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1,422 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Right guys, some of you lot got very curious when i stated that i was going to roller paint my T4 and asked for more details.

I have decided that i will document the bodywork section of my build for the purposes of assiting others and providing what will hopefully be an interesting thread.

So, without further adieu...

Experience -
My experience in bodywork is limited to that of a home mechanic, i have rattled canned a few motorcycles and repaired the arches on a ford escort, beyond this my experience is none existant. I have however tried to compensate for this by asking a lot of questions, and reading many guides. Basically, if i can do this, anyone can.

Vehicle -
A 1997 Vw T4 Transporter SWB 1000, 180000 miles.

Location -
Northern England (this matters as temperature, humidity, insects, seasonality etc all contribute to a good finish)
Outside on a Driveway, no heating nor permanent shelter!

Guidance -
Guidance came purely from online sources, mostly contained or based upon the links provided below. These are highly informative threads are are easily translated onto our own vehicles. I have also been fortunate enough to receive a little help from Harris who have 'sponsored' this paint job to some extent.

Roller Paint your Transit (Decent Finish) - http://transitcamper.hubpages.com/hub/Roller-painting-your-van
Roller Paint your T25 ( Multiple contributors including 'perfect' finishes - http://www.club80-90.co.uk/pages/downloads/tech/paintfor%a350.pdf

Paint -
My chosen paint is Rustoleum Combicolour Ral5012; this can be applied by compressor, aerosol or roller/brush (my choice of method) and has rust preventives in the mix, as well as being highly UV resistant, quick to go touch dry, and tough.

Other options are generally based around coach enamal, such as that used to paint busses or high end luxury vehicles, or military paint.

It should be noted any metal paint may be used to some effect, however i cannot vouch for any other types.

IMPORTANT - If attempting this with Rustoleum or similar please bear in mind that any future paint job will likely need 'sealing' as Rustoleum is highly reactive. This will not only increase the costs of a professional paint job, but may limit saleability of your vehicle as a result.

Equipment -
For the purposes of my own build this is what i have/will be utilising; keep in mind this is ongoing and very much just getting started so this list may develop as time goes on. I will no doubt forget to add things here but i will try and remember everything!

Harris Mini Gloss Rollers (Generally branded as those don't degrade as quickly as cheaper alternatives in oil-based paints).
Harris Mini Roller Handle
Harris Paint Tray (Buy a few of these dirt cheap as once rollers start to degrade it is best these are disposed of in order to minimise contamination on your hopefully shiney bodywork)
Harris Cheapy brush multipack
Harris Pure Bristle Brush
Foam Artist Brushes (for hard to reach corners and similar)
Paint Mixing Containers
White Spirits for thinning paint
Rust Treatment (I used Vactan which is widely regarded as the best, i also found Kurst to be okay)
Sanding Block
Sanding sheets
Sander (I bought B and Q's Mac Allister Random Orbital Sander just this morning and find it is brilliant on the large sheets of bodywork we have on T4's)
Sanding Discs
Body Filler & Hardener
Wire Brush
Fibreglass kit
Rubber gloves
Tack Clothes
Etch Primer
Grinder or Dremel for removing stubborn/deep rust
Step Ladder
Gazeebo or similar to help keep rubbish off your van when painting outside)
Basic tools for removing trim
Step Ladder or similar for high reach areas of vehicle
Quality Masking tape
Bodyshop Masking paper (newspaper can transfer ink onto your bodywork)
Lots of warm soapy water
Various other things i don't remember.

Lets begin...

So... The job. Let me give you a little breakdown.

This was inspired by the roller painting links above, as well as having a white 'builders van' and not much money after spending too much on a van that barely works. This meant a pro paint job was no longer on the cards.

The van is generally very good, considering it is 15 years old and has 180k miles. Yeah there are spots of rust, and the arches are looking poor - but realistically the bodywork is not that bad. A wee bit of fibreglass on the arches and filler on the body and we should have a nice van!

Here is the van before i took to it with the sandpaper/grinder/blowtorch

Day 1/2 -
So, this all started after trying to set my timing up i went to fix an oil leak - i found a breather pipe to be broken so that put stop the engine work and found me itching to do something else. Out came the sandpaper!

I started on the driver side (D/s) rear quarter panel as this was a reasonably straight/clean panel and got cracking with some soapy water and some 120grade wet and dry. Admittedly this wasn't very effective and although it did lightly key the surface of the white paint already on the van, it was pityful, and ended up with pumped arms and a lot of dust. I did however manage to rub through some rusted areas and treat the rust in this area using the trusted Vactan applied by a cheap 'throw away' paint brush.

Vactan is best applied liberally using a 'dabbing' action to ensure it treats the dimpled surface of rusted areas. Do not overuse as you will simply have to sand off it's PVA like surface at a later stage.

Here are a few pictures of the rear quarter panel after a brief treatment, although there isn't much to see in its initially applied state:

This was where i left it for Day 1.

