Here’s 11 tips for us­ing a stud welder and slide ham­mer to fix old col­li­sion dam­age and prep for paint.

It’s a well-known fact that a high­qual­ity paintjob is ex­pen­sive. Body shops in­vest a lot in their fa­cil­i­ties, their tools, and their staff, and we’re just talk­ing about nor­mal col­li­sion re­pair. Add the spe­cial needs for restor­ing vin­tage cars, and the cost of a paintjob mul­ti­plies. How ex­pen­sive can it be? Get­ting out of paint jail for un­der five figures is a real ac­com­plish­ment if you can pull it off.

What’s not well known is that most of the cost for a show-qual­ity paintjob isn’t in the ac­tual paint and ma­te­ri­als, it’s in the prep la­bor — specif­i­cally stuff like rust re­pair and fix­ing old col­li­sion dam­age. It turns out that much of this re­quires more pa­tience than skill or money, and with a few in­ex­pen­sive tools can be done at home. We pre­vi­ously cov­ered the ba­sics of ham­mer and dolly work in a previous story, but that alone may leave you short in ar­eas that are hard to reach, or that have tight com­pound curves.

You could by­pass these re­pairs by us­ing new sheet­metal if it’s avail­able, but from a fit and au­then­tic­ity stand­point, reusing the dam­aged orig­i­nal pan­els and re­pair­ing crunched cor­ners and dents your­self with a stud welder and slide ham­mer makes more sense and saves dol­lars. Do­ing it the right way, how­ever, is the key to ac­tu­ally sav­ing money. For that, we turned to ex­pert Ge­off Gates, who op­er­ates one of the top mus­cle car restora­tion shops on the West Coast. His shop — Al­loy Mo­tors in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia — spe­cial­izes in Mopars, so we asked Ge­off to show us the step-by-step pro­ce­dure for re­mov­ing dents with a stud welder and slide ham­mer us­ing our ’68 Ply­mouth Valiant project as the sub­ject.

Ge­off ex­plains: “Some­times you can’t get to the back of a dent to ham­mer and dolly it out. Back in the day at my dad’s shop, they’d drill holes, screw a slide ham­mer in, and pull it out. They’d leave the holes to help the body filler grab.” Us­ing this out­dated tech­nique on an im­por­tant vin­tage restora­tion to­day though is the road to ruin. “I spend a ton of time fix­ing this type of work on my cus­tomers’ cars, weld­ing holes shut, and work­ing the metal,” Gates says. Thanks to mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, there’s a bet­ter way.

A stud welder re­places the drilling of holes by weld­ing a mild steel pin to the body­work. The pin pro­vides the slide ham­mer with a pre­cise im­pact point for mov­ing metal. A stud welder is a very in­ex­pen­sive tool that you’ll want to have

if you’re do­ing your own body­work; you can get one from your lo­cal Har­bor Freight dealer for as lit­tle as $99 (Chicago Elec­tric model 61433). A good com­pan­ion to that is Har­bor Freight’s 14-piece slide-ham­mer set (model 62959) for about $25. Even if you load up with a ham­mer and dolly set and a few boxes of studs, you’re all in for un­der well $200.

Use these 11 tips to take nasty dents out of your Mopar and save big bucks on your paintjob bill. You’ll also have the sat­is­fac­tion of do­ing it your­self!

Here are the tools we’ll be us­ing: a pin welder (you can get a hob­by­ist one from Har­bor freight and they work fine), slide ham­mer, 2-inch grinder, cut­off wheel, and for deeper pulls, you might use a MIG welder on the pins.

You need to get all the paint out of the dents so you can weld the pin to the bare metal. Use a 2-inch roll grinder with 80-grit abra­sive.

When you pull the trig­ger, you’ll get some sparks. Hold the trig­ger for a few beats; most of these tools have timers built in so you can just hold the trig­ger un­til the tool cuts off.

See that glow! The con­trolled elec­tri­cal arc just welds the pin to the metal.

You want to weld the pin where the most ten­sion is: deep into the dent. With a fresh pin loaded in the stud welder, push the tool all the way to the metal.

The metal moved out, much closer to where it should be. Now we have to get rid of this pin that’s welded to the fender.

Here’s a close-up of the pin welded in. A lit­tle bit of heat gets into the metal, which will shrink it a bit, but that’s bet­ter than drilling a hole.

Put the slide ham­mer on the pin and work the wheel on the end to lock it onto the pin.

A cou­ple of pulls back on the slide ham­mer while keep­ing an eye on the metal move­ment is all you need. You don’t need to wail on it, just tap, tap, tap like you would with a ham­mer and dolly.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, the pins pull out and leave a hole in the metal. No big deal. Just Mig-weld that lit­tle hole shut.

Ge­off just cuts them off close with a “cookie wheel” abra­sive disc on a die grinder. The,n he uses a 2-inch grinder to take off the rest.

Then just grind the tack welds smooth. The less body filler, the bet­ter. You can’t do this in the middle of a big panel, but on an edge like this it works re­ally well.

Some­times if Ge­off can’t pull any fur­ther on a heavy ten­sion area like this he’ll MIG some tack welds to fill the low spot with metal.

If you have a big­ger dent in a high-ten­sion area and the stud welder just can’t stick the pins well, don’t be afraid to Mig-weld the pin to the metal.

Two tack welds on opposite sides of the pin is all it takes to get it to stick re­ally well.

This dent re­quired an ex­treme an­gle to pull. It was likely done by the cor­ner of the bumper ping­ing the fender in a lit­tle ac­ci­dent.

Pay at­ten­tion to the an­gle of your pull. Look at the way the dent was made and pull it in re­verse.

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