Wiper Arms and Tension Headaches

When preparing my Ranger to go up for sale, I noticed the wiper arms looked really shoddy. Paint faded and chipped and surface rust. The ones on the Beetle had previously been painted but were also looking pretty shabby. I decided to take them all off, clean them up, and paint them.

The wiper arms appear to be interchangeable on the Beetle, but they are different. Likely one was just replaced from a different year. The Ranger appears to have identical left and right arms. I kept them all separated and labeled just in case.

Wiper blades off…

…and hit them with a scrap of 180 grit sandpaper I had laying around.

It smoothed the rough paint edges and left a nice scuff for the new paint to stick to.

I wiped them down with acetone to get rid of dust, dirt, and oils.

And gave them a coat of Dupli-Color Rust Barrier.

And then a couple of coats of Dupli-Color DE1634.

The wipers don’t work very well in the Beetle, like they don’t have enough tension against the window to actually clear anything. I wanted to check the springs, to see if I could cut and stretch them or find beefier replacements.

As soon as I gripped it with needle nose pliers, the rusty spring snapped. So, it was time to put the wipers back on the Ranger and go parts shopping.


I went first to O’Reilly, figuring they would have that type of thing in the hardware aisle, but they only had bigger sizes, like throttle return springs.

There’s an Ace Hardware next door that usually has better hardware than parts stores and even big places like Lowes and Home Depot.

I found a close match here. The spring is a little smaller diameter and a little longer, so I figured I would have to do some surgery.

I didn’t take that picture specifically to post here. They didn’t have any writing implements in the hardware aisle to note the item number or price on the bag.

That’s the first time I have purchased something with cash in quite a while. I try not to stick retailers with equal amounts of credit card processing fees and purchase price.

They mounted back up without issue and look nice. They kind of disappear into the windshield trim, as it should be.

Running Boards Part 2

In the previous post, I got started trying to replace the running boards, with only moderate success. It was a complete failure at replacing the actual running board. But, I was able to get all of the broken body bolts drilled out, tapped, and replaced.

The hardware that came with the new running boards was really chintzy. I have come to expect that. So, I picked up some new hardware at Lowe’s a couple of days ago.

I removed the driver side running board again, to replace the washers. What I found was that after one week, the flimsy metal washers were already starting to rust.

You don’t always get what you pay for. Yeah, I may have mentioned that before.

I decided to spend some more time trying to straighten out the jack point and channel. Jamming the end of a breaker bar in there, it easily straightened back out.

Then I hammered on the end of a ratchet, because the right tool for the job, or whatever.

And then sprayed another obligatory coat of Rust Barrier and Matte Vintage Blue.

That channel is now perfectly restored and ready for the Concours d’Elegance. Next, I tried fitting the new running board again, but it’s still way too tall. My next brilliant idea was to swap the rubber cover over from the new one onto the old running board.

There is a groove across the back side that clips onto the edge of the sheet metal. That peeled back without issue. It’s a rusty mess under there.

On the front edge, the sheet metal is rolled and crimped over the rubber cover to hold it in place. I was able to get that pried open easily enough with a putty knife. However, the brittle, old rubber cover was just shredding.

I decided to just put it back together. I would have been out there all day trying to get all of the shrapnel picked out of the channel. At least I can swap the metal trim strip over from the new running board. The ones on the car were from newer 70s model Beetles with the narrow trim strip. The new ones are supposedly the right size.

Once mounted, I peeled back the blue plastic protective cover. I found the new trim was made of the same stuff as the washers that came in the hardware pack. Ridiculous.

Old vs. new. I think the new trim pieces might be for the first generation. They are significantly larger than the one that was on there originally.

In any case, more brand new, shiny, dented, cheap crap mounted up!

The soft rubber fender washers did their job well.

Moving on to the passenger side, I got the new trim piece moved over to the old running board. The pry bar was not involved in this, it just happened to be laying there from before.

And I moved the old trim piece onto the new running board for safe keeping.

Oh hey, great news!

That’s going to take more than a Steel Stik to fix. I started to drill out one of the broken body bolts in that big rust hole. The whole thing started folding up under the pressure, so I left it alone.

