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Time for some rust repair on the Tahoe.

n8in8or

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I'm starting this thread 3.5 weeks into this project. If I had started this thread when I first started the project, this introduction would have read a lot different.... My initial plan was to address the rust I could see taking hold of the quarter panels by cutting it out, welding in some small patch panels and then touch up the paint. I was also going to remove the interior and apply sound deadener on all interior panels. I had a week off of work and I thought I could get most of it done during that time. Weeeeellllllll...... I started taking the truck apart and evaluating the rust and to my dismay I found a LOT more than I expected.....a lot. So now it has almost become a full-on, frame-on restoration! Not exactly what I had planned to be doing this summer, but if I didn't tackle it now, the truck was going to end up being a hulk of rusted-away metal. Some would say that the truck is too far gone, but just about any truck I was to buy near me is going to have varying degrees of this issue. Also repairing the rust is cheaper than buying a new truck. And finally I like that I will know pretty much everything about this truck and have pride in saving it from certain death. I'm starting this thread now with pics and notes from along the way and then hopefully keep it up-to-date after that.
 

n8in8or

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The project started with the removal of the interior. It was fairly straight forward, but a couple of the rear seat seatbelt bolts were stuck in the floor and required some heating with a torch to get them to move. The other tricky part was the rear shoulder belts - they must install the bolts at the factory with windows out because you can’t fit a standard torx bit and ratchet in between the window and the bolt head! I cut a bit and used a ratheting box end wrench to get them out.

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The rear carpet was soaked.....I mean SOAKED and I had no idea! So much black, nasty water ran out of the carpet after draping it over the trash can.

These pics were from just a couple minutes of sitting.

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This is what ran out after about 2 hours of sitting. Unreal.

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I will be installing all new rear door seals for sure. I also think there were some issues at the 3rd brake light that I will be addressing. And then I’m going to remove the roof rack and make sure nothing is leaking there.



The next day I went to the junkyard to cut some metal out of another truck since I can’t buy a patch panel for around the fuel filler door. This was a lot more work than I thought it would be, but I got it done in the end with multiple sawzall blades.

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n8in8or

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Next I continued with the interior removal. I wanted to get it all out so I could be sure to address all rust not only from the outside, but also from the inside. While I was at it, I also wanted to install sound deadener all over the interior so I decided to remove the headliner as well. This was a good couple hours of work but felt good having it all torn down. I had quite a pile of parts in the end and lots of labelled baggies with fasteners. Note that I already have some sound deadener installed. Earlier this summer I tilted the dash down and replaced the HVAC flapper doors. While doing that, I put sound deadener on the firewall and front floor.

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n8in8or

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This is when things got ugly. I removed the running boards and fender flares so I could really evaluate what I had......or maybe didn’t have (like solid metal!)? Yuck.

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I was pretty unhappy to find that there were 3 factory holes in the rear wheel wells that didn’t have any plugs left in them! This couldn’t have been helping the situation.

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The weird thing about the rust on this truck is that the driver side was much worse than the passenger side. It makes sense around the fuel filler door, but even the quarters above the wheels were worse. Weird.
 

n8in8or

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At this point I started taking a good look underneath the truck as well. I could fix the outside, but that would only take care of part of the problem....and would really only delay the inevitable. I decided if I was going to put the effort in I was going to go whole hog and take care of the underside as well. Here I had everything stripped from under the truck behind the transfer case except for the springs and axle. I even had brake lines and the wiring loom removed up to the engine compartment. Those came out the next day.

 

n8in8or

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Here it was, all stripped down underneath. Having the axle out made access to all of the floor and frame so much easier. Next year I want to do some front end upgrades and when I do that I’ll do the front frame around the suspension bits. When I do the transmission swap in the future I’ll take care of the rest of the floor and frame I haven’t gotten to before then.

