Tips for vehicle reassembly

March 1, 2009 | By Richard Prince


I need your advice regarding prioritizing the reassembly steps for my 1950 four-door Dodge Coronet.

In 1990 I did a body-off-the-frame restoration, stripping the frame and body down to bare metal. All mechanical parts have been rebuilt but they remain off of the car. I have a new wiring harness and new glass. The entire front suspension system has been rebuilt and installed. The rear suspension has also been completely rebuilt and installed onto the chassis. The interior is stripped bare and has been primed and painted. All seats have been reupholstered and the door panels have been restored but all of this remains out of the car.

In summary, since putting the car back together again is going to consume a great deal of time, are there procedures to follow to facilitate a smooth reassembly?


Though it’s obviously too late to offer this advice to you, for the benefit of other readers I’ll start by pointing out the importance of taking copious notes and plenty of photos during disassembly because these can prove invaluable during reassembly.

It is also extremely helpful to keep all of the parts as organized as is possible and you are usually far better off if you don’t throw anything away until the entire car is back together and finished.

Once you’re at the stage where you find yourself, an important bit of advice is to do as much of the dirty work as is possible before starting reassembly in earnest.

You don’t say anything about whether the body work and paint have been completed or even started. When performing a complete body-off-the-chassis restoration, I always prefer to finish the body and paint work before reassembly begins. This can create more work insofar as you may have to reassemble and disassemble the doors and other body parts several times to make sure everything fits properly, but the end result justifies this. The mess that spraying, sanding, compounding and polishing makes is awful and regardless of what steps you take to protect restored parts of the car, some dirt, dust, wet sanding runoff and other messy stuff inevitably ends up finding its way into lots of cracks and crevices.

Some people choose to not spray the paint or finish the new paint until the car is back together because they are afraid that the paint will be damaged during reassembly. This is a valid concern but I usually find it preferable to get all of the dirty work done and then take extra time and care to make sure the paint doesn’t get damaged during reassembly.

As far as the best sequence for reassembly is concerned, it’s almost always the exact opposite of the sequence that was followed when the car was disassembled. I’ll offer you a few more tips for a smoother reassembly experience.

Before jumping in, pick up a pad and pen and go through the reassembly process in your mind, step by step, with the car and your reference materials (shop manual, assembly manual, your disassembly photos and diagrams, etc.) in front of you. Try your best to envision every single part you will need to complete each task and make a list of those parts that you are missing. It is very frustrating to be moving along with the reassembly only to discover that you have to stop because you are missing some clips, screws or other bits essential to the process. Keep your tap and die set handy at all times and get in the habit of cleaning up all threaded components as you proceed with the reassembly. Use anti-seize compound on threaded components to ease assembly and ensure that the parts will come apart with no grief down the road if needed.

Take the time to photograph the reassembly process all along the way. A well-done photo album of the restoration is fun to display if you show the car, can be helpful in establishing value for insurance purposes, and will normally net you more money if you sell the car.