So yeah, nothing to see here.

Moving on, I chased threads on the next rusty bolt hole, which had been missing a bolt.

The next one had a broken bolt, which I drilled and tapped. I clearly got off to a bad start at first… I did eventually get the hole drilled in the right place.

The last one had a bolt in it, but was still very crusty. I chased the threads on that one as well.

Rust Barrier engaged. I can rest easy now that the giant rust hole above the jack point is now fully reinforced!

Buttoning this all up for now, but that is going to require some serious attention sooner rather than later.

Replacing the rear deck lid seal

A couple of evenings ago, I replaced the front hood seal. That process went so well, I decided to replace the rear deck lid seal as well. As with the front hood seal, I have had the new seal laying around since I purchased the car. After reading posts on the samba, I was scared off by the complexity of the install process.

So anyway here I go. Starting at the driver side top, I used the same approach as before. I used a putty knife to pry the lip on the channel up a little. The side came out very easily.

Around the bottom, I ran into a little more problems. The channel had been bent in and out multiple times. It was very rusty and didn’t just pry up as cleanly as the sides.

I was able to remove it cleanly eventually. Moving on to the passenger side, that came out with no dramas.

I grabbed a stiff nylon brush and cleaned off all of the loose rust and debris. Then I sprayed a quick coat of rust treatment.

The old seal in the rear was much more pliable than the one in the front. However, it did still crumble to pieces as I was removing it.

Back to the front…

This time, I decided to give the rust treatment some more time to dry. My fingers are still black from that mess before. So, I moved back to the front to finish up with those top corners.

My original plan was to use the black push tabs that are found all over the place on my Ranger. But after closer inspection, the holes in the beetlebug shell are much smaller. I decided to rivet them on instead. After a couple of attempts, the rivets that I had weren’t deep enough to actually grab.

Being lazy and wanting to cross this off the list, I just used some self tapping screws instead. It is a very loose fit, but there is a bit of thread that will grab. The fit is loose enough that I could pull them out by hand if I tried. But they’re tight enough they won’t come out on their own. I didn’t check, but I’m pretty sure these screws are stainless or at least zinc coated or something.

The passenger side went on easily as well.

Back to the back…

The rear deck lid seal I bought was also made in Brazil, but this one was an Empi brand (Amazon link).

It installed without issue. There were a few extra inches at the end that I snipped off.

With the deck lid up in my teeth, I noticed some deep rust and bubbling paint down around the bottom. I scraped off the loose rust and then gave it a coat of rust treatment. Once that dried, I added a coat of primer, then a coat of matte vintage blue.

SteelStiks Part 2

I had such good luck with the patches in the fenders last time, I decided to see how it would work on the outside. I couldn’t get it as thin as I would have liked, but I knew I would be filing and sanding it down anyway.

Since a little goes a long way with this stuff, I rolled some up and reinforced inside the rolled lip of both fenders behind the cracks. I also filled the underside of that smoosh on the rear to try and reshape the bottom edge of the lip.

Letting those sit overnight, I went back with the highest grit sandpaper I had and it barely left a mark on that epoxy putty. It really is hard stuff once it has set. So, I after them with a coarse metal file.

They are still wayyyy too thick, especially on the passenger’s side rear. I will have to eventually go back with an electric sander to get that the rest of the way down. For the time being, it’s better than it was, being untreated rusty metal exposed.

Shot a quick coat of matte vintage blue and called it a day.

Bean Dips and SteelStiks

Both rear fenders have cracks from old damage.

I bought a tube of JB Weld SteelStik (Amazon link), which is steel reinforced epoxy putty. When dried, it is hard enough to drill and tap, so I figured it would work well to reinforce the back side of the fenders, behind the cracks.

I had a can of bean dip from the previous Sunday’s football watching festivities. I cut patches out of the ribbed aluminum can with tin snips, covered them with epoxy putty, and sandwiched them on the back side of the fenders.

The picture on the left is the driver’s side fender. The crack there is very thin, a clean break, but wraps all the way around the lip. The one on the right is the passenger’s side. The crack there is much worse – not even really a crack. It’s very old damage, below the bumper, with flaps of deeply rusted metal. I bent everything back in shape as well as I could, to get a flat surface for the patch.