Day 2, i woke early, deciding that snading the whole van by hand simply was not an option and so i sat at my laptop early debating whether to buy my ideal sander, a £70ish Sealey ROS, or a cheap and cheerful B and Q jobby for £35 - this won out as i could go get one asap, and it came with a 3 year warranty anyway. Considering it would primarily be used for sanding this van i thought that was a bargain. I then had to go and buy some 125mm sanding discs from toolstation which cost me less than £3 for 10, which seem to last reasonably well.

So, upon getting home, i fired her up and cracked on, sanding the panel i started yesterday, the barn doors ( as well as stripping these of trim, and the passenger side.

I had quite a few rusty spots here and there but nothing serious, just frustrating as ensuring every last bit of rust is gone can be troublesome, especially around sills. Note to self - wear goggles in future, the dremel kicks up a lot of !

I also found my sliding door to be full of filler, which i started grinding out, however upon realising what it was and having removed the rust that lead me to it in the first place i have left it as is and will refill when i get to that stage.

Pictures from today; again, not interesting, but documenting if nothing else....

Tools for the assault:

Bodywork really begins:

You need a lot of sanding discs if you want to be thorough:

Tomorrow is day 3 - and we continue with the primary sanding/grinding, i will do a thorough rust treatment of all bodywork and will hopefully (if i have the resources) start fibreglassing and filling. This does however depend on whether my oil breathe pipe comes, as i may spend the day working on the engine so please bear with me guys and girls!

If you have any questions or comments please do ask, i'd love to help, and if anybody has bodywork experience and fancies getting covered in horrible white choking dust, come get stuck in!


P.s - if anyone is wondering how to quickly and easily remove a rounded off/rusted screw and or bolt that is protruding beyond the surface of an item, please watch my very quick and easy method here in a self explanatory 'how to' video. If it isn't clear what ive done, please say and i will make a better one. In my video i use a dremel, a hacksaw can often be used to great effect.

Please note, this is quite different to removing broken studs or bolts/screws with no head/flush with the surface.

Removing a screw/bolt with a rounded head...

350 Posts
best tool on the market!!!!

cant wait to see the finish. Ive just sparayed the van myself for the first time. like you have done smaller jobs like arches and filling holes etc but nothing as much as a full respray. this is my finish i got. needs a compound still


146 Posts
This looks interesting.....hurry up so I can see the results! T:

Stu, did you use a spray gun?

1,422 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Well the sanding is still ongoing and i have found a smallish hole in my bonnet so i'm going to replace it (its pretty rotten inside).

I also need to get more sanding discs and get started on the roof.

I think tonight i'll have to place an order for a few bits and pieces i listed above, but currently dont have.

I should also point out a drill with wire wheel is a god send for that deep rust around sills and wheel arches!

If anyone has a short nose bonnet in good nick going spare, please let me know.

11 Posts
Gonna follow this thread closely, there are some brilliant results from this method out there, and some of the vans in the club 80-90 link that you provided look great! It will be most helpful to have a detailed thread which, by the looks of your posts so far, you will be providing, so thanks in advance. However, I'm not seeing your pictures (just grey rectangles). Anyone else having trouble?

1,422 Posts
Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Well guys first of all thanks for the response! Good to hear this may be useful, i am hoping it will develop into a sort of 'how to'.

Unfortunately progress is slow, i am working on the van dayly for a full 5-8 hours but i feel like im making very slow progress.

Today started badly with me discovering a very badly rusted wheel arch which i then had to sort out, this meant grinding out al the bad metal, treating whatever was left with vactan and phoning around for a mobile welder - unfortunately one did not materialise so i ended up fibreglassing the area as the hole was only small and non structural. This went for another 3 small areas where rust had penetrated the sills.

On a more positive note, i have started filling the few dents that are present, there are only three or four but unfortunately my very old filler wouldn't set so ive spent most of the day faffing on with that!

Tomorrow i am refilling a couple of small areas (i shall document these), washing the van down, putting her in the gazebo and then roller-priming where necessary.

We may even see a wee bit of paint start to go on.

May i once more apologise for the slow work, however we should get moving very shortly!

P.s Jive - pictures appear fine to me however if anyone else if having issues let me know as photobucket may have been set to private or similar.

255 Posts
I'll be keeping a close eye on this thread as am looking at doing this method myself keep the pics flowing T:

1,422 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Well guys, i haven't done a proper update since starting this, but the weather turned and it was my birthday yesterday so we've been busy!

However progress has been made.

Upon completing the initial sanding/keying of the paint present on the van it was time for body repairs, these consisted of fibreglassing areas where rust was too severe to simply treat. In these instances i cut out/ground out the rust, cleaned up the surrounding areas, treated with rust treatment and then fibreglassed both sides of the affected panel, where possible.

I did fill a couple of significant areas this way, however i should point out these were not load bearing; one was the rear bumper mount and the other was the passenger side wheel arch. If these areas were structural i strongly advise having a professional weld in a patch.

Unfortunately i did not get any photos of this process as it required quite a bit of time and effort so i had to focus my attention on that.

Beyond this, i filled any areas that required levelling, including my bonnet, barn doors, some areas where panels meet that i wanted to 'blend' and so on.

I have documented the filling procedure breifly below.

