Chevy Volt Dent Repair

by Ben N on January 3, 2020

After installing the new doors on the Volt, it was road-worthy, but I still didn’t like the dent in the back fender. There were a few dings above the rear door as well. So, I set to work to figure out how to pull out the dents.

I had already played around a bit with an industrial grade suction cup (https://amzn.to/2QqkpzT) and was able to slightly reduce the fender dent.

Next, I headed to Harbor Freight Tools and bought a Paintless Dent Removal Kit. It’s basically a hot glue gun and a crossbar. Threaded inserts get glued to the car body. By threading a knob on the other end through the bar, the metal gets pulled up, removing the dent.

Harbor Freight dent puller kit.

Of course, it helps if you are the artistic type for the finished look, or the engineering type, so you know the order, direction, and distance to pull. I really had neither, and this was my first time doing this. I was working outside and the ambient temperature was about freezing. After a few times of snapping the glue right off, I made space to bring the car inside to warm up.

Overall, these tools work as they are supposed to, but so much of it depends on the exact nature of the dent. The Harbor Freight tool was limited in that it only had two of the puller tabs – one round, and one football-shaped. There was also only a very small bottle of glue release agent. Right on the bottle it listed the only ingredient as acetone, so I grabbed a full size can of acetone next time I was at the hardware store. I also think that it would be easier to pull the dents with more of the pull tabs, and a larger variety of sizes and shapes. If I did it again, I’d buy a more complete set of parts for a Paintless Dent Removal, something along the lines of this one: https://amzn.to/2MUnuWG

I repeated the pulls a number of times, and sure enough, I was able to get metal to move and reduce the denting. Above the door frame, the golf-ball-sized ding actually cut all the way through the paint. When I went to pull the dent, the hot-glue puller actually took the paint right off. When I tried again, I found that the glue does NOT stick to the primer or undercoat.



On any parts of the smaller dents that were pulled up too high, I was able to flatten them back down with the included blunt plastic device designed for the job, or even just my rubber mallet.

As much as I pulled, I couldn’t get the fender dent out. There was just too much of a crease right at the door frame. To make any more progress, I would have to pound out the dent from behind. That meant removing the interior trim from the back of the car. I had one of those plastic trim removal kits, (https://amzn.to/2sMhJDp) which made it easy to pop a few of the connectors holding the interior in place, but I had to remove a number of other pieces of the interior to be able to pull the rear corner panel.

Hard to get to the fender exterior with all this in the way!

Once I had, I could see very limited access to the sheet metal from inside the car. (Last time I tried such a thing, it was on a 1996 Geo Metro. I just punched the metal from the inside and the dent popped right out!)
There was a hole about an inch square. I pushed a 2-foot-long socket extension through and was able to push and pound on the back side of it. Unfortunately, I had to do this left-handed (my bad wrist, too!) and the tool was too long for me to pound and see the results at the same time.

I looked around for something else and settled on using the handle from my car jack. That let me work in closer. I was able to bang out some more of the dent from the inside. I also managed to crack the paint right there. I was so focused on just where I was pounding, that I forgot to occasionally hit the paint with a heat gun to keep it warm and malleable. That was right by the crease, and there was a crack in the paint very close by anyways.

By about that time, I was done for the day. The dent was certainly better, but by no means an A-1 repair. I’m sure that with a little Bondo and paint, it would probably look pretty good.

Pounded out from the inside.

The next day, I took the car out in the sunlight. The dents are very subjective. A big part of it is just the lighting – the angle of the sun and the direction of the light versus the dents. From some angles, it doesn’t look to bad at all. From others, there’s a very noticeable small crease right behind the door.


