to complete the repair.


Cutting and Welding

If a damaged body panel can't be removed, the damaged area will have to be cut out. Rotary abrasive cutting tools are usually used. They leave a fairly smooth edge to the cut, and the cutting wheels are not expensive. Heavy snips may be used to clean up a cut, or in tight areas where the cutting wheel won't go. A gas welding torch may sometimes be used as a cutter, but care has to be taken not to distort the metal because of the high temperature involved.


One of the most used pieces of panel beating equipment is actually a MIG welder. It can weld a wide variety of metals with excellent results, and it's clean and fairly fast. If it is not practical to replace an entire damaged panel, the damaged area may be cut out and a flush welded patch installed, which could consist of the same section taken from a matching recycled vehicle that was damaged in a different area. With a good weld and some light skim filler, the finished patch can be almost invisible.


A handheld spot welder is also very useful in panel repair. Panels are often attached with spot welds at the factory, so it makes sense to repair them with the same method. A spot weld is literally a "spot" of weld. Panels joined in this way will typically have a lot of spot welds in a row. Special drills can be used to cut out the spot welds, so a damaged panel can be removed without cutting through the structure to which it was joined. Then a new panel can be installed with new spot welding.


Filling and Smoothing

A panel repair will usually require a certain amount of work to restore the original surface prior to priming and painting. This may be minimal if a brand new OEM-quality panel has been installed, or it could be extensive if a large or complicated body section was originally damaged. Commercial body work uses the latest filler compounds - highly stable and durable, and they blend in perfectly under primer and paint. Final surface preparation of a repaired area by coarse and fine sanding is still hand work, and as much of an art as it has always been.


Priming and Painting

The part that everyone can see. Modern paint systems are very developed - primers and pigments benefit from years of testing and improvement. They are highly reliable in application and in use. Colour matching to existing paint is a much more scientific process now than it used to be. The colours can be analysed by a portable spectrophotometer and matched exactly, even taking into account the effects of fading and weathering. Often a customer will want to take the opportunity to have a vehicle completely repainted anyway. Nothing looks quite like a full fresh paint job.


Dings and Scratches

Everyday use can leave a multitude of small scratches and scars, especially on commercial trucks and heavy equipment. These are corrected with specialty compounds and small hand tools like spreaders and scrapers, and then sanded smooth before being primed and repainted. Painting is almost always of a small area, so precise colour matching and good feathering technique when applying the paint will be very important.


Putting Panel Beating Equipment to Work for You

Revolution Paint & Panel is ready to tackle the biggest (and smallest) panel repairs on commercial trucks and heavy equipment. We've been doing this for many years, and we know the ins and outs of these sometimes tricky procedures quite well.


We have all the latest panel beating tools, and a certified, highly skilled staff. We can handle very large vehicles in our convenient Narangba Workshop. Call us on 07 3266 1387 or email enq@revolutionpaintpanel.com.au - and we'll get started making your fleet look like new.