::: Smoothing the tailgate / debadging the car :::
We have been asked by a few people to explain the procedure for de-badging the rear of a Mk2 Golf. This is a very popular mod and smoothes up the back of the car immensely, so by popular demand this is how you go about it. The following comments and procedures are based on experience with (you guessed it) early and late Mk2 Golfs and a Polo G40 but as badgework tends to be secured in similar ways across the entire VAG range all the comments are equally applicable to other models.
What do I need?
Before even looking at the factory VAG badges you will probably find some naff stick-on badges adorning the rear of your pride and joy. These are most likely to have been applied by the garage/dealership where the car came from, and should be the first thing to hit the bin. The only tool required to remove these is a hairdryer. Apply heat to the badge (from the back and the front) with a hairdryer. This will soften the glue holding the badge to the metalwork and will allow you to very carefully peel the badge away. Do not rip it off or force it, as this will damage the paint. Prise it carefully and only when the glue is soft. It should come off with not a mark left on the paint. There may be some residue from the glue left on the paint, which can be polished off with your favourite brand of polish.
The standard VW badges are slightly more involving to remove and require some re-painting. Obviously if you are unsure about your painting and filling skills then any half decent paint shop will do the job for you for about £50. You will use about £20 worth of odds and sods to do the job yourself thus the saving isn't enormous but you get the satisfaction of doing it yourself. Just remember that even if you bodge it up and get runs etc you can still take it to the paint shop to sort out, and it won't be the end of the world.
Unless you have a well-ventilated garage you need to wait for a still, warm dry day, which if you live in England will be the hardest part of the job. If it is windy the paint will go everywhere but on the car and all manner of flies and dust will deposit themselves on the wet paint. The job will take the best part of a day to do, as you will have to keep waiting for the filler and paint to dry. You will need a project pack of wet and dry paper (120, 400, 600, 1200 grit grades), a small tub of car body filler, some fairy liquid, a sanding block, a can of grey primer (500ml) and a can of the appropriate colour of paint (500ml). If you have metallic paint then you will need a can of lacquer as well.
Removing those badges!
The badges on the Mk2 (and 3) conveniently sit on the rear panel above the bumper and below the tailgate. The early (pre 88) cars came with a Volkswagen badge (script and logo) on the left hand side of this panel secured by three small pins which go through the metalwork, and a model badge (Golf Gti, Golf CL, Golf Driver etc) on the right hand side, again secured by three small pins. The late (post 88) cars came with a large VW roundel in the centre of the panel set into a large indent (this was in place of the script and logo badge which previously sat on the left hand side) and the model badge on the right hand side as before. We will deal with the pin secured badges first.
We would recommend removing the rear light clusters prior to starting the job as this will make the masking easier. Remove the badges from the car by removing the retainers on the back of the pins (access in the boot), this will leave you with sets of three neat holes which require filling and painting. Apply a strip of resin-soaked fibreglass matt (mixed as per the instructions) to the back of the panel (inside the boot) so as to create a backing for the holes left by the badges. If you are concerned about the effort of using fibreglass, masking tape or duck tape will suffice.
Roughen up the edges of the holes with some medium grade wet and dry paper, then mix up a small amount of car body filler and smooth it into the holes. Work the surface of the holes with the filler spatchula until the surface is as flat as possible leaving a little filler standing proud. Wait for the filler to dry and then sand flat using progressively finer grades of wet and dry paper mounted on the sanding block, to achieve a flat finish, finishing with 1200 grit paper. Patience is required here as it is important to wait for the filler to completely harden before sanding. Do not be afraid to stray onto the paint around the holes as you will be painting it all anyway and this is the only way to achieve a truly flat finish.
Once flat examine your handiwork very closely. If there are any marks or indents in the filler then apply more filler and repeat the sanding process. Remember that once painted, imperfections show up a hundred fold worse than prior to painting so if you are in any doubt repeat the process to be sure. Once happy with the finish, sand it down one final time with the 1200 grit paper and lots of soapy water. You will not need the sanding block for this but should use your fingers and move the paper in small circular movements. Keep the paper and paint saturated with the water at all times, and sand until it is as smooth as a baby's bum. Once happy with this wash the whole panel down very thoroughly with soapy water (fairy liquid) and rinse.
Once dry you can then mask off everything but the back panel, such as the bumper, rear three-quarters, tailgate etc. (Use lots of newspaper and masking tape and as a precaution cover the rear wheels with newspaper as over-spray has a habit of eating into the lacquer. VW made this job easier by putting the rear three-quarter seams at each end of the rear panel and so we would recommend painting up to these as they help disguise the job.The same applies to the area normally covered by the light clusters. If you paint up to here then the light clusters will cover the blend and hide it. Ditto for the boot seal.
