Basic At-Home Car Body Dent Repair Tips

scuffed bumper paint
Scrapes like this happen in parking lots all the time. You don't have to live with it. Adam Wright

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 we dive into talking about body repair and how to get it done in your driveway, let's be honest. If you've never attempted any fixes like this before, you aren't going to get absolute perfection the first time out. 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 right. 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 repair that looks as good as a pro would provide.

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 different color usually lighter than your paint) you will need to fill the scratch with either multiple coats of touch up paint, or some scratch filler, then you'll need to sand the area smooth. Use very fine sandpaper for this job, even if it seems to take forever. A 400-grit sandpaper should be the starting point, working your way to 800-grit, then finally waxing 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.

How to Select Paint

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

How to Fix Dents

If you've got a minor dent, they can sometimes (but seldom) be popped out safely from behind. I've even seen those suction cup dent pullers work. Most of the time, however, you need to fill the dent and repaint the affected area. Filling a dent with body filler is not that hard to do, but it's hard to do 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, and then paint. If you're not sure about the painting, sometimes you can save some money by doing the body repair yourself than having the paint work done by a pro shop.

How to Fix 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 harder, but all of them are repairable at home using simple tools. Tip: 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.