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How to Repair Dings and Scratches on Your Car

How to Repair Dings and Scratches on Your Car

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Yikes, how did that scratch get on your car? Scratches are common and the fix is quick and painless, and the best thing is, you can fix them yourself. In this guide you will learn everything you need to know to take care of that scratch yourself and return your car to its former beauty.

What You Will Need

To fix a ding or a scratch, you need to determine exactly what color paint is on your vehicle. You can find out that information by looking on the manufacturer’s information slip. Usually you’ll find this information on a metal decal under the hood, in the doorjamb, in the glove compartment, or in the trunk. In any event, when you find the metal decal it will tell you the specific paint color code for your car.

Now check out the scratch really well. Is there rust around it? If so, you’ll also need to buy rust converter to take care of the rust. If your car has a clear-coat finish, you’ll need to purchase some clear coat as well.

Now that you know the color paint you need, take a trip to your auto–supply store and get some paint in that color. If they don’t have it, you may have to contact your car dealer; but nowadays you probably won’t have to go any farther than the auto–parts store. Tell your trusted salesperson what you are doing and ask for the best products. You may find the (touch–up) paint color of your vehicle (pigment layer) and clear coat come packaged together.

How to Do It

Here are the general steps for repairing a scratch or ding:

  1. Clean and dry the area.
  2. Assess how far the scratch or ding penetrates. If the abrasion isn’t very deep, applying a polish will most likely do the trick. You can also try a glaze (a glaze cleans, adds lubricating oils to the paint, and can also get rid of swirls and scratches). If the scratch goes all the way to the primer layer or covers a large area, you may want to have the repair done professionally.
  3. If you want to attempt the fix, wet–sanding is probably your best choice for this repair. Using about a 1,500–grit sandpaper, carefully sand the damaged area. Use a light hand out toward the edges of the scratch, gently touching on the undamaged finish to blend.
  4. If the scratch is all the way to the primer, apply primer first and let dry before applying the touch–up paint. Shake the paint can or bottle before you open it until it is well blended, and then apply it according to the directions. Some kits come with applicators. This may take patience. You want to go slowly with the application, making sure it is level with the other paint.
  5. After the paint dries, apply clear coat. If you had to apply primer (that is, the scratch went all the way to the primer), first you will just add another step to the process of painting and allow to dry.
  6. After the clear coat dries completely (you may want to wait a few days), wet–sand to smooth the new paint in with the rest of the car finish.
  7. Apply polishing compound to blend the area in with the rest of the finish.
  8. Wash the area, let it dry, and then apply wax to protect the new paint.

If you have deep imperfections in your vehicle’s paint job like deep scratches or marks made when another vehicle sideswiped your vehicle, you may need to have the scratch or scuff mark wet-sanded—that is have the mark sanded with wet sandpaper. If you try this yourself, know what you are doing or you will cause a more costly repair. Sandpaper used on clear coat should not be less than 1,000 grit (the lower the grit, the coarser the paper), and 1,500 to 3,000 is more in the range needed for this repair. Ask your auto–supply person for the supplies needed to wet–sand your vehicle. Some sandpaper (used for this purpose) comes pre–soaked and you just have to dip it in water to begin, while other sandpaper will need to be soaked. If you are not experienced in this type of repair, have a professional do it.

No matter whether the scratch on your car is small or large, don’t procrastinate about fixing it. A small scratch can become a big rust problem if left untended. Take care of the problem now, and you won’t have a problem later. Good luck!

From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Auto Repair by Vyvyan Lynn with Tony Molla