I’ll probably attempt a little sanding/filling/painting and making this look as best I can. Still, it’s pretty nice looking for a $2800 car!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

More about this project in the previous posts: https://300mpg.org/2019/12/28/fixing-a-crashed-chevy-volt/

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Fixing a Crashed Chevy Volt

by Ben N on December 28, 2019

New to me 2012 Chevy Volt

I just purchased a Chevy Volt!
While I’m excited about that, the only reason I got it was because it was cheap. And it was cheap because it needed a bunch of work…

The nice side of the car

Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine was driving his 2012 Chevy Volt when a deer hit him. (No, he didn’t hit the deer). He was driving about 65 MPH when the deer ran into the side of the car. For those of you who don’t live in deer territory, striking one of these animals is common, and can cause a tremendous amount of damage.

The bad side of the car.

The car is the premium trim level with leather seats, backup camera, nice stereo, and all the other bells and whistles. The owner even installed a HEATED steering wheel in the car THE DAY BEFORE it was hit by the deer!

After dealing with the insurance company and getting a repair estimate, the cost to fix was nearly $8,000! So, the insurance company simply made a payout. The value of used cars like this in my area usually go for about $10,000. So, the insurance company would simply pay the value of the car, instead of fix it. It wasn’t a “total loss” in that the car actually still drove fine and safe. It would just cost a fortune to fix.

That’s when the friend called me and said that he could “buy-back” the car from the insurance company for only the difference between the car value and the repair estimate – in this case, $2745.oo! And he offered it to ME!

Here is also where things get interesting.
I actually ALREADY own a 2012 Chevy Volt. And I bought it from the same guy. About a year earlier, his mother was driving her Volt, ran a red light, and front-ended straight into a pickup truck. She was fine, but all the airbags fired off and the entire front end was smashed in. I purchased the car at the insurance salvage price so that I could get the battery and sell any other parts off of it to get a little profit. I’ve been busy with other projects and hadn’t had a chance to pull the battery yet, so I haven’t really talked about it.

The salvaged parts car.

That car has TWO PERFECT driver side doors. And it’s silver. And even the same model year!

So, when I had the chance to buy a Chevy Volt at a cheap price because it needed fixing, I jumped at the chance because I already owned a matching parts car!

I bought the car and was able to simply have the title signed over to me, instead of having to send in for a Salvage Title. I fully expected a salvage title and having to take the vehicle in for inspection after repair. Apparently, the State of Wisconsin no longer issues salvage titles for cars over 7 years old. It’s a 2012 model year car, and here we are at the very end of 2019! Whew! Just made it!

I drove the car home. My little girl got to ride with me and she said how “cool” it was! The first thing to do was just clean the car a bit. I even took it to the car wash to get some of the dirt off. For all I knew, the doors leaked like a sieve. Running through the car wash would let me know that too!

Running the car through an automatic car wash.

The next day, I set to work removing the smashed doors. The driver’s door doesn’t open from the outside. I’d been opening it so far by reaching in through the passenger side to unlatch it from the inside. For the rear door, I hadn’t even tried opening it yet, for fear that it wouldn’t close again. It turned out those fears were unfounded as I COULDN’T OPEN THE BACK DOOR AT ALL!

I tried finding some YouTube videos on replacing Volt doors, but wasn’t able to. I instead did a search for Chevy Malibu and Cruze, figuring those were similar cars. Sure enough, I found a couple of videos, and they were helpful to figure out how to take the doors off.
I also removed the driver seat, as that was torn and the heated seat wouldn’t work.

Removing the back door was challenging. It wouldn’t open at all. Even after I pulled out the bolts mounting it to the hinges, it barely moved. I pulled off the door interior and did all I could to unlatch it from the inside. No Luck.
I switched to the outside of the door and drilled multiple holes and cut with an angle grinder to expose the interior latch. Once I had, I could release the latch and remove the door.

Removing the driver seat and both doors.

After that, I headed over to where the parts car was stored and removed the doors and seat from that vehicle.

Back home again, installed the “new to me” seat and doors in the car. The back door needed a little tweaking, but after simply adjusting the hinge bolts, it seemed to fit and close well.

I finished installing the doors just before dark on Christmas Eve. We drove to the car over to visit relatives. It drove great, I love the stereo, and the heated steering wheel was pure luxury!

