Front collision, support repair: replace or pull/bend? - Lexus IS Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 12-21-2016, 02:16 PM Thread Starter
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Front collision, support repair: replace or pull/bend?

Couldn't stop in time and snuck up under the back of a pickup which promptly sat down on the front.

The radiator support in this front area is all welded to the engine compartment; should I consider pulling this damage out, or just bite the bullet and replace it all? The hood will be new, and I'd like everything to align back up properly w/o being unsightly.

Also, where should I be looking for this radiator support part(s)? Has anyone done this replacement before and can recommend which parts I'll need/want?
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2017, 07:04 PM Thread Starter
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I assume I need to use a weld-through primer when covering the existing members w/ the new pieces? Or am I safe to clean them real nice, lay the welds, and then hit them all with a nice self-etch primer? I'm worried about rust, mainly where the faces mate but there is no real seal. Maybe there's a goop I should stick in between before clamping and welding?
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2017, 07:42 PM
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Good job on the pickup! Wow, sorry to see you had an accident

I'm not quite sure what's involved with your task but my experience with welding is to clean it very well before (bare metal) and after (back to shiny bare metal) then use a good primer and paint afterwards. The goal is to prevent any moisture from getting in where the material was heated.

Excuse my ignorance but what exactly gets welded on that piece?

'03 Wagon - Stock
'02 Sedan - Not Stock

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2017, 07:55 PM Thread Starter
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There are ~60 spot welds, 30 per side. There are two welds all along the outsides of the members, where they attach.

My concerns in the above post are about the (relatively) large box member faces, but now ... (keep reading)

In this case, I think my best bet is to:
1) clean up all of the remaining metal from my drilling; remove burrs, dolly flat, etc.
2) clean and prime (coat; cover) all of the surfaces, let dry; repeat until satisfied
3) carefully position and clamp all members in place (or at critical points, if low on clamps)
4) clean all drill holes once more w/ bit / w/e
4) weld all spots (this is done by using a welding spoon on the back of the hole, and filling the gap that remains)
5) clean exposed welds and prime all weld points
6) done.

The theory above (in this post) is the same as from the factory: all of the surfaces are protected, and once they're welded they won't move and e.g. rub the coatings off. So, do the same for repair. The trick is that I'm welding holes rather than spot welding flanges. I can ensure a proper ground for welding at convenient/exposed faces and re-finish if needed. Welding spoon is to help contain the weld and shielding gasses; the spoon can be e.g. copper or aluminum (something w/ higher melting pt.); I plan to use a folded aluminum sheet (license plate) clamped behind the spots.

Given the above, the only thing I'm really concerned with now is getting to the backsides of the welds that are within the box members. There are ~8 per box; box is ~ 1.5 x 6 inches.

https://goo.gl/photos/QyNCXeiAejUtmGPX6

Also, Butler Auto Group / Lexus South Atlanta is a pain to deal w/ when there's issues: they listed the part for $100 less than others, but claimed they received four damaged units in a row, but apparently this doesn't register as an issue worth contacting the customer about. Needless to say, I canceled my order and ponied up to a local dealer who had the part in two days. Anyway, the part they sold me was damaged; finish scratched and surface rust showing, as well as being bent in a few places. Maybe BAG / LSAP wasn't wrong after all, but I have zero time for being vehicle-less. I don't know if it's even worth taking up the issue at this point.

Additionally, don't keep any hopes for the parts you're taking off -- unless you get the spot welds exactly perfectly drilled out / removed (note, they're variable size, and a handful are in awkward locations), you're not going to get anywhere close to saving it.

Oh, and last, if you attempt to do this, make sure you evacuate your refrigerant before you setup the vehicle for the work. Either that or you'll be calling e.g. a mobile HVAC tech to do the evac. for you. If you're "lucky", you'll have lost the refrigerant in the accident and won't have to worry about it.

Last edited by reklipz; 01-16-2017 at 08:06 PM.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2017, 09:03 PM
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Quote:
In this case, I think my best bet is to:
1) clean up all of the remaining metal from my drilling; remove burrs, dolly flat, etc.
2) clean and prime (coat; cover) all of the surfaces, let dry; repeat until satisfied
3) carefully position and clamp all members in place (or at critical points, if low on clamps)
4) clean all drill holes once more w/ bit / w/e
4) weld all spots (this is done by using a welding spoon on the back of the hole, and filling the gap that remains)
5) clean exposed welds and prime all weld points
6) done.
Why are you even asking for help?

