Basic At-Home Car Body Dents and Minor Repair Tips

Rear of car with a dent and some scratches visible.

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Minor body damage occurs all the time. Door dings, bumper scrapes, scratches — these are all things that you may have a shot at repairing yourself.

Before diving into body repair and learning how to get it done in your driveway, assess your skill level. If you've never attempted any fixes like this before, you aren't going to get absolute perfection the first time. If you want a perfect repair, find a really good body shop (get a referral from somebody who has done business with them) and have your vehicle fixed properly. Sometimes, the cost of professional auto body repairs is worth it. But if you are patient, determined, and want to save money, now's the time to try to fix your dents on your own. Just know that you may have to do it more than once to get a satisfactory result and that you probably won't end up with a result that looks as good as a professional repair.

How to Fix Scratches

A simple paint scratch may seem super simple to repair, but it's not quite as easy as filling in the scratch with touch-up paint. If a scratch is deep enough to show the primer underneath (a color that is usually lighter than your paint), you will need to fill the scratch. To do this, use either multiple coats of touch-up paint or scratch filler. When it dries, you'll need to sand the area smooth. Use very fine sandpaper for this job, even if it seems to take a long time. Use 400-grit sandpaper as a starting point, working your way to 800-grit. When it's smooth, wax the area until it shines. Try to work on as small an area as possible to avoid increasing the amount of work you need to do.

Select the Right Paint

If you need to touch up an area of your paint, the auto parts store sells a wide variety of car paints that should match fairly well. You can find the paint code for your vehicle in the owner's manual. You can also check the paint code sticker, located either on the door sill or under the hood. A car dealer can also help. If you are painting an area large enough to spray, consider having your paint custom-mixed and loaded into an aerosol sprayer for a perfect match.

Car Body Has Some Dents?

If you've got a minor dent, they can sometimes (but seldom) be popped out safely from behind. For some minor damage, suction cup dent pullers will work. Most of the time, however, you will need to fill the dent and repaint the affected area. Filling a dent with body filler is not that difficult, but it's hard to do this well. With lots of patience, and the willingness to revisit the damaged area over and over until it's right, you can make a very nice repair using body filler. Once the dent is filled and dry, it's time to paint. You can always save some money by doing the body repair yourself, then having the paintwork done by a professional auto shop.

Repair Broken Lights

If you have a cracked or destroyed tail light or turn signal, you don't need to visit the body shop. Most vehicles are designed for fairly easy replacement of these lenses. Some are more difficult than others, but all of them are repairable at home using simple tools. Before you pay a lot for your new lens at the dealer, consider ordering a cheap reproduction part. The quality on these parts has increased dramatically over the past decade, and the price is literally a fraction of what the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) part costs.