Although the car was totally drivable, I still wanted to fix the dents. I got a Harbor Freight paint-less dent repair kit. I set to work trying to pull the dents.
If I did it again, I’d try a kit with more accessories, like this one: https://amzn.to/2QpO4rK

After I got the car all back together, I found that I had an Airbag error on the dashboard! Oh No! I know that cars get more and more complicated all the time, but I was really hoping to NOT have to do something like remove the airbag computer. Part of the appeal of buying the damaged Volt was that NONE of the airbags had gone off during the deer collision. So what was happening now?

I replaced the seat and doors from a parts car which HAD been in an accident where most of the airbags fired. Was a sensor from that crashed car causing a problem in the car I was now driving?

I set to work poking around inside the original doors. Two reasons for that. One is that the drivable car has the higher end sound system, including better quality speakers than the other car. I wanted to transfer those speakers, so I would take the door interior panels off anyways. Secondly, somewhere in those doors should be impact sensors. Perhaps those impact sensors in the replacement doors were the problem, and I could swap them for the originals?

Once I found the impact sensors, I ended up realizing that I didn’t have the right tools to remove them anyways. (I still pulled the speakers.)
I had found out on a web forum about something called the Seatbelt Pre-Tensioner. This is a device mounted on the seat.

Since I had the one seat out and accessible, it was easy to remove one plastic cover and take a look at it. I then removed the seat in the car, took at a look at the matching part, and compared the two.

Sure enough, they were physically different. Although the airbag in the driver’s seat had not fired (green-trimmed replacement seat from the parts car) the seatbelt-pretensioner HAD been activated. It’s a one-time-use part, and looks different after it’s been used.

Seatbelt pre-tensioners. Good one is in the upper-left. Used/fired/activated one is lower-right.

I swapped the pretensioner from the original seat to the replacement seat and reinstalled it in the car. Wow! The airbag error was gone! If you ever need to replace a seat in your car with one from a junkyard or parts car, keep this in mind! The only thing I wish is that I had thought of it sooner, so that I hadn’t needed to install the seat more than once!

That’s if for now! Check back on this post often, as I will update it with whatever progress I make on this car.

Until next time, stay charged-up!
-Ben Nelson

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Prepping to remove the Loader

by Ben N on November 20, 2019

I removed the sheet metal “Hood” of the tractor to get a quick look at the engine. Pretty simple under there, but both the loader arm AND the loader frame really block working on it. Clearly the loader has to come off right away.

In the front, the loader is bolted to the tractor with some heavy-duty angle-iron brackets. In the back, the frame sits in brackets that bolt to the rear axle. But what’s this? The frame looks like it’s WELDED in to those brackets? How am I supposed to get that off?

Welded on! How am I supposed to get that off!?

I pulled off the fenders to get a better view at the axles. Bolted right to them is a large bracket, the bottom section of which is essentially a C-channel. The frame of the loader sits down into this channel, but there was also a weld hold it in there!

I checked the other side of the tractor and saw the same thing! Although I COULD unbolt the brackets from the axle, the width of them would make sure they would catch on everything from the brake pedals to the clutch to the steering!

I was stumped. I considered a few other ways to remove the loader, including removing just the front section and hydraulics, then splitting the rest in half. Any of that would be a tremendous amount of work. A friend stopped over and we kicked around a few ideas. He suggested that maybe the frame WASN’T welded to the bracket. I really went at the metal to clean away all the dirt and found that the weld actually only attached a spacer of metal. On the other side, there was also a spacer and a small weld connecting the frame to the bracket. I stuck my old Model T car jack under the tractor and pushed up on just the support of the loader. Sure enough! I got it to move! (On the left side, I was able to break the tack weld!)

Once I removed the cross-bolt (that is to say, broke it off….) I was able to jack the loader support up and most of the way out of the axle bracket.

