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Rust repairs

I have some minor rust around the rear side windows of my 94 suburban (paint is starting to bubble). There is also a small dent in the left rear fender where the metal is actually punctured and, of course, starting to rust. I have some other minor cosmetic issues - very slightly bent hood, clear coat on roof starting to peel, minor rust on rocker panels, stone chips that are all adding up to: I want to get this thing fixed because where it counts (reliability and comfort) the truck has been an absolute trooper and deserves to be maintained. Yeah I know the gas mileage is terrible but seeing as how I only put about three to four thousand on it per year now and it otherwise costs me so little to operate, this is not an issue. Oh and the frame and underside of the truck are pristine and have been oil guarded on a relatively regular basis. Anyway my question involves finding a body shop in this throw-away society that is the least bit interested in doing a non insurance related, cosmetic repair on a vehicle that already draws compliments (even with the above mentioned ‘flaws’). Having worked in the property and casualty business many years ago I am very familiar with the ‘too high’ estimate as code for ‘We don’t want to do this work’ and/or we only restore 1930 Duesenbergs and w/o that Powerball win you simply cannot afford us.

Aside from a basic willingness to quote, what are things to look for in a body shop, other than avoiding those that have more than one free roaming rottweiler or ‘coach works’ in their title and a nicer reception area than my doctor’s office? Would asking to see examples of workmanship or to contact other satisfied customers be considered too anal for what probably amounts, in an insurance collision repair revenue generating universe, to be a fairly modest job?

The only thing I ever trust is word of mouth - and plenty of it. You just start putting out feelers among people that you know asking if they’ve ever had to use any of the body shops local to your area.

Once I’ve gotten feeback on a shop (of whatever kind), it usually pretty easy to tell what a place is like within about 5 minutes of walking in the door.

cigroller is correct…word of mouth is probably the best way to find a body shop.

Your insurance agent probably has an idea of which shops are good and which ones aren’t, so that’s one possible source of information.

From the issues you describe, it sounds like you’re looking at a full paint job with a fair amount of prep work. I hope your expectations on the estimate are in line with that.

You may have trouble finding a shop eager to do this job, but with the mild winter leading to fewer than normal accidents (insurance work) some may be getting “hungry”. Be prepared for it to become more involved than you think it is, however. The Suburbans like many Chevy trucks are infamous for rust. I agree with the others too, go for word of mouth referrals for your best bet shop wise.

Before putting $$ into bodywork, I’d have my mechanic give it a thorough going over, especially looking at the underbody/frame for rust, to make sure big problems aren’t around the corner.

Yeah word of mouth or a private shop with a few classics that they are working on. Don’t be surprised though when the estimate is in the several thousand dollar range. Rust is never just a little, when you notice it. The bubbling around the window will require taking the window out and the rockers may well be shot from the inside. The little bit of clear coat will require refinishing with base and clear. When I was talking to the shop owner that did my hail damage, he was telling me the last gallon of paint he ordered cost him $400. Assume it was urethane and a darker color, but chemicals are not cheap anymore.

Don’t be surprised if you receive a follow up call about additional work being needed once they get in there. Rust is metallic cancer and it’s no different than a doctor operating on a cancerous tumor and then discovering that the cancer has spread once the patient is opened up.

Bing is also right about chemical costs. Paint, thinner, hardeners, etc, etc. have gone way up over the last few years with some colors being far more expensive than others.

On a TV motorcycle show a couple of years back the paint used on a motorcycle was over 4000 dollars a quart, not gallon. Even a gallon at that price would be hard to stomach.

“I have some minor rust around the rear side windows of my 94 suburban (paint is starting to bubble).”

I’m with Bing…It’s not minor. Bubbling occurs from the inside out. The glass needs to be removed and new metal brazed in. You are at an important decision point as the truck will continue to rust in these areas that are difficult to oil. Unless you can find some friend who will do this for you, it will NOT be cheap if you want it done well with no leakage. Expense wise, body repair can be more than mechanics. If it still looks decent now otherwise, you may want to sell. That you treated it with oil, is excellent for a sale but even that has limited value.

Labor just to paint a Suburban is around 40 hrs. Add in labor for repairs 30-40 more hrs. Paint and materials $800-$1000 or more. Replacement Rocker Panels $200 or more. Lets say labor rate is $50 per hr. 80 x 50=$4000.00 + $1000 + $400=$5400. just for the EST. It will more after they get into it. No shop will give a warranty for that work.
Drive it as is.

I guess it’s hard to go wrong with advice from an ‘oldbodyman’ on this issue!

I did previously have the bubbling problem around the left rear window (fixed almost eight years ago w/o needing to remove the glass) and guess what? Still no signs of any rust. I’ve owned the truck for over ten years now (it had about 40 thousand miles on it when I bought it in 2000). Other than the lousy gas mileage I’ve never had any problems and have serviced and maintained it religiously. I know it’s not worth a great deal (in fact I’d probably be hard pressed to get anywhere near 5 grand for it) but I just don’t like any of the newer stuff. Too many expensive gee-gaws that I don’t need and can cost a lot to fix and too complicated for me to do a tune-up myself. In fact, if I had my way I’d probably settle for an upper seventies carbureted version with a nice two tone blue and white paint job from some particularly dry and rust free part of the country. The main thing is I drive so little anymore that buying a new vehicle is out of the question and keeping the so far reliable ‘devil I know’ seems to be the most cost effective way to go. Kind of like re-soling a favorite and very comfortable pair of shoes with a few added zeroes and decimal points…

I guess I’ll ask around at some cruise nights this summer and see where that takes me. Thanks for all the responses.

Maybe try to find a guy that works out of his house part time. The thing with removing the glass is that usually if it is bubbling up by the glass, it is also under the seal for the glass on the metal flange. If you don’t take the window out, you can’t get it all and it just returns.