Does the part have predrilled holes where you are to place the welds or dimples?

My only advice would be, if you drill all the way through both layers, you'll need to plug weld it. I assume that's what the "spoon" is for? I usually use a brass bar (or aluminum if I have to) when welding a hole shut. I think copper is preferred but pretty much any non-ferrous metal will work. On the other hand, instead of drilling all the way through, you can grind off only the top layer of material at the weld, that way you can do a proper spot weld.... either method is totally fine. If you do have to fill a hole, the brass bar method is priceless for a clean weld with no mess on the backside.

I assume there are going to be some really tight spots in there where a drill, grinder, and even welder is going to take some skill to access so obviously be prepared for both spot and plug welding.

Knowing you though, I have a feeling you'll pull it off just fine! Post some progress results when you get started.

'03 Wagon - Stock
'02 Sedan - Not Stock

"There's nothing like waiting and getting exactly what you want."
-Hiral

Last edited by blkdout; 01-16-2017 at 09:12 PM.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-16-2017, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blkdout View Post
Why are you even asking for help?
I don't know, some sort of reassurance I guess, . I've never done this before.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blkdout View Post
Does the part have predrilled holes where you are to place the welds or dimples?
Oh yeah, good question. No, the factory used spot welds on all of these joints (like, electric arc/current-weld thing I imagine), so the new part is all solid sheet/flange. I thought to try and save the flange on the existing sheet, but I couldn't be bothered w/ the drilling and tools I had on hand.

Most of the holes are accessible from both sides, except for the ones on the box member; the ones around the headlight may be tricky to weld from underneath, too. I suppose on the box member, I could clean up/repair the holes I made, drill new holes in the new radiator support members to align w/ fresh box, and clean and spot weld to the box. For the other hard to hit bits, I may be able to weld a strip of the now scrap radiator member to fill the void on the car and drill holes in the new piece and plug/spot weld. Maybe there's a better option; my worry would be about some of the loose pieces where the holes reached the edges, they should be tacked down somehow (or removed/replaced).

Thanks for the advice, and yes, I was originally thinking I would be drilling and using the spoon w/e each weld, as each one being entirely through and through (hence step 4; though "clean" was poor word choice).

I'll be sure to take and post more pics.

Re: plug/spot weld: are you suggesting I leave the flanges complete, and e.g. "weld through" one of the layers, instead of plugging a hole? I've never done that before; does it work well?

Last edited by reklipz; 01-16-2017 at 09:24 PM.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-21-2017, 05:52 PM Thread Starter
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Did a few practice plug welds w/ the welder today -- some of the welds shouldn't pose much issue, but on the thinner metal, I think I'm going to have a heck of a time keeping the metal from just melting away. I can only hope that the small mass of the scraps I tested with is a significant factor, and that mounting a hunk of copper to the back of the sheet when welding the real thing will help.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-21-2017, 09:07 PM
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Sorry, I forgot to get back to you on this....

Quote:
Re: plug/spot weld: are you suggesting I leave the flanges complete, and e.g. "weld through" one of the layers, instead of plugging a hole? I've never done that before; does it work well?
Basically, either or works just as well. I think with a job like this you might run into situations where you have to use both methods but I'm not sure what all you have on your plate there.

Glad you started practicing. What welder are you using?

'03 Wagon - Stock
'02 Sedan - Not Stock

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-22-2017, 11:14 AM Thread Starter
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I believe the welder is probably the cheapest 120 V / 20 A input you can buy in stores in the USA; it's a Northern Industrial "Flux Core 125":
Ironton 125 Flux-Core Welder — 115 Volts, 125 Amp | MIG Flux Core Welders| Northern Tool + Equipment



I've been using it w/ the lowest settings: 1 of 2 for voltage, and 1-2 of 10 for wire feed. I'm gearing up for some more practice welds, and then I'm going to hit the welds on thicker material on the car.

---

Just trying to lay/push a bead on clean metal; ~1 inch distance before I stopped because I thought I burned through; moving rather quickly.



Back side of above:


Trying to lay a bead, for real (was cool to touch):


Playing around; in order:
1. bottom right: first attempt welding around plug; moved rather quickly.
2. top right: smaller (size I'll be dealing with) hole, approached the same as #1 .
3. bottom left: small hole inside bigger hole; attempted to melt the top layer to the bottom, as opposed to laying a bead at the seam. worked okay, but lots of burn through and eating away of top material.
4. center glob: I placed an ~5mm thick 10x15 cm slab of copper behind the back of the plug and tried to just fill it up. copper was not quite flush w/ material.