I was planning on replacing that anyways…

On the front of the tractor, removing the bolts holding the loader on looked pretty easy, but looks can be deceiving. It was actually pretty challenging, due to the space limitations between the tractor and loader frame. There were also clearance issues between the vertical and horizontal bolts. I ended up having to run to the store and buy some larger wrenches and sockets.

With the right tools, a 4 foot long steel pipe, and some patience, I was able to remove the bolts, and then jack the front corner of the loader off the tractor frame. I then did the same on the other front corner.

For more Foot-Pounds, add almost four feet of steel pipe!

Next, I needed to disconnect the hydraulic hoses. This old-school loader uses a combination of hard lines and flexible hoses, but no where in there are quick disconnects! To take off the lines, I would have to physically unscrew every one. Besides the two pairs of hoses from the tractor to the loader, there is also a pair of hoses split off that runs THORUGH the tractor. That’s right, not over or under, but actually though it. That means the loader and be taken off the tractor above or below.

One pair of the main hydraulic hoses. Just waiting to be disconnected.

I started unscrewing the hydraulic lines, making sure any pressure was released first, and having a bucket and towels handy. For the hoses that went through the tractor, I disconnected them at the left loader arm cylinder and then pulled them through. I didn’t see any reason why they couldn’t go over the TOP of the tractor (other than not reaching…) so I threw the hoses over the top.

I’ll still need a pair of hoses to extend the reach back to the left main hydraulic cylinder. I also bought a set of generic 3/8″ NPT hydraulic quick disconnects.
By threading those onto the ends of the hoses, I should be able to attach and detach the lines without losing fluid.

Next time I work on the tractor, I should be able to hook all the lines up and have the loader working again. Only this time, I’ll be able to use the power of the loader itself to push it off the tractor, back the tractor up, and lower the loader to the ground. I’ll unplug the hydraulic disconnects, and drive the tractor away.

At least in theory. We’ll see if it’s that easy or not!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson
300MPG.org

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Tractor Arrives!

by Ben N on November 15, 2019

Today’s excitement is that the tractor arrived!
When we went to look at the International Harvester 300 Utility tractor, one of the appealing things about it was that the seller offered to be able to deliver it.
So, today, I’m waiting for the tractor to show up on a gooseneck trailer. The seller, Wayne, showed up right when he said and backed his trailer into my driveway.

The tractor was quickly unchained, but being such a cold morning, it didn’t start right up. I brought over a large 12V battery and jumper cables and then it fired up fine.

We unloaded the tractor and parked it in my driveway at idle while I finished moving a few things around my garage.

I was planning to park the tractor in the right-hand side of my garage. That’s the side with the “Passive Solar Garage Door”. The whole idea of that is to create a giant window which lets in light AND HEAT on a sunny winter day. Unfortunately, today was winter, but NOT sunny. I also designed it so that I could still open the glazed door, similar to a French Door. I also realized that I’ve never actually done that before to bring a vehicle in and out!

Operation of the tractor itself is pretty straight-forward. On the other hand, I’ve never actually operated a tractor. I tried out the hydraulics first, raising and lowering the loader, and tilting the bucket. It was easy to drop the loader fast, and I also learned that I need to give the tractor a little more throttle when I want to lift it at a decent speed.

Driving the tractor is easy too, other than the fact that there was no shift pattern shown! I guessed where first gear was, and learned that’s actually reverse. Flipping the stick the opposite direction put it in first gear. Both the clutch and brakes are heavy-duty. I practically had to stand on them for full pedal travel!

Since my car (a Mitsubishi iMiEV electric car) was handy, I also needed to shoot a quick side-by-side comparison!

Once I was ready to bring the tractor into the garage, I also realized it was too tall! This version of the tractor has the muffler coming straight up. I had already noticed that earlier, but when I was backing into the garage, most of my attention was on not crashing into the sides. Luckily, I remembered the muffler BEFORE getting all the way in. I grabbed my welding gloves and used them as hot-pads to remove the muffler.