Once masked, prime the area that you have been working on. There is no need to prime the whole panel, just the bit you have sanded. However for a concours finish, it might be beneficial. It is best to apply several coats of primer allowing 20 mins between each. This will give you enough thickness to rub back to a smooth finish. Once the final coat is dry you must rub the primer back to a smooth finish with 1200 grit paper and soapy water. Do not rub too hard, as this will take you back through the primer. If you spot any imperfections at this stage go back to the filling stage, because the imperfections will show up worse after the final paint. Pay particular attention to the edges of the primed area as these must be smoothed well-enough to provide a seamless transition to the un-primed bit (ie no cliff edges).
Once you are happy with this, wash the panel thoroughly and rinse. Re-Mask if required (if the original masking got soggy) and apply the coloured paint. Apply as many coats as possible allowing each coat to dry before applying the next. Use smooth even strokes of the spray can to ensure consistent coverage and clean the can's nozzle after each bout of spraying. Inverting the can and spraying it until it blows nothing but propellent does this. Do not be tempted to eek the last few drops out of the can as this will just splodge onto the car and ruin all your hard work. If your car has metallic paint you will now have to apply several coats of lacquer.
Remove all the masking material and replace the rear lights. Do not touch the paint for a few days because it will take a while to cure and go properly hard despite being touch dry. Once this has happened you can polish to your hearts content.
The above procedure can be applied to touching up any other parts of your cars body work but bear in mind that you only want to spray entire panels or parts where there are obvious masking lines (such as the plastic strips on the doors). A similar process could be used to fill holes left after de trimming your car but I would not recommend painting such large areas with a spray can. Such tasks are best left to experienced individuals with spray equipment or your local paint shop. The preferred way of filling the holes left by bits of trim is to weld them (apply a blob of weld to the hole) then grind back with an angle grinder and smooth over with filler.
Removing an Indented Roundel or Number Plate Aperture
Removing the large roundel in the centre of the later cars is far trickier. Firstly you must remove the badge in a similar way to the smaller ones by removing the pin retainers from inside the boot (two of them). You are then left with a large crater with two holes at the bottom of it. It is not possible to merely fill the cavity with filler. The body of filler would be too big and would shrink over the period of a few weeks (as it dries out) and crack.
The solution is to cut a small steel disc out that is just the right size to fit into the cavity. You then bare the metal around the rim of the cavity and weld the disc in place such that it is recessed about 1.5 mm from the surface of the panel. This must be done carefully and slowly so as not to distort the panel with the heat of the welder. The welds must then be ground back so that they do not sit proud of the panel. The remaining 1.5mm depth of cavity is then skim filled, by applying a few thin layers of filler. Once dry you should then sand the filler flat and you can follow the procedure described earlier in this article for prepping and painting.
This technique can also be used to remove the numberplate recess by welding a larger piece of metal over it and then skim filling using the same technique. Such a task should not be taken lightly and unless your welding and filling skills are good, we would recommend you get a paintshop to do it, or at least do it on a spare tailgate rather than the one on the car.
The same procedure is also used for smoothing aerial holes, wiper holes and the like, but for these type of holes it is best to weld the plate over the back of the hole rather than welding from the front. For smaller holes such as the aerial hole it is possible to back the hole with fibreglass mat rather than a welded plate and get an acceptable result.
It's all down to...
The most important thing to remember when carrying out such tasks is that the key to a quality finish is PREPARATION. Any imperfections visible before painting WILL show up worse after painting. Obviously you will never get a finish from a spray-can that will compete with the quality of a good bodyshop re-spray, but with some careful preparation you will find the results wholly acceptable.
Some colours are easier to spray than others, with metallics being slightly trickier than flat colours, as you have an extra layer to apply (the lacquer) and there is therefore more chance for things to go wrong. This said, it is not difficult to get an excellent metallic finish from a spray can as long as you don't try to paint too large an area at once.
We know from experience that it is possible to paint an entire wing in metallic with spray cans and get a factory perfect finish. Colour wise, lighter colours tend to be easier than darker ones with white being a piece of piss and black showing up even the smallest imperfections. Certain metallics however break this rule with oak green and similar dark metallics being easier to paint than some lighter metallics.
Disclaimer : Matey-Matey accept no responsibility for any of the information contained within this document or the accuracy thereof. It is intended as a helpful guide and is solely based on personal experience. The authors also wish to stress that the methods highlighted are centred around personal opinion and there may be other equally credible ways of performing this conversion..