Finally, i washed the van using soap and water, before rinsing very thoroughly. For the soap i used fairy liquid as it has no waxy additives which could make painting difficult, and it is very good at cutting through grease and capturing particulates. I did ensure this was very thoroughly rinsed due to the salts included which i did not want to remain on the van under the paint. Before painting, i let the van dry and wiped down panels that were to be painted with white spirit.

The painting then began, i did buy primer however i decided to try the paint directly onto the van and it worked brilliantly, with no need to prime (perhaps due to the prep being thorough). The mixing is still a bit of a guessing game to me so i wont comment on this until later, however i have been mixing too thick and as a consequence the paint has no levelled brilliantly in some areas, equally i am struggling with air bubble in the paint/rollerered surface, however brushing these areas with a wide quality brush sorts that out and has left a couple of panels looking almost showroom perfect after just one coat!

I should mention that i am going to have to do yet more sanding as my first attempts are imperfect, and i also used heavy grit sandpaper to sand some stubborn areas, this was too co for the paint and marks are showing through - note to self avoid anything more co than 100grit for body prep!

Sorry for the somewhat vague post however there is ALOT to document and i would only be repeating what others have already stated on the above links.

I will happily answer any questions though :)


Wheel arch to... wheel arch join - unsightly and could do with smoothing:

Out comes the filler then!

This is the filler itself

mixed with the hardener (below) on a golfball (filler) to pea (hardener) ratio - youre better off adding a tad extra than you think you may need just incase it never sets (i made that mistake and had to undo a fair whack).


Filling that unsightly gap:

Don't add too mcuh else youll just have to sand it off again - a mm or two proud of the surface is my preference:

Multiple layers can be built up where a severe dent exists and can't be properly repaired (beaten):

For sanding i ddi this by hand to ensure i didn't remove too much, i used 60 grit here however found it scored the surface too much for paint to go on evenly. I would advise removing excess filler with 60grit and the once flush with the surface, finish with 120-180grit ready for painting.

And after sanding it should be flush with the surface:

After a wash i assembled my gazeebo bought for £30 in order to minimise debris making its way onto the paint. This does limit me to painting less than half the van at a time however im willing to make this sacrifice in order to achieve a good finish. There are a lot of trees in my garden dropping all sorts of rubbish on the van afterall!

Meths (or white spirit) make a suitable 'wip down' cleaning agent to remove any final dirt/grease before painting as it evaporates from the bodywork quickly and leaves minimal residue. Ensure a lint free cloth is used ese this will end up in your paint.

I skip quite a bit here but after a first attempt at rollering my white/blue/yellow bonnet looks like this:

This was rollered only and did not use the brush sweep method which i have now begun to favour.

The van from 15 yards looking very presentable:

at 10 yards:

<5 yards:

Point blank:

Finish without any other sanding etc, (excuse the raindrops, the paint was touch dry by this time so water on surface was okay)

but unfortunately here are those heavy grit snading marks i mentioned (panel will be redone).

And i was annoyed to find i missed an area of vactan i thought was sanded and wasnt:

Equally, my driver side rear panel joint was mostly smoothed out, but perhaps i should redo this - paint really does highlight imperfections even though touch smooth!

And my fave panel, rollered then swept with a quality brush, 1 decent coat of rustoleum and this was the finish!

Can't complain at that, surely?

493 Posts
Looking goodT: Very impressed with the detailed photos and background info on this threadA:
Keep up the good work:D

3,836 Posts
im to am doing my van to, ive just rebuilt the front inner arches and fitting new wings tomorrow.
if you put on phosphoric acid leave to soak then use a round wire brush in drill and do it over and over the rust goes back to the bare metal, then wipe of the acid do not wash of like some people do as it puts moisture back on the metal, then use acid etch primer to stick into the metal if possible leave overnight so primer fully dries then paint away, i was in to minds between using rustoleum and tekaloid/synthetic paint, i went the tekaloid route and i use a high density foam roller with foam brushes and you dont get any marks and if you add a very small amount of thinners which i do it goes very flat almost as good as a spray finish, i will takes pics and post them

1,422 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Chadcruzer - i have left my roof to last as im awaiting the 'perfect weather' to avoid contamination as i want to do it all in one go outside the gazebo. It will be VERY easy compared to the panels and can easily be masked off. Sanding was straightforward too due to the reasonably uniform nature of the roof.

Karlos - would love to see your work as a comparison, i am very much learning this way however it has gone well so far considering my inexperience.

It is a shame my prep was imperfect when i spent so much time, but hey - cant win them all?

I am currently sanding bumpers and related pieces, i hoped to use a heat gun to remove the paint and leave black, however have managed to melt some plastic so these will now be painted blue also.

For anyone interested - colour code is RAL5012

223 Posts
Looking very good Thom!

I've just about finished doing all the rubbing down and filling on mine for this - just gt the windscreen to finish and i'll be on with actual painting.

Couple of questions :-

Did you sand between layers?

Did you thin the paint at all?

And how many coats you put on?

I'm doing my bus in ral3002 - carmine red with a black roof. Watching your thread eagerly for the finished product :)
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