How to Repair Damaged Car Bodywork

As cars get bigger and roads get busier, the chances of ending up with some minor damage to your vehicle increases. You may immediately rush your car to a repair centre if it’s left with a cracked windscreen or a bumper hanging off, or maybe even scrap your car, but might be more reluctant to splash the cash on a professional if the damage amounts to a few dents or scratches. So, how about some DIY instead? Here’s how you can rectify different kinds of damage yourself and get your car looking good as new once again.

Dented car door

How to Repair a Dent In a Car

Believe it or not, there are multiple ways to undertake a car dent repair job and most of them involve household objects or appliances. Some will be more effective than others, and a few may not work on all types of cars, so read on and cherry-pick the method that works best for your situation.

  • Hair Dryer Method
    1. This method will also require a can of compressed air. Put on a pair of gloves to protect your hands from the heated bodywork.
    2. With the hair dryer on medium heat, hold it close to, but not touching, the dented area for a couple of minutes – until you’re able to slightly bend and move the panel by hand.
    3. Once the area is hot and malleable enough to be adjusted back into shape, use the can of compressed air to blast the dent to force it out.
  • Vacuum Cleaner Method
    1. This method is best suited for flat surfaces and requires a bucket with a small hole in the bottom.
    2. Cover the dent completely with the bucket (a bowl or pot will work too, as long as it’s got a hole in it).
    3. Cover the hole in the bucket with the vacuum cleaner hose.
    4. Turn on the vacuum cleaner and you should hear the dent pop out.
  • Plunger & Boiling Water Method
    1. This method combines the use of a plunger with boiling water, another commonly used tool for removing dents. It works similarly to a version of the purchasable repair kit.
    2. Pour the boiling water over the dented area to ‘soften’ it up.
    3. Stick the plunger over the dent securely.
    4. Pull the plunger and, hopefully, the dent will pop back into place.
  • Dry Ice Method
    1. This method requires a hair dryer, along with aluminium foil and tape to stick it to your car. Due to the extreme temperatures, you should always wear protective gloves.
    2. Heat the dented area with the hair dryer until it becomes soft enough to move slightly by hand.
    3. Cover the dent with the foil, securing it in place with the tape.
    4. Rub dry ice over the dented area until you hear the bodywork pop back into place.
  • Glue & Wooden Dowels Method
    1. This is essentially a DIY version of the following ‘Repair Kit Method’. Along with the wooden dowels and a glue gun, you’ll also need screws and a drill.
    2. Drill two screws into each wooden dowel to create a T-shape – the screws act as handles.
    3. With the glue gun, attach the dowels-with-handles to the dented area of the car – you’ll need to cover a lot of the surface area.
    4. Once the glue is dry, pull on the handles to pop the dent back to its original shape.
    5. Remove the dowels and any remaining glue.
  • Repair Kit Method
    1. Purchase a repair kit and follow the instructions included. There are several different types.
    2. Pulling kits will act like the wooden dowels or plunger and pull the dent back into place.
    3. Pushing kits push from the opposite side, but are in essence, doing the same thing.
    4. Tapping kits will precisely hit the dent back into its regular shape.

As we mentioned, not all of these methods will work for your particular problem. If the dent is on one of your door panels, you should look to take the door apart if required. Many parts of a car door are removable to give you access to the inside (or back of the outer panel) but if you feel the job is beyond your expertise, it’s best to take the car into a repair centre rather than dismantling it on your driveway.

How to Repair a Scratch On a Car

Outside of getting the damage buffed out by a professional bodywork technician, there are a couple of DIY car scratch repair remedies that you can try to restore the flawless gleam of your vehicle’s paint job.

  • Toothpaste Method – Wash the scratched area thoroughly, then dry it off. Once it’s completely dry and clean, apply a small amount of toothpaste (preferably the ‘whitening’ kind) to the affected area with circular motion rubbing, then wash and dry it again.

Since this is a real do-it-yourself kind of repair job, there’s no guarantee that it’ll work for you, but it does have a track record of being reliable. Therefore, it’s worth recommending and certainly worth trying.

Be aware though, that if the scratch has cut deeper than the top layer of the paintwork, it’s almost impossible to fix with toothpaste.

