Paint (including Body Rust) Questions


New member
Well I read all the posts on Fiberglass and Painting ,and I think I got the information I was looking for,but I wanna make sure. So here goes. First I would like to thank Capt. Mike , and all who contribute to this message board it is a great source of information. Also I would like to gloat just a little my self. I bought a 1971 V.W. Campmobile in January from the daughter of the original owner who had recently died. She said it was his "baby". It is in remarkable shape, and I plan on taking great care withit. I have had a lot of mechanical work done to it,( maintenance items) and am now ready to paint. I am having a professional shop that is well reccomended do the work. When it comes to the Fiberglass top he has reccomended painting it to improve it's apperance and to help maintain it. It does appear dul and just a little chalky-like. My question is will this ok, will it help preserve the top? I don't want to do anything to hurt this wonderful bus that I have come to love in a very short time. Thank You for any information. Sincerely Carl Fox

Capt. Mike

Yes, painting the properly prepared fiberglass top is the recommended repair procedure. I say "properly prepared" to remind you that the original fiberglass top may have had a gel-coat surface, which if broached or damaged, should be repaired to be sure the surface is sealed again. This a good fiberglass shop will automatically do. They will also clean & prep the top for the fiberglass compatible paint.

When finished, it should look like new and will then get the maintenance due any good paint. There are even fiberglass paint specific cleaners and waxes on the market (check marine supply sources.)

[ 03-07-2002: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]


Howdy Capt. Mike and forum readers.

I have the 1986 Westfalia Vanagon GL. With the rust problem.

I have now searched the greater Sacremento area (of California) and found only ONE shop that even considered removing the rust. The shop seemed great but the owner blew me off for an errand when I took time off of work so I was unable to even get an estimate.

Very heavy sigh. Anybody know someone who does rust removal in Northern CA? Failing that, It looks like this is going to be a total DIY job, and I don't even have a covered garage. This goes way beyond my socket wrench, screwdriver, and channel wrench tools.

Well, forum members, do you have any good sources for the DIY rust remover?


Capt. Mike

DIY rust removal always becomes a problem in that you typically wont have the facilities, tools & experience to do it right, thus end up with a temporary job.

There are about 4 basic rust removal procedures. An obvious is sandblasting and you will typically find sandblasting services in the yellow pages and as a side business in some of the larger machine & fabrications shops since they often have to sandblast during fabrication and repairs.

One of the best is the 'dipping' where the parts are immersed in an alkaline bath that penetrates every nook & cranny and leaves a phosphate type coating that is often ready for priming if further repairs aren't needed. But it requires removing the body part -- not easy on a unibody bus. There chemicals and process can be purchased from a number of sources that claim to duplicate this process in a post application. Check some of the suppliers in Hemmings Motor News.

A throw back but still available is "Naval Jelly". A thick, paint-remover style process. Some paint removers claim to remove rust -- the best I've seen just helped remove some loose scale.

There are a number of products that CLAIM to be rust sealers. Some are outright frauds; others are marginal extenders that let you coat areas that have had the bulk of the rust removed (wire brush & scraping). Some claim to nuetralize the oxidation process (rust is a form of oxidation). Some are latex based and can be painted over. Others are forms of sealing paint like POR-15.

Most quality paint & body shops can do all of the rust removal needed for the body repairs they are going to do. Since most have warranties, they may not be willing to do half-way repairs that will not stand up long-term.

I don't know your ultimate plans or the condition of your bus. One process I've used in other applications (but I am not recommending as any sort of permanent repair) is to paint the afflicted parts with a mixture of consol oil & an oil-based enamel paint (25% ratio). You'll probably have to dig for a source of consol oil -- it was common in the marine & oil-driling industries. It mixes with oil-based paints but actually penetrates the rust and a few applications often had the rust & scale removed. That is temororary as even the paint & color will 'wash off' with time along with the rust. When final repairs are made, the consol & paint will have to be removed to bare metal plus a thorough degreasing process. If you are just trying to stave off the inevitable until doing a proper & correct repair, its one possibility.

Capt. Mike

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topics

camron Member posted June 07, 2002 11:52 AM

I hit an elk the other day and it did a number on the front end of my 1985 Westy. I have pictures I can email. Bascially, I am in a part of the country that has very little experience with VW vans, and they are not sure how to estimate this damage. I told them that things are tight up there, seems my brakes are messed up, it is not driveable. I have looked at the manual to find any possible hidden repairs that might be necessary. The dash is tweaked by about 1", and the radiator is damaged, but all in all the damage does not look too bad. Did not even break the windshield. Any experience with damage like this would be appreciated. Thanks.