Once I had the tractor parked, I was happy to turn it off. Tractors are noisy enough, let alone when the muffler is removed! I have enough space around the tractor to move and work, but I’m not really looking forward to dismounting the front-end-loader. That will be a trick and be a project all by itself.

Since we now HAVE the tractor, we can start taking measurements and figure out which motor, batteries, and other equipment will be appropriate for this conversion.

Don’t worry, there will be many updates on this project as it progresses!

Stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

Last night, I had to run an errand over to the Fleet Farm store. My daughter was with and headed straight to the toy section. We found there a 1/16th scale model of the tractor! I was temped to buy it, but really don’t need to shell out $40 or so on a toy! Maybe by the end of the project as a keepsake….
https://amzn.to/2qibkyy

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Winter Projects

by Ben N on November 13, 2019

Winter hit hard and fast here in south-eastern Wisconsin, with 6 inches of snow in October and it’s 6℉ as I write this in early November. So, that means it’s time to button down our winter projects!

CRASHED MITSUBISHI IMIEV AUCTION
In the last video update, I mentioned a crashed Mitsubishi iMiEV that was up for auction. This would have been a great car, as it was in “runs and drives” condition, had CHAdeMO fast charge, and was located only 30 miles from my house!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. I was all lined up with a broker, had my deposit in, and the auction started. There are some very strange rules of the specifics when it comes to buying at auto auctions. Because the car was located in the same state as I was, I would have needed to do some EXTRA work with the broker, beyond the typical. Of course, I didn’t know that ahead of time, and the broker’s info didn’t make that clear. Oh well, Que sera, sera!

CRASHED CHEVY VOLT
Almost immediately after I missed the iMiEV auction, I was contacted by my friend, Cris. He hit a deer with his Chevy Volt. (Or rather, the deer hit him! The damage was on the SIDE of the car!)
After talking with his insurance company, the decided to total out the car. The main damage is to both driver side doors. There’s also a dent in the rear fender, a small dent to the door frame above the rear door, and a dent in the roof. Total cost to repair all that would have been more than the value of the car. I’ve been told that doors cost $1700 each! The ding in the roof is apparently a pretty expensive place to fix as well.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The ding in the roof WASN’T from the deer. The owner told me the car already had that ding in it when he got it! It just HAPPENS to be in the same area as where the deer hit!

His mother also drove a Chevy Volt. Last year, she got in an accident, completely crumpling the front of the car. I ended up purchasing the salvage of that car. I figured I could use the battery and other parts for some of my projects. I never actually got to moving that car over to my place, so it’s still sitting in their barn. The car is the same make, model, year, and EVEN COLOR as the one that just took deer damage!

That means I should be able to buy my friend’s car at the insurance buyout value and just swap two door into it which I already own! I wouldn’t even have to repaint them! Of course, there will still be a few dings in this car. It won’t look brand new, but will be a great upgrade over our 2004 Prius!

TRACTOR FOR ELECTRIC CONVERSION
The day after going to check out Cris’s Volt, I got a message from Brian, who is having me convert a tractor to electric for him. The first step is to actually GET a tractor. Between the two of us, we’ve looked at several, both in person and through on-line ads.
Brian and I met up to look at an International Harvester 300. It’s a mid-50s full-size farm tractor.

One of the big features Brian was looking for was a front end loader. This tractor had a nice one, well integrated into the design. The engine and hydraulics were all in good shape. We got to test out the tractor, driving it around and using the loader. Overall, it ticked all the boxes in what we were looking for.

Another attractive part of the deal is that the seller has a nice large trailer which he can use to deliver the tractor. With it weighing up to 6,000 lbs, it’s nice for us not to have to dig up a truck and trailer rated for that!

The tractor gets delivered to my place tomorrow, which means I really need to get going with cleaning my garage! I’m a little concerned about how much space this is going to take up. Not only the tractor large, but I’ll have to remove the loader as the very first task. I don’t think I want to just leave that outside for the winter, and it will take up an entire parking space all by itself inside!