After the epoxy set up, the fenders are now solid and the cracks don’t flex. So, that was a success. At least in the short term. We’ll see after some weather cycles if that epoxy holds up.

On that driver’s side fender there were old, bad repairs and it looked nasty. I sanded around the area, then rust treated, primed, and painted.

Roof Paint Part Two

After the first couple of coats of primer and paint went down, there was a lot of texture to the paint. Mainly over-spray dust. I tried going over it first with the blue Scotch-Brite pad, which is the one safe for non-stick pans. That took some dust off, but not the texture.

I then stepped it up to the regular old green Scotch-Brite pad, which also removed some more dust, but not the texture. I found 3M makes a prep pad specifically for in-between coats. I bought a pack of those and tried them out, but same deal – removed some dust, but not the texture. And honestly, those pads seemed to be somewhere in between the blue and green Scotch-Brite pads, so I didn’t put much faith in them working.

So, I had to wet sand again. This time, I had some leftover 1500 grit sheets from a variety pack I bought at Harbor Freight a while back. The sheets are really thin and wear through immediately. They also smear black across whatever you’re sanding, so I was concerned about that.

I did a little area with the 1500 grit and as per usual, the sheet immediately blew out and made a mess, so I went and bought some 3M 1000 grit sheets. This did a nice job and was proper quality sandpaper. I went over the whole roof and pillars with a roughly 2 1/2″ x 5″ sanding block.

There were still some low spots, where the roof is pretty dented up, so I cut a dish sponge in half, making a more flexible, roughly 2 1/2″ by 2 1/2″ block to wrap the sandpaper around. With that, I went over the low spots and for the most part got them smoothed out.

My masking job the first time around was pretty questionable. I had some over-spray on window rubbers here and there and for whatever reason (likely because I’m an idiot) at the bottom of the pillars, I didn’t follow any sort of body lines. Instead, I just squared off the bottom of each pillar, not realizing how ridiculous that was going to look once the masking was peeled off.

So, first step was properly masking around the bottom of the pillars and getting the rust converter and primer down.

I took the antenna off and rather than trying to clean off the over-spray from the first time around, I just painted the pieces with some cheap black primer.

I used plastic drop cloths for masking this time. I had problems with the blue painters tape not sticking well last time, so I tried a different variety. This time, it was much worse. The tape only stuck to the plastic sheet – not to the car or itself. So, I was having to restick the tape all around the car before each coat.

After two more coats of paint:

And then after wet-sanding with 1000 grit again:

While I was there, I also adjusted the windshield wipers up a little (too much). They were flopping down over the bottom of the window rubber and the one on the driver side was overlapping the left side of the window rubber as well. Likely, they just aren’t the right size wiper blades. I’ll have to check that out later.

I have to plan my next steps carefully, since I now have “only” six cans of that paint left. As mentioned in the Goodbye Matte Vintage Blue post, this paint has been discontinued and I have bought all that is available in the county.

That’s not going to be enough to do the whole car, but I only got started painting this because of the rust pitting. Following that logic, I should finish the space below the windshield and then do the front trunk lid. Those are the next most rusty places.

Then on to the rear, finishing up the space below the rear window and then the engine cover. We’ll see what’s left after that.

Roof Paint Part One

As mentioned in the Panel Beater post, my last batch of shine juice clotted up and became tacky cement on the car. It wouldn’t wash off. Mineral spirits wouldn’t take it off. I ended up wiping the whole car down with Acetone, which accomplished a couple of things.

It easily cleaned off the shine juice residue, but also removed the top layer of dead paint. Since I have been washing the car with Scotch-Brite pads and CLR, it didn’t break my heart that more of the light blue paint was coming off.

What did break my heart was seeing that the sun-burnt rust spots on the roof were much more deeply pitted than I had previously noticed. I felt like I needed to take action beyond keeping it oiled up with shine juice to try and slow that rust down. Having ten cans of that Matte Vintage Blue spray paint sitting around didn’t help to deter me from the bad ideas that were creeping up.

