The Quarter Panel: Function, Replacement and Cost

The external surface of a vehicle that is seen between the rear door and the trunk is known as a quarter panel. It’s also commonly referred to as the rear wing. Typically, a quarter panel is a welded-on piece of the general unibody structure of the vehicle.

Simply put, if a quarter panel has to be replaced in any vehicle, the one still on the vehicle would first have to be cut off. Then a new one is welded onto the vehicle.

They can, however, also be bonded. As a result of this arduous, cost-intensive, and specialized labor, a panel is more likely to be repaired than replaced. This is often done by applying hammering force to the damaged area until a relatively flat surface is achieved.

A body filler is then applied to help smoothen it out so it can match the surface. The newly finished quarter panel is often painted and clear coated to aid blending.

The origin of the quarter panel

Quarter panel

The quarter panel was the phrase that was originally used to describe that part of the vehicle. Instead, the legacy term “fender” was used. Fender was used to generally refer to the external part of the antique vehicles that cover the wheel, it was the same for bicycles and motorcycles.

But this soon changed as the exterior parts of vehicle design changed from just a body, fenders, an engine cover, and a trunk to a more wholesome, integrated whole. They are now different names for these new complex parts that now made up the unified whole of the vehicle. For instance, the “quarter panel” has replaced “fenders” in referring to the rear.

Another example is the dashboard, a part of a vehicle’s interior. It was a term that originated from the era of horse-drawn carriages. Now, it’s called the instrument panel (IP). Adapting to these new terms was slow. While engineers and designers now use these new terms, most laypeople have maintained these legacy terms to identify these various parts.

Functions of a quarter panel

From the shape and the position of the quarter panel on your vehicle, you can easily tell its function. It houses the wheel of the vehicle as well as helps keep mud and other debris on the road from being flung by the tires. If nothing is covering the wheels of the vehicle, your rotating tires would throw things everywhere.

Debris thrown by your tires can cause damage to your vehicle as well as the vehicle of other road users. Also, it beautifies the exterior of the vehicle. To find out the best products for maintaining your car's exterior, check out my articles on the best car wash soaps and best car wax for 2021.

Quarter panel replacement

Cutting quarter panel

The repair of the body of any automobile is a highly specialized process. From welding to sanding to alignment as well as the painstaking attention to detail. All of these are what comprise the repair process. Generally, the pieces of metals that make up a vehicle are held together with both spot welds and fasteners.

Spots weld will typically be seen holding the larger exterior parts of the car. The quarter panel is important in determining the overall look of the vehicle. If it gets damaged, it can greatly remove the value of the vehicle. Replacing the panel of your vehicle is a rather tough job. It involves drilling spot welds, cutting through surplus metal, removing the damaged metal, and putting in the new one.

Every original equipment manufacturer (OEM) includes instructions on how technicians should replace the quarter panel. It must be entirely new, and not previously used. Below are some of the things that technicians should take note of when carrying out a replacement:

  • The material component of the quarter panel.
  • What is it attached to?
  • The attachment methods used.
  • How should it be removed?
  • Identifying the supporting materials.
  • What are the required tools and equipment?

Cost of replacing a quarter panel

One factor that often leads to the consideration of acquiring a new panel is the price. The price range of the panel is between $50 and $1000. This is excluding cost of workmanship.

How to replace a quarter panel

Dented quarter panel

Below is a step-by-step of how to replace a quarter panel on a vehicle:

Step 1

First, get a replacement panel. It has to be completely new to avoid a poor job. Check with the OEM as well as aftermarket suppliers to get the replacement.

Step 2

Find the area you need to replace and assess it. If the problem is rust, be sure there is a solid surface to attach your new quarter panel. If, on the other hand, it’s body damage, then you will need to work accordingly.

Step 3

The aim is to make sure the new replacement fits as perfectly as possible. So deftly cut off the damaged quarter panel from the vehicle.

Step 4

With the aid of the grinder along with the sanding attachment, the paint should be ground off of the edges of the replacement quarter panel and the body of the vehicle. This is to ensure a clean weld. Once this is achieved, the new panel should be held in place with magnets. When perfect alignment is gotten, tack weld the new quarter panel in four corners.

Step 5

Now, this is a dicey part. The replacement panel should carefully and at a measured pace, should be welded into place. Don’t weld too fast as the intensity may warp the metal of the new quarter panel. The slower you carry out the welding, the more time it will take, and the better the outcome.

Quarter panel

Step 6

Once the welding of the panel is done, the next course of action is to smoothen the welds with the body of the vehicle.

Step 7

Use a spreader to mix the body filler on a semi-flat holding surface. Then apply a layer to the replacement quarter panel. When it’s dried, sand it down using a sanding block.

Step 8

Spray the primer onto this sand-down area. blend the color or take it to a professional who can. And then your vehicle is set.

Key Takeaway

  • A quarter panel is the external surface of a vehicle that is seen between the rear door and the trunk.
  • It’s also commonly referred to as the rear wing.
  • Until recently, it was referred to generally as fenders. It is better and safer to use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to prescribe a new panel when replacing a damaged one.
  • A previously used one should not be used.

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