Holes in rocker panels

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Holes in rocker panels

Post by bigdoug » Mon Nov 27, 2017 7:01 pm

So, a week ago the rocker panel cover on the passenger side fell off. Oops. Before slapping it back on, I decided to go ahead and examine the panel for any rust spots and clean them up and re-paint them. That is, until I found a squishy spot in the back near the rear wheel. Some prying and poking later and I was able to remove most of the rust and leave a hole in the rocker panel. Yay.
IMG_20171127_213325.jpg (76.72 KiB) Viewed 1727 times
I thought I could bondo it closed, but part of the problem was there was a ton of fine sandy dirt in that spot, moist dirt that probably caused the problem. So I considered that I could just clean up the edges, paint and seal the edges to prevent more rust, and put the covers back on, and that would give a place for dirt and moisture to escape.

And then I pulled off the driver side rocker cover.
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Even worse, and it had rusted through to the rear wheel well space. And a ton more dirt around the rust hole. I blame that little shelf in front of the rear wheel where dirt seems to easily accumulate. So, what do?

I could still just clean up the edges and paint them and keep a hole of sorts so dirt doesn't get trapped in the rocker tube space. Or, I could bondo the holes shut. Don't have a welder to weld it closed.

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Re: Holes in rocker panels

Post by jolt » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:40 pm

The long term fix is to cut the old rusted panels out and weld in new sheet metal. Anything short of this just a patch job. To get a few more years out of what you have and the seal out dirt, noise, etc.. I would try this:

- Cut out or grind off as much rusted metal as possible. Try to get to some good metal that is rust free and shinny when you grind on it.

- Clean the inside of the rocker panel to remove dirt and scrape off any loose rust. A wire bush in a drill and/or 4" angle grinder cuts the work load on rust removal.

- Cover all the exposed areas (areas that do not have paint on them) with Navel Jelly or similar product that chemically converts rusted steel. Put on at least two to three coats.

- With the inside of the rocker panel clean and coated, spray some expanding foam into the rocker panel hole. If you have used expanding foam before you should know what to expect. The stuff is very sticky and will push out. You may want to use a plastic trash can bag to help hold the foam in as it expanse out the hole.

- Once the foam is setup, you can trim off the extra foam to match the outside of the rocker panel with a knife or hack saw blade.

- You can try to paint the area after this but most paint solvents will eat the foam away. You may want to try some plastic paint on some cut off piece of foam first to see how it reacts.

- Put your plastic cover panel back on to cover it all back up.

At least the hole will be sealed and the navel jelly will slow the rusting down for a while. If you do not get the area clean, the foam will not have a good seal with the metal. This can cause rust to forum even faster because moisture can get trapped between the metal and the foam. A lot of pickup boxes used foam from the factory around the wheel wells. This is a hack way of sealing it but it is cheap, not a lot of work, and you will not see it as long as the plastic panel is covering it. You'll get a few mores years of dust free and reduced noise when driving.

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Re: Holes in rocker panels

Post by Jbenrod » Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:26 pm

I think there must have been more going on than just dirt, salt and grim accumulating on that little shelf in front of the rear wheel.

Does anyone know if there is small access hole or point into that area where one could spray some oil or fluid film to help prevent this type of rust damage?

From looking at the pictures again, I wonder if that plastic mount hole, immediately above the damaged area, is where the moisture was making it's way into that panel? We need to collectively figure out what the heck was going on here so other owners can try to nip this one in the bud before it gets to this point! :evil:

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Re: Holes in rocker panels

Post by Jbenrod » Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:39 pm

I think this is worth bumping again for all to check this area before we get into winter. It appears the damage can easily go unnoticed, so If you can find a port or hole for access, I would spray something to prevent rust into this problem area.

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Re: Holes in rocker panels

Post by jolt » Mon Sep 24, 2018 9:21 pm


What you are talking about is rust proofing the car. This is what is done when you get your car rust proofed. They drill holes in the panels to stick a wand in and spray the coating into the doors, panels, etc... The drilled holes are then plugged with rubber or plastic plugs. You can drill your own access holes and spray in what you want. I have used LPS #3 in the past to seal the bottoms of door panels. The stuff comes out really thin, but as it sits over time, it thickens to a thick waxy substance. Because it is thin, it flows into cracks and then sets up so that it does not get washed out. You need to do this when the car is new or before the first winter. Once rust starts, you are not going to get rid of it. You can slow it down but you are not going to stop it. You also have to keep the drain holes in the panels clean and do not plug up the drain holes with rust proofing material.

LPS #3 : https://www.amazon.com/2-Pack-LPS-Premi ... B01MQEJVIB
https://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalog/ ... s_rust.php

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Re: Holes in rocker panels

Post by zbyers » Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:23 am

I know on mine, part of the rust formed from one of the plugs in the rocker cover being missing. As such, even more accumulated inside of the rear wheel well and I now have a simliar hole there. That shelf in the front of the rear wheel wells also does not help the cause. Nearly every Vibe I have looked at in a northern state has pinholes in that shelf at this point. Inevitable, of course, but disappointing when otherwise the car is in tip-top shape. I need to get mine fixed before snow flys.
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Re: Holes in rocker panels

Post by ColonelPanic » Sat Oct 20, 2018 7:35 am

Happy 16th birthday - you have cancer!

Driver's side isn't too bad.
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Passenger side - not so great...
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There was a lot of broken metal on the shelf on the passenger's side sitting there loose. I went ahead and vacuumed the chunks out today. Clearly a permanent fix is a lost cause, but I suppose I will try some DIY things to see if I can at least slow the cancer's progress. Poor old girl. :cry:

I am fortunate to have the luxury of leaving her parked when the roads are salty. Haven't really driven her much over the last few winters.
03 Vibe base. Born 10/14/2002 06:07 AM
Neptune. Auto, Moon & Tunes, power package. 135k mi.


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Re: Holes in rocker panels

Post by Derf » Thu Nov 22, 2018 6:11 pm

Mine started to have the same issue, combination of metal seams, cupped area that holds crud and holes for plastic trim. Perfect spot for paint to quickly fail and let rust begin. Encourage everyone to check this area and keep it clean. The only area worse is the front subframe mount :?
2005 #10,524 Neptune Vibe "Bandit" Auto, Moon & Tunes 212k :D
1991 Pontiac Bonneville 3.8L "Granny's Whip" 137k

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