  • Scratch Remover – Any good car product or accessory retailer should stock purpose-made scratch remover. If the scratch is slightly too deep for toothpaste to work, you could give the real thing a try. The application method is almost the same, but follow the instructions given by the product manufacturer to be sure.

If you’ve tried scratch remover and the paint job imperfection remains, it might be time to take the car into a repair centre where the professionals can tackle the problem with a proper arsenal of tools.

Corrosion on the muffler of a car, close-up. Rusty metal on the bottom of the car

How to Repair Rusty Bodywork

Some of you may be reading this, surprised that it’s even possible at all to remove rust from your car. Well, in some cases, it isn’t. If the rust has begun to destroy the metal and cause it to weaken and fall apart, then it’s too far gone to save. But, if you can determine that the rust is having a purely cosmetic effect by ruining the appearance of your vehicle and nothing more, then a car bodywork repair job could save the afflicted metal!

It must be said, however, that the method for repairing rust is extremely complicated. If you’re thinking of doing this yourself, be prepared for a lengthy process using equipment far more expensive and technical than even the most upmarket toothpaste. For this reason, it might be worth considering taking the car to a professional repair shop.

If you’re not put off and still want to crack on with the job yourself, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Angle Grinder & Flapper Wheels
  • Wire Brush
  • Fibreglass Epoxy Gel
  • Body Filler
  • Various Grade Sandpaper (80, 400, 600, 1000, 2000)
  • Sanding Block
  • Primer & Base Coat Paint
  • 2k Clear Coat Paint
  • Masking Paper & Tape
  • Rubbing Compound
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Rags
  • Tack Cloth

Already, it’s looking like one of the more challenging DIY projects with such a lengthy shopping list to get you started. Not scared off just yet? Here’s how it’s done, step-by-step:

  1. Use the angle grinder to remove the paint and rust.
  2. Use the fibreglass gel to cover any holes or indentations caused by the rusting.
  3. Sand down any excess gel with the angle grinder.
  4. Fill the holes with body filler, spreading it to create a flat, smooth surface.
  5. Use the sandpaper to sand away any imperfections in the filler.
  6. Clean the area using your rag and mineral spirits.
  7. Apply primer over the filler.
  8. Wet-sand (400 grade) the primed area until smooth.
  9. Apply more primer and wet-sand again with the higher-grade sandpaper. Repeat until smooth.
  10. Spray several layers of the base coat paint to the primed area.
  11. Rub out the imperfections of the new paint using the higher-grade sandpaper to blend it with the original paint.
  12. Spray the clear coat paint onto the area.

For a more detailed breakdown of the process, check out the full process as explained by Haynes.

How to Repair Scratched Car Interior Plastic

Similarly to both exterior scratch repair and dent repair, interior scratches can be rectified with the purchase of a specialised kit containing all of the products and instructions that you could need. However, if you find that these kits are often overpriced and ineffective, you might want to take matters into your own hands. To attempt to remove these scratches of your own accord, you’ll need the following:

  • Heat Gun
  • Interior Grain Pad
  • Sandpaper
  • Interior Car Cleaner

Once you’ve acquired all the bits and pieces that you’ll need, it’s time to get to work. Read on to find out what to do next:

  1. Thoroughly clean the area
  2. Heat the area gently using the heat gun. Don’t get it too hot, or it’ll warp the plastic.
  3. Lightly smooth out the scratch using a grain pad.
  4. Leave the area to cool.
  5. Clean up the area.

That’s all there is to it, but there is a more in-depth description of the process here. There is the possibility of doing something wrong and making the plastic interior look much worse, but if you complete the process successfully, the scratch should be removed and the area will be indistinguishable from the rest of the car.

Some damage repair jobs are beyond the ability of even the most experienced bodywork technicians. If your car is too far gone, sell it with Scrap Car Comparison as scrap or salvage and profit from it today! We work with scrap car buyers all around the UK, meaning there’s always an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF) available to take your car off your hands. We’ll even be able to arrange for them to pick up your car for free! So, use our online value calculator to find out just how much your old car could be worth as scrap or salvage today!

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