Backside of playing around (left is still left):


I think my first two plug weld attempts worked best: move quickly and essentially lay a bunch of "fast tacks". I don't think it's worth it to extend the idea to many few tacks w/ cooling between; that'll be far too time consuming and error prone. I think I can easily get the copper slab flush w/ the welds on the thinner materials (around the headlights), in hopes of helping w/ burn through concerns.

Bigger versions can be seen in the album: https://goo.gl/photos/QyNCXeiAejUtmGPX6

---

Three welds complete, tacks for remaining four in place:


Next round of tacking:


Final pass:


Finished w/ this on both sides, so it's not moving. Next is to put in a few of the critical structural bits around the headlights/fenders. I'm not too worried about alignment; the way this thing fits in around the box member and all of the pts it has to align with makes it pretty fool proof, in my judgement. I compared my alignment by eye w/ my "before" photos, we'll see how it pans out.

It's not evident in the photos above, but no amount of wire brush is able to clear out the plugs for welding, even w/o all of the clamping in the way. I am scraping out the surfaces with an awl before welding (Phillips screwdriver).
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Last edited by reklipz; 01-22-2017 at 03:03 PM.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 01-29-2017, 07:21 PM Thread Starter
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I settled on some aluminum oxide grinding stones on my die grinder to clean up the weld job. I used an angle grinder w/ a metal grinding wheel initially; obviously struggled to get in the corners. The Harbor Freight kit was cheap enough, but the Bosch bits clearly dominated; I used half of one on more than 3/4 of the job. Didn't touch the Husky stones. Also, PPE is a must; you're an idiot if you don't wear it. Ears included; breathing mask recommended (very dusty after a while).



There were some inclusions; I did some re-welding on bits to account for some poor penetration or large inclusion. Whoever said it had to be pretty... . I burned through in one spot, but it'll be fine I imagine.




I used a couple wire wheels and cup to clean things up as best I could; I wiped all of the surfaces I cared about down with some acetone on a clean rag (old shirt), and then layered the can of self-etch primer until it was empty. I used a propane heater w/ the garage door mostly closed (big garage w/ escape to attic) to help the primer adhere and cure. It seems to have worked well enough.





Collateral damage.



I use this little box for so many things; money well spent. Obligatory PC (server) power supply.


I've got the radiator mounted and the hood support bracket installed, the critical electrical bandaged (untested; passenger ABS, bumper lights are horked). I need to change the oil, top off the coolant, reattach power steering loop and deal w/ lost fluid, swap the hood, repair or swap the filter box (I have a short "cold air" w/ some filter on it from the other car that seemed to work well enough for .75k mile to get it home, but I don't think the MAF was installed in any sort of precise manner). I need to replace the headlights, and I plan to leave the A/C condenser out and the compressor unplugged until spring when I'll have it re-filled. The horns and bumper lighting need repaired at some point, along w/ a new bumper. The fenders appeared unharmed, fortunately.

I also have to figure out what the assortment of nuts/bolts/washers I have left go to; some are obvious, some not so much...

Last edited by reklipz; 02-08-2017 at 12:33 AM.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-07-2017, 11:36 AM Thread Starter
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I picked up some JDM halogen lights to replace the broken USDM HIDs; I'll be installing them today along w/ a new hood and bumper cover and this thing is road-worthy again.

Question: I didn't realize that Altezza's came w/ halogen lamps (no HID + leveling unit); do I need to concern w/ the light projection pattern (blinding oncoming traffic), or can I just install these and be on my merry? I know there are some wiring concerns (9006 conn vs HID-related conn.s) and potential fitment issues, but these are easily surmounted.

-- later --

I wound up not using the JDM headlights as I didn't want to re-wire things just yet; I swapped in the donor car's for the time being. I hope to combine the JDMs w/ my broken ones to retain HID and level-control. I can post detail pics if anyone is interested.

After attaching the fenders, headlights, and hood, things line up surprisingly well. I took it for a drive, though I still have no bumper/well/under covers, and it seems to run as well as it did before. Cooling system seems to work properly, though I need to confirm the fans work and that the small bit of coolant loss was indeed just due to overfilling. I'll probably swap the bumper cover and call things good while I tend other projects for a time.

Last edited by reklipz; 02-08-2017 at 12:46 AM.
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