Capt. Mike

Capt. Mike

VW published a shop manual titled Volkswagen Body Repair Information, P/N W42-701-005-1. It covered several models but Group 50 is dedicated to the Vanagon and has an excellent guide to panel replacement, cut lines, etc. Any competent body shop should be able to make the physical body repairs. Removal of components for access will be more challenging.

This manaul may be out of print; contact VW direct to see if they have new editions/publications or perhaps beg for a photocopy of the Grp 50 section. There are posts elsewhere on the site concerning shopping for used/obsolete publications.

Capt. Mike


New member
Hello Westy Owners,

I've been a proud owner of an 85 westy for 4 weeks now, and on one of my discovery trips inside and outside the vehicle, I found the following:
Driver side, opposite of sliding door, at the horizontal seam between the big panel and the bottom 3" wide panel: rust! And not just on the surface, but it corroded all the way through. You can now stick a finger through at several spots. I didn't discover it earlier, because one of the POs had put a pretty solid cover of acrylic paint over it which came off as a whole!

What puzzles me, this is the only rust showing on this van. All other seams, especially the vertial ones are fine. Is this a critical spot? I checked the inside behind the cabinets, stove and fridge, but didn't find any indications for water damage from the inside. Condensation? Window leaking from above? Corrosion from the outside? After all it could be bad paint job after an earlier accident?

I certainly don't want to get it fixed before I know that the source has been fixed. Any advise is greatly appreciated. Thanks!


New member
I just went tried to put on a new windshield seal when I discovered a NASTY rust problem (78 westy) on the upper buldge of the nose panel ( did not think it was this bad when I bought it). The rust had eaten clean through the metal so I have a few spots where there are 6-8 inches of missing metal. The "lip" where the seal fits to the body is almost completely gone on the passenger side. Some of the windshield pillar is almost eaten through as well. I took it to my body man and he suggested I bring in a new buldge panel WITH part of the windshield pillar. I searched and searched and found the Bus Depot offers a replacement buldge panel but no pillars for about 220$, also inner rust repair panels for inner lip about 60$. Any other suggestions?

Please help. Duct tape is holding windshield to frame. Need to get this taken care of!!!
Thank you in advance.

[This message was edited by Capt. Mike on January 07, 2003 at 06:39 AM.]


New member
If you've got a local junk yard to visit (the type where you pay a buck to walk around and pull parts), you'll surely be able to find a decent one there. Also try the local VW specialty junk yards (they won't let you pull parts.... $$), but they would have the nose panel as well.

Since you're living in Kentucky, you may or may not be able to find a decent nose panel. It may be best to contact a West Coast (we've got less rust :) ) junk yard and order parts from them.

Here's a particularly good VW yard in my area that I *know* ships parts (big or small) across the US.

B W Auto Dismantlers, Inc.
2031 PFE Road
Roseville, CA 95747

+1 800.327.0888
+1 916.969.1600

Good luck. $200 for a replacement panel isn't that much, you still have to get the thing on there..... no fun at all.


New member
I just received a 73 westy for a present. The rocker panels are rusted out, I have no problem with getting new panels to install. I would like to know what other areas I should be checking before ordering new panels.The top end of this little vech is in great shape,and well worth restoring. I'am new to this and any info would be great. Thanks in advance

Capt. Mike

Obviously, rust can be anyplace. Rusting from the inside out, like the rockers, is always the most difficult. Look through your vehicle and parts for other areas that are 'hollow'. The upright pillars supporting the roof -- front door hinge, rear of front seats, back of vehicle are a couple. There are other hollow areas underneath -- including the whole ladder frame -- and in the suspension torsion bar tubes. Lower doors and drear lid are always susceptible.

The undercoatings available in 1973 were pretty marginal. There are now new, 'lost wax' process undercoatings that flow and self-heal. Investigate them during your repair process.


New member
Hi! I've got a '73 Westie that, as much as I love, I wish I had found this site BEFORE buying. I did not know much at the time and I figured, "hey, the major mechanical work has been done, the body shouldn't be too hard to fix".. ha ha ha... ha.

Well, she was raised in sunny California most of her life so she's not a total monster, but the evil rust took hold beneath the sink fixture. The sink and everything was completely removed before the previous owners bought and took her to Port
Alberni, here in BC Canada, where it is VERY RAINY and they did nothing to solve the rust problem other than said removal of sink.

