By Levi Quinn
Everyone has done it. You back into a pole, rear end a stray shopping cart or drop a heavy object on the trunk lid. The result is an ugly dent or a scraped finish. Turning in small damage claims to your insurance can be costly and if you have gotten an auto body repair estimate, you know that parts and labor can be expensive to pay out of pocket. There is another option though, you can fix it yourself. That's right. Armed with a plunger, a bottle of touch up paint and a few supplies, the average do-it-yourselfer can repair small dents and scratches. Here's how.
If your accident has not broken the finish and has damaged a larger body panel, you may be able to pull the dent out. Dump a bucket of soapy water over the dent and stick your household plunger over the area. The water should help create a good seal and you may be able to pull the panel back into shape. The soap will allow you to slide the plunger down the panel to break the suction.
If your dent is in a small area near a crease in the vehicle, you can place a small block of wood at the tip of the dent and gently tap the wood with a mallet to force the misplaced metal back into its original shape. Tapping gently around the edges of the dent may help pop the metal back into shape. Use care not to break the finish, chipped paint exposes bare metal which will rust.
Scratches, Scrapes and Stone Chips
Most body shops will sell you a bottle of touch up paint. They will also ask you what you are repairing and offer to fix it for a large fee. Kindly decline, and request just a bottle of touch up paint. They will need access to you vehicle to get the manufacturer's paint code. This is most often found in the glove box or the door jam. If your vehicle has been painted a different hue than its original paint color, the auto body technician can use an educated guess to mix your paint to match the rest of the finish closely.
You will need a fine grit sand paper, a bucket of soapy water, some wax and buffing cloths in addition to your bottle of paint. Wash the scraped area well with soapy water, paying special attention to any bugs or tar in the area. Wet your fine grit sand paper and carefully sand the edges of the scrape or stone chip, making sure to keep your sand paper wet. Dry the area well and leave it sit for at least ten minutes to make sure it dries completely. Then, shake the bottle of touch up paint for at least two minutes. Brush on a light coat of paint over the damaged area. You can always apply a second coat after the first coat dries. Allow the paint to cure overnight then use a rubbing compound followed by a coat of wax to protect your finish
Paint repairs fare the best when done on a sunny day with low humidity. If this is not possible in your area, perform the repairs inside a heated building with a dehumidifier running. You can also use heat lamps or a hair dryer on its lowest setting to help cure the paint.
With a few tools and a little know how, you can save yourself some money by repairing small damages yourself.