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n8in8or

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Finally it was time to cut metal out. I took a little out if the driver side quarter and once I realized how far up the inside of the rust extended then I took as much as I could and still have the patch panel fill in the hole.

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Here’s what the inside of what I cut out looked like.

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n8in8or

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After inspecting the rockers more, I decided they were pretty much going to have to completely come off. So to make access better I removed the front fenders and the doors. I put plastic sheeting over the dash to try to keep it clean since I had cleaned it all up during the earlier dash work. I doubt it is helping that much now though (you’ll see).

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And I made another trip to the junkyard because I was going to need more of the quarter around the taillight.

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n8in8or

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Then the REAL surgery began. I placed the patch panels for the quarters up to the body, traced the outline, made a line 1/2” inside of that and began cutting with my body saw.

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Lots of rusty metal came off of the truck!

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n8in8or

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Of course the inner fenders were also rusty.....so those came off as well.

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The inner rockers were also rusty, so I measured the patch panels and cut those out as well.

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At this point I pretty much had all the rust cut out so I prepped for the next phase by removing the foam GM applied to the inner structure. This is how one spot looked after a little scraping and soaking/wiping with xylene.

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n8in8or

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Now it was time for the next phase....sandblasting. I made a makeshift booth by hanging plastic sheeting from the ceiling in an effort to keep the rest of my barn from being covered in dust. I used an old furnace blower pointed toward the door as an exhaust fan and it worked pretty well to keep the dust down inside the booth.

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Last fall I bought a pressure pot sandblaster from my neighbor for $30. I replaced a valve and the deadman valve and it was ready to use.

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And so it began....the going was slow at first.

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n8in8or

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At first I was using 70 grit aluminum oxide from Harbor Freight, but after going through 200 pounds of it at about $1/pound I was over that. I found a place about half an hour from me that sold Black Diamond abrasive. I bought 650 pounds of that for $90....MUCH better!! I’m using what they call the 30/60 blend and it works great! I like it better than the aluminum oxide actually. What he recommended was after each round of blasting, add another 20% or so of new abrasive and then blast again. As long as material was blasting out it was doing work. Eventually part of it breaks down enough it turns to dust that is blown away, but since you are replenishing with fresh abrasive you can keep the cycle going. This worked pretty well for me until the humidity rose, then the lighter material started clumping and would plug at the siphon tee. So I split the abrasive I swept up into 2 piles and then I added a 50/50 mix of used and new abrasive into the pot. This worked ok, but then the humidity rose even more. It was so humid I had a hard time getting it to sift through the screen. So I dumped the abrasive out and started fresh. That was the last round of blasting I did last night so I have yet to start with fresh material again. After putting 100 pounds in the pot I have 150 pounds left in reserve. I think I’ll go get a bit more just to make sure I have enough to keep me in running.


To keep the dust off of me I’m using a Polish surplus dust mask and a pair of coveralls.

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It doesn’t keep it ALL off of me though, this is after about 6 hours of blasting.

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I found that after about 5 rounds of blasting the filter cartridge was getting plugged. There weren’t any replacements readily available so I cut the end of the cartridge off and duct taped a 3M respirator to it - now I have replaceable filters that are readily available. I don’t have a pic of that so I’ll take one later. I really like the gas mask for blasting - it covers a lot of my head and the glass lenses stand up to he abrasive really well. I highly recommend getting one for doing a lot of blasting.



After a bunch of blasting the hose finally wore through. I ordered some hose from McMaster-Carr and I was back in business.

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n8in8or

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So this is where I am after sweating my noogies off in the 100 degree heat index yesterday.

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I have about 28 hours into the sandblasting now. I figure I have about 8 more hours to go on the underside of the truck and then I have the springs, axle, fuel tank skid plate and exhaust to go. I hope to have the blasting done this weekend. Then I will begin cutting out the additional rust holes that I uncovered and welding in new steel will begin. I feel like it will be downhill after the blasting is done....this part of the project has really sucked!!
 
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