I got a can of Sprayway glass cleaner, a sanding block and some 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper and went to work.

After getting it smoothed out for the most part and fading up the edges of remaining blue paint, I got it all washed and wiped down with another several rounds of Sprayway.

A few places had bare metal peeking through, but for the most part, it was down to rust and factory paint.

I had some brown packing/craft paper laying around from various parts shipments and decided that would be good enough for masking the windows.

I started off with two or three coats of rust converter spray.

And then two coats of primer.

It was still early in the day, like 11:30AM, but the sun was out and the primer seemed to be drying in the air in between the can and the car body. There was a ton of over-spray. I got (what I thought would be) a lint-free cloth to wipe it down in between coats…

…but clearly that just made a mess. I went back inside and found a microfiber rag that did a great job cleaning the lint and dust off. The primer was still really textured, though and I wasn’t sure about the amount of time needed for that to properly set up, to withstand another wet sanding.

I put a thin coat of color on next.

And then another.

By this time, it was after 5:00PM and I didn’t want fresh paint getting wet overnight, so I decided to stop here.

After removing the masking:

Goodbye, Matte Vintage Blue

After finding a decent color match with the Krylon Fusion All in One Matte Vintage Blue, which I sprayed in the spare tire well, I decided I should go buy another can or two to keep around. I went back to Lowe’s where I originally bought that paint and that whole line of paint was removed from the shelves, with no empty slots.

Looking on the Lowe’s website, the paint was still listed, but was marked unavailable. Further researching on the Krylon website, it looked like Ace Hardware was the only other place where it was available. Not knowing for certain what my paint plans are, I decided to stock up, and went around to every Ace Hardware in reasonable driving distance, from Candler to Swannanoa, and bought every can. In five stores (three didn’t stock it to begin with), I found ten cans.

Brake Fluid Eats Paint

I used to carry a spare quart of oil and a can of brake fluid in the spare tire well. The brake fluid tipped over at some point and a couple of drops of juice leaked out the top. The new paint I had sprayed in there was ruined. Turned to goop and wiped off with the brake fluid.

So, I cleaned it all up and roughly masked off the stuff I didn’t want to over-spray.

Put down a couple of coats of primer

and a couple of coats of fresh paint.

This is from the same cans of primer and paint, but for some reason, the color was off from what I had sprayed before, which was really noticeable when I pulled the masking tape off.

Panel Beater

Note: I apologize in advance for the pictures in this post. I didn’t have a whole lot of day light left when I started this process and couldn’t get very good before and after pictures. Decided to go ahead and post this up anyway for posterity.

So, there are lots of whiskey dents and dimples in various areas of the car, but overall, she’s sound. That old steel is thick enough, I felt pretty good about my chances of being able to massage them back out.

My toolbox for this session was this hammer and dolly set (Amazon link).

Starting with the left rear fender:

The last time I washed the car and slathered on the mix of boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits, and WD-40 was a few weeks ago now. It’s spring time and the pollen has been thick. The worst thing about that oil finish is it’s forever tacky and rain doesn’t help to wash the gunk off. Instead, it just sets it in like concrete once it dries.

The progress pics below show what dirty hand prints and hammer/dolly mess looks like in that sticky old oil…

Moving from front to back in the picture above:

Minor dent to a minor ripple. Not too bad.

I worked on this one the longest. I was able to get the crease at the top-right smoothed out and the lowest spot is now about half as deep as when I started. Definitely not a win, but we’ll call this one a draw.

Also, fun fact, this fender has a surprisingly thick layer of body filler over the whole thing. Hammering away from on top and below, this stuff didn’t crack or fall off at all. The paint was crazed to begin with. I have never seen body filler this resilient. I don’t know what this stuff is, but it’s quality!

I am considering this one a win. It is completely smoothed out, save for the smallest low-spot crevice. It is creased pretty hard down in there and I came at it from every angle, trying out several different combinations of hammers and dollies from above and below. I think the body filler was fighting me once it got down to such a fine crease.

There is still a lot of work to do on this fender alone, not to mention the rest of the car, but I’m pretty happy with my first attempt at metal massagery and what I was able to accomplish in only 40 minutes.