Oh well, I’ll figure it out.

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson
300MPG.org

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October Electric Bill and Time of Use

November 12, 2019

I just got my October electric bill! Let’s look inside and see what it comes to. Since I have solar on my garage, my electric bill is far less than it used to be. I typically look forward to getting my bill and taking my best guess as to what it will come to. Overall, […]

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Ford 8N Tractor for Electric Conversion?

October 29, 2019

Today, I stopped over at a friend’s farm property to check out a couple of tractors. I’ve recently been researching which tractors might make good candidates for an electric conversion, but what I really needed to do is just go out and see some. A family friend, Linda, had two old tractors on her property. […]

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DIY Teardrop Trailer Tour

October 9, 2019

About 15 years ago, I built a teardrop trailer. At the time, I never dreamed I would tow it with an electric car! But here we are, living in the future! A teardrop is a retro style of camping trailer with a shape, you guessed it, like a teardrop. These were popular after World War […]

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Tesla Implant!

October 1, 2019

I recently met up with John Olson. He implanted himself with an RFID chip which would allow him to unlock and drive his Tesla Model 3 just by holding his hand up to his car! I met him at the Milwaukee Makerspace for a video interview. One of the reasons we met there was that […]

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Solar Savings – August 2019

September 9, 2019

I just got my electric bill for this past month. Let’s open it up and see what it comes to! August was relatively cool, so we didn’t use the air-conditioning much. That’s important, as what I PAY for electricity is simply the difference between how much I make with the solar and how much I […]

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Wheelie Poppin’ Tractor for Junk Parade!

September 2, 2019

This year, I made it. I got my overpowered piece of junk electric tractor into The World’s Greatest Junk Parade! Last year, I took this old GE Elec-Trak frame and added a forklift motor and 6 Nissan Leaf Cell Modules. The driveline was a little complicated, and I didn’t get it working in time for […]

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Lithium Battery Communications

August 26, 2019

I just got my laptop to communicate with the Valence lithium batteries in the Ford Ranger EV pickup truck! The truck’s instrumentation is pretty basic – just a “Miles to Go” and “Percent Charged” meter, which were designed to work with lead-acid batteries. I wanted to be able to communicate directly with the lithium batteries […]

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Electric ATV Repair and Upgrade

August 11, 2019

Not long ago, a neighbor was cleaning out his garage. Among the things he was getting rid of was an old kids electric ATV. It was in poor condition, but looked like a fun “fixer-upper”! My daughter is also now eight-years old and has outgrown her Solar-Powered PowerWheels. So, a Razor brand ATV looked like […]

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Electric Truck Lithium Battery Upgrade

August 10, 2019

I upgraded the Electric Ford Ranger to Lithium Batteries!The truck had Group 24 Lead-Acid batteries in the bed. The batteries pulled from the Smith electric truck are Valence brand Group 27 batteries designed as 12V replacements. So, the logical thing to do was simply pull out the lead and put in the lithium in it’s […]

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July 2019 Electric Bill

August 8, 2019

I just got my July electric bill. Time to open it on camera so that you and I get to see what it is at the same time! In July, we finally started getting some nice summer days! (June was surprisingly rainy and cloudy!) But along with the sun was HEAT. We used our central […]

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Battery Pack Disassembly

April 18, 2019

Once we finally made it back from North Carolina, we needed to unload the batteries. While we had a forklift to LOAD the batteries, we didn’t have one at my place and had to resort to an engine hoist, furniture dollies, and finally, steel pipes. Getting 2,000 pounds of batteries off the trailer was no […]

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Removing the Batteries from the Smith Electric Truck

April 15, 2019

Well, it’s been an adventure so far…I was originally asked by my friend, Seth, to accompany him on a road trip to buy a commercial electric truck. The Copart auction had already taken place. He just had to drive 900 miles to get the truck and drag it back home. In the highlight of the […]

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