So.. I have a lovely hole in the floor where the sink used to be, and the rust extends well under the driver's seat (the left wheel well is also completely rusted out, patched à la Red Green with duct tape) and most of the undercarriage has a dusting of rust over it.

How difficult would it be to remove these panels completely and get new ones? As compared to blasting & just welding some new metal onto the hole & the wheel well? Considering the extent of the rust, I'm thinking the latter would only be a temporary fix, so unless the price of the panels is particularly deadly, I'd rather have the more permanent fix. The rest of the body seems okay, just little spots above the front wheels I can grind out and patch, but it's hard to say for sure because she just had a new coat of paint before I bought her (ha). If I had gobs of money I'd just have the whole sweetie sandblasted and properly primed & repainted, but the undercarriage problem is overwhelming for me financially as it is, so for now, touch up it is for the rest.

sorry for writing a novel. =) any advice is greatly appreciated.


Capt. Mike

I don't want to be discouraging but the Type II is basically a uni-body where the floorpan and rocker panels are part of the framing. If the rust is that severe that you know about, the hollow sections like the rocker panels and pillars are likely to be equally as bad. Do a "Bondo" test of the rest of the vehicle (any paint shop can do it -- or inexpensive tools are sold in many auto catalogs) to find out how much other damage you have held together with Bondo & paint.

The wheel-well is a single stamping. The usual repair is to crop back to solid metal and splice in. The floor is a one-piece stamping. Again, the usual repair is to crop & splice the applicable section. In both cases you are buying a major panel to use part. If the floor & wheel-well are gone, good chance the B pillar is damaged, too. Also check the interior of the sliding door.

Finally, if that much rust has taken hold, check your suspension -- it contains numerous hollow stampings and castings that could have inside rust. See the "Front Suspension" topics in that forum -- one member's experience is well documented.

CA cars sounds like sunny, no winter in the ads, but in reality they are often beach cars or mountain snow/salt driven.


New member
I have an 84 Westfalia that is starting to rust at the seams. The major verticals don't seem too bad - no bubbling and surface rust -- just miscolouration which washes away, but the low horizontal seam below the hook-up openings is worse. There is a good body shop here (Victoria, BC) that will do the grinding required, but they suggested that if I want to have a longer lasting solution, I should take the insulation out first so it won't continue to trap water and hold it against the side panels. I have looked in my Bentley but can't find anything about removing insulation. I am assuming I will need to take out the fridge/stove and other cabinets to get to the insulation? Is this correct? Has anyone done it before and what kind of a job is it? Is it something best left to the body shop?
Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Anton B.

Capt. Mike

Removing cabinetry and paneling is in the WESTY INTERIOR forum.

Personally, I think the body shop is the less-likely place to do so. In my one repair, I had the equipment removed and then later reinstalled by my dealer (who had excellent experience with the camping equipment) so I'd get better workmanship. I even kept the equipment at the house so it wouldn't get damaged, dirty or parts walk off. That was an insurance job -- I'd do it myself if I was footing the bill.


New member
Thanks Capt. Mike!

Sorry about the mis-placement. My original line of thinking started at with the rust. On that question is it likely that the insulation is indeed contributing to the rust (ie: holding moisture against the exterior)?


Capt. Mike

Quite possibly, but I'd also consider that if you are seen rust on the outside of a seam, the chances are that the inside is heavily rusted out. Moisture may now be entering from outside as well as any leaks or spills inside.

Rust, dirt and other contaminates will hold moisture as much or more than the insulation, which, at least theoretically, is made of waterproof fibres and dries. The bottom of any void soon becomes a thick 'mud' of dirt & debris.

Either requires removal before repairs. One to remove a fire hazard for hot-work, and the other to get behind, clean and de-rust/treat the inner surfaces. After any hot-work or repairs, you need to reundercoat the inner panels anyway. And probably want to consider replacing the insulation if it's been damaged.

pascal giasson

New member
I had slight seam rust over the passenger rear wheel wells. When I took the inside pannel out to inspect the seam from the inside, I found the bottom of the insulation was wet. I have no idea how the water got there, possibly from condensation? Anyhow I just recently took the closet out and looked at the insulation in that side and it was wet just like the passenger side and the seam had a little rust on the interior but it has not made it's way to the outside yet. These were the only two places where the insulation was wet but I did not want to take any chances so I took it all out and replaced it with "reflexit" insulation, which is a blister pack type material with aluminium foil on both sides. Now I am a little concerned about it trapping moisture between it and the body. Has anyone simply taken the insulation out and not replaced it? Any drawbacks? Thanks

'84 Westy