1988 S15 Frame Repair - S-10 Forum
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1988 S15 Frame Repair

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Old 03-11-2012, 09:13 PM   #1
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1988 S15 Frame Repair

Hi all, I just posted in the 'What did you do today' thread, but I thought this warranted its own thread too; especially since Im going to document the process and results.

Im in the very beginning stages of repairing some gnarly frame rust I found while checking brakes lines, suspension, etc. I parked the truck for a couple years. Now, with fuel prices getting out of control, I thought it might be prudent to fix it. The thing got 30mpg loaded with work equipment, and I managed ~34.75 MPG with it empty several weeks in a row. That was almost all highway driving, but I didnt poke along - I ran 75 in the 70 zones and 70-75 in the 55 zones too. It didnt even have an Efan or anything - just a short exhaust, no cat and FAI.

I took the bed off today. PB Blaster was my friend...best stuff Ive found yet to remove rusted in place bolts.




Here is the part that I am going tro have to cut out and replace:



I wondered if anyone here had experience with something like this, and what kind of tips and tricks you might have. I also have absolutely zero experience welding, but plan to practice first on some old metal scraps I have.
Old 03-12-2012, 11:14 AM   #2
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Re: 1988 S15 Frame Repair

you will be welding a structual spot- if you dont know how to weld get help. What will you be using, mig or stick?

You need to cut back as far as you have to until you hit solid metal. Bevel your cuts. Your root pass needs to be the strongest.
If you feel better about it, put a gusset plate over the joint you weld.

Just remember, everytime the suspension moves you will be changing the load that weld sees- so it needs to be strong. The stock frame rail is 1/8", so you can use that in your replacement material.
Old 03-12-2012, 01:28 PM   #3
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Re: 1988 S15 Frame Repair

Quote: Originally Posted by gunther19820
you will be welding a structual spot- if you dont know how to weld get help. What will you be using, mig or stick?

You need to cut back as far as you have to until you hit solid metal. Bevel your cuts. Your root pass needs to be the strongest.
If you feel better about it, put a gusset plate over the joint you weld.

Just remember, everytime the suspension moves you will be changing the load that weld sees- so it needs to be strong. The stock frame rail is 1/8", so you can use that in your replacement material.
I will be using MIG. I didnt like the idea of stick welding suck an important area...but admittedly, I dont know how to weld. I also was thinking Id add an extra plate for reinforcement, it just made sense.

I'm pretty darn quick to catch on to things, and I have a neighbor who welds for a living. Heck, he might be willing to come over with his welder and zap it for me.

I planned on doing it myself though, after some reading and practice. If I can get help, all the better. I was going to buy a good but not overly expensive welder for the job, which would allow me to do a lot more bodywork-wise and also do my own exhaust work. I suppose if he will do it, Id save a few hundred bucks. Just a lil something for the basic hobbyist/farm equipment repair/auto body.

Ive got solid metal with just surface rust just before it curves, which I thought might make it easier overall to get leveled and attached perfectly. I was actually hoping to get a scrapyard to cut out a rear section of frame from a wrecked one, so I wouldnt have to fab the leaf spring mounting bracket. The less involved I have to get, the better with my inexperience. I prefer to learn one step at a time, not dive in headfirst and wind up ruining things.

I know what a good weld looks like; just not how to do it. Im a construction inspector during the day, and have some light experience checking welds...but none at all in actually doing the work :P
Old 03-12-2012, 01:53 PM   #4
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Re: 1988 S15 Frame Repair

There is absolutley nothing wrong with stick. Thats how buildings are/were built. I just didnt know what kind of machine you have access to.

Talk to your neighbor, if you can set it up for him, and then just have him burn it together that would be pretty good. Also, if you can get to the boneyard and cut a frame rail off that would really make your life easier.

My 120v mig handles 1/8" with no issues... anything thicker than that I start to have problems. I have a Hobart, and love it.
Old 03-12-2012, 01:58 PM   #5
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Re: 1988 S15 Frame Repair

Wow. That's about the worst I've seen. I would say just get another frame, depending on where you are. Out here in AZ the salvage yards have plenty of rust free first generation S10 frames and body parts. But if you are back east, it might be a little harder to do. I can weld, but I would not attempt something like that. You almost need to be an engineer as well as a welder to fix something like that, be able to understand where all the stress points are as it moves.
Old 03-12-2012, 04:29 PM   #6
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Re: 1988 S15 Frame Repair

Not really. Just make sure the replacement section of frame is exactly the same length. And make sure your welds are good and hot. And gusseted if necessary.
It is easier to fix what he has than replace the full frame. I just finished up z-ing the front horns on my truck... enough measuring an angle checking and he will be ok.


OP, dont be scared to cut that truck up- you will be fine.
Old 03-12-2012, 07:59 PM   #7
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Re: 1988 S15 Frame Repair

Quote: Originally Posted by gunther19820
There is absolutley nothing wrong with stick. Thats how buildings are/were built. I just didnt know what kind of machine you have access to.

I didnt know that. I figured it was weaker than MIG...nice to know. See, Im learning already!

Quote: Originally Posted by gunther19820
Talk to your neighbor, if you can set it up for him, and then just have him burn it together that would be pretty good. Also, if you can get to the boneyard and cut a frame rail off that would really make your life easier.
Thats probablyt the easiest way, and cheapest. Best I could find a decent welder for was 250-300$ range for 115/120vAC, claiming they could do 1/8 and some to 1/4" metal. 300$ would go a long way towards interior parts...but then again Id like to be able to do my own exhaust work so buying one would be an investment.

Im not afraid to chop 'er up - its unsafe to drive as is, and for the initial 500$ investment, Ive gotten my $$ worth out of it tenfold. Drove it for ~10 years and put almost 200,000 miles on it!
Old 03-13-2012, 12:49 AM   #8
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Re: 1988 S15 Frame Repair

Make angled cuts on your frame that way the load has more surface area to be distributed on. And do the passenger side opposite the drivers like if your drivers side cut is angled towards the cab your passenger side cut should be angled away from the cab. I hope this makes sense. It will be way stronger than if you cut them straight down. I help my dad stretch semi truck frames to make large bed trucks for hauling drilling equipment to and from the sites and Ive seen these guys pick a load so large the front end comes up five or six feet off the ground without breaking or cracking any of my dads work. The initial cut is just as important as the final weld
Old 03-13-2012, 08:27 AM   #9
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Re: 1988 S15 Frame Repair

Quote: Originally Posted by agent00kevin
I didnt know that. I figured it was weaker than MIG...nice to know. See, Im learning already!
A lot of pipe is still welded using stick. Although more companies are moving to Mig now, it is a question of cost. Stick has been more inexpensive, but now Mig consumables are becoming more and more cost effective. BrandonR on here is sticking his truck together, and it looks really good IMO..

You can get a mig machine that burns both flux core wire and solid wire. Flux core has no need for gas, so it is a bit cheaper. Flux core also burns a little hotter, due to burning the flux. So you can weld slightly thicker.

For sheetmetal I prefer gas shielded. It is less messy, and I am more used to it... just my $.02
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