Car Welding in Brazil – Welding or Fiberglass Repair?


This is part 3 of a 3-series story ‘Car Welding in Brazil’, a big welding job on the Land Cruiser in Brazil. This part deals with fiberglass repair where welding doesn’t work. Links to the other stories: part 1 and part 2.

One of the Land Cruiser’s great features is its insulation, which is neatly covered with wooden panels. It makes the Land Cruiser a pleasant place to live and sleep, and it provides comfort in cold weather.

1. A small hole is enlarged

Complications of Welding the Land Cruiser

However, the insulation does mean that the panels of the bodywork can’t just be welded because it will set the insulation material on fire, or it will melt away. In order to get welding done on the side panels, the interior has to be dismantled.

Since we had already done that to welding the cracks in the front roof corners, the Land Cruiser was empty.

Coen found a workshop across the street and met Luis. Budget: 3 days work for 500 reais. Result: 4,5 days work for 600 reais. As it goes with these kinds of jobs: do 1 and find 2 more that need to be done.

Read More: Driving Brazil’s Worst Highway – The BR319

3. Weld the piece in place

But it was worth the time and money, and Coen spent a couple of agreeable days there. One of the things he liked was Luis’ creativity to solve problems, like fiberglass repairs in tricky corners.

Fortunately Coen does have the patience of Job, as it was a typical place of “We’ll start at 8” and then only show up at 10-kind-of agreements. It’s one of the reasons I don’t join Coen to these workshops because I totally lack that patience.

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4. Looking Good?

Kids Helping in the Workshop – Child Labor?

It’s a typical workshop along the side of the road. Small, incredibly dirty but with friendly people and a boss who likes to work and knows his job. The latter is the only thing that matters to us. Each afternoon, Luis’ two young boys come to the workshop to help.

“Some call this child labor, which is prohibited by law. Tell me how to solve this otherwise?” Luis commented.

“I have been divorced for years, my wife lives in another state, my kids go to school only four hours a day (like kids in all Brazil’s public schools) and I don’t want them out on the street here in the afternoon. It’s not safe for many reasons.”

It’s a problem many parents in Latin American countries have to deal with.

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Is this the right color?
Getting ready for the paint job

The kids clean a bit, help where they can, learn something useful in the process and Coen noticed that especially the youngest one is creative and made nifty things with rest materials. A world away from child labor, Coen concluded. Just a bit of a different playground than kids in more luxurious positions have.

Fiberglass repair
Is fiberglass repair a good solution?

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Dealing with Rust: Welding or Fiberglass Repair?

Some parts couldn’t be welded or the Land Cruiser would have to be taken apart even further. We didn’t feel like that at all. But there was a solution: as in Brazil fiberglass cars are common, like the Troller, STAC and Gurgel, an alternative was available and affordable.

Luis knew how to do fiberglass repairs, so all was well.

Part of the Land Cruiser’s rusted floor around the intake of the second fuel tank was fixed with fiberglass, as was the left back corner where the upper and lower bodywork parts fold into each other. To fix this with fiberglass proved a practical solution for one particularly nasty corner near the bonnet as well.

Read More: Paying a Sweetener? – Stopped by Traffic Police in Belém

Fiberglass repair
Fiberglass applied

Does the Work Ever Get Finished?

In the end it was quite a job of welding and fiberglass repair. And then only the major, worrying holes and cracks were tackled. There are a whole lot more!

If there is one thing we have learned over the years, it is that the Land Cruiser will never be in a perfect state. There will always be another job waiting for us.

That’s okay. We know the cracks are mostly caused by a combination of issues:

  • We love driving the unpaved roads in the interior. We avoid the asphalted highways as much as possible.
  • The Land Cruiser was heightened with 25 cms (by the previous owner). There is a stiff aluminum edge (the dark-brown one) among a bodywork and roof that have been constructed with the idea that all parts can twist and move when driving. Obviously this stiff part creates a force, which eventually results in cracks.
  • The Land Cruiser carries a lot of weight, not in the least because of the stainless steel roof rack, the roof tent and the green box (the latter obviously full of stuff). Weight: 2400 kilos empty; with all belongings, water and fuel tanks filled, spare tire and such: 3000 kilos.

But for now we can mirror ourselves in the bodywork again. I suspect for a week or so, until we hit that first dusty road again. Or maybe the beach, and do some kitesurfing

Read More: 4 Places in Northeast Brazil You Have Never Heard Of


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