Replacing the Heater Channels
When I removed the rubberized coating, this is what I found. As you can see, it wasn't a pretty picture. All this was hidden behind fiberglass screening. You can also see the heater channel right below the inner fender.
Here's a view from the inside. The inner fender has a nice hole in it and the firewall is pretty well shot too.
Here's the right side. Not much better. Looking at this photo, you can see how the rust was hidden. All I did to expose it was to pull on a corner of the fiberglass mess and voila, instant rust.
The channels were too far gone so I didn't want to remove the body first. So instead, the doors were removed, bumpers, fenders, seats, carpeting etc. Anything to make it easier to get at the channels. I also had the car jacked up on ramps and blocks, to save the old back. I decided to start with the drivers side. If I wasn't going to remove the body yet, then I could at least seperate it from the floorpan. All of the bolts on the bodypan came out fairly easy as well as the one behind the rear seat. I had problems removing the two bolts near the front where it attaches to the firewall. But seeing the firewall was going to be replaced, I didn't try to save it. Besides the bolts that hold the body to the pan, there are two other bolts under the gas tank. It's a lot easier if you remove it first. In the rear, behind the rear tires, this is also one bolt per side that has to be removed. These are the only two bolts that broke when I was taking it apart. They will be replaced when I do the floorpan.
It took me about 3 weekends to remove the channel. At the time, I had no idea how to do it. So I began by jacking up the body on the drivers side about 4", seperating the body from the pan. This allowed me to see better and it and also to cut the old channel from below. The first cut that was made was the section between the door (a Sawsall was real handy). By doing so, I was able to look "through" the channel to see how it was welded in. Then I could see where to cut. Next, I used a small angle grinder with a 4" cut-off wheel (this wheel is about 1/8" thick). I nibbled away at the old metal next to the hinge pillar until I got close to the body. When it was removed it left a profile like steps in a house. On the inside of the hingepost, the factory welded a bead about two inches long(holds the body to the channel). I just ground away at it until it was free. The channel is also welded where it goes under the firewall.In my case, there wasn't much left of the firewall so it came out pretty easily. This may sound easy to do but it took me a long time to remove it.
The rear section was a REAL challenge. I probably spent more time removing this section. This piece of channel is welded everywhere. The side of the body (below the rear window) is welded to the channel with spot welds. Those were easy to undo. Just drill them out and slightly bend the metal back. Below the pillar (where the door latch is) is very similar to the front. There is also a "flap" of metal that is welded in that has to be ground out. Just take your time. On the outside of the body it is also welded to the channel. Normally, the running board covers it. I just drilled out the spot welds to free it away. By now the only thing holding in the channel is where it attaches to the back of the body. This was one of the most frustrating section to remove. You see, you can wiggle the channel but it STILL won't come out. On the inside of the car what I ended up doing was again grinding slowly away at the channel until I was at the rear of the body. When I was through grinding away, all that was left was the outline of the channel where it meets the body. One more weld to remove. On the outside of the car, underneath, there is also a weld that has to be removed. I tried different grinders, drills etc. to get at it. I ended up using a small Dremel tool with a cut- off wheel attached to it. After cutting it away from the channel, it finally came out. Rocky Mountain Motors sells a replacement plate that you can get in case you damage your.
Here's a view of the right side less the heater channel.
On this view, I wanted to show you the plate in the rear of the channel. It hadn't been changed it yet.