Today’s cars are build differently from their fathers and grandfathers. Older cars used thick metal body components (doors, fenders, bumpers) to minimize damage from impact. Today’s cars are built with a sturdy frame (called unibody construction) onto which body panels are hung for decoration. Today’s cars are actually safer in the event of an accident, but these body panels don’t take much abuse. (In fact, just leaning on some cars can dent the body!) Following are basic instructions on body panel repair.
A body panel is a removable component of the car’s body. Common body panels include front fenders and rear quarter panels, as well as bumpers, hood, trunk, roof, and doors. (The exterior surface of a door or other moving component is sometimes referred to as the skin.) Body panes are typically constructed of metal or plastic.
Eventually, someone else’s car is going to bump, slam, scratch, or roll into your car’s body. If the damage is a deep scratch, you can try applying a metal rubbing compound (available from your trusty auto parts store) to make it look less noticeable. You’ll be amazed at what it can do! (If you need to touch up the paint, see that section later in this section.)
If the damage is a dent, there are things you can do to save some money by repairing it yourself. Here’s how to perform basic body panel repair on your car:
1. First analyze the dented area. Is it metal or plastic? If it’s plastic or some thinner metal, you may be able to carefully push the dent out from the back side with your hand or a rubber hammer. Your auto parts store also sells inexpensive suction cups that can be used to pull the dent out from the front. More stubborn dents will require a dent puller. Ask as your auto store.
2. The pulled dent will need additional filling to be smooth. There is a variety of body filler products available for sanding, filling, and finishing dented metal and plastic auto bodies. The best tip is to read and follow the instructions on the filler container. The store clerk can also advise you and help you select related tools.
3. To fill holes and finish repairing a dent, use a file or grinder to remove paint from the area, then use filler to contour. Plastic filler, such as that manufactured under the Bondo trademark, is popular because it’s easy to use.
4. To repaint the area, buy matching paint at an auto paint store. If the car is relatively new and not oxidized or faded, you should be able to match the color closely. Apply a primer paint before painting, and smooth the surface with find sandpaper. If it is oxidized, consider having a painter do the job for you, especially if the damaged area will show.
5. If you’re repainting, follow the paint manufacturer’s directions. If the exact color isn’t available in a pressurized spray can, you can rent an automotive sprayer at a rent-everything store and follow its directions.