If you notice some minor scratches or dents on your car, there’s no reason to panic. There are a few options when it comes to sorting it out so you can keep your car in tip-top condition or if you are planning to sell any time soon. Our handy guide will help you sort them out by yourself, or know when to seek professional help.
DIY or pay a pro?
Small scratches and dents are cosmetic damage to a car, so there are no huge implications to not fixing them. But if you’re selling your car (or returning it to a leasing company at the end of your contract), these imperfections can cost you money.
The choice is between fixing them yourself or getting a specialist company to sort them.
The decision will be based on the severity of the scratch or dent. If a scratch isn’t deep – and the test is to run a fingernail over it: if you can’t feel it, it’s not deep – then you can fix it yourself. The same goes for dents: you should be able to fix small or shallow dents without too much trouble.
Alternatively, there are companies who specialise in what's known as SMART (Small, Medium Area Repair Technology) repairs. They use tools and materials that should make the car look as good as new, with the cost less than taking the car to a bodyshop.
How to remove scratches from your car
If you have a minor scratch that isn’t too deep – often the result of the car being cleaned with cloths or brushes that have grit on them – it is the clear top coat that is damaged, rather than the underlying paintwork.
The conventional wisdom is to buy a scratch repair kit to fix the issue. These are widely available from motoring accessories shops. Look for things such as touch-up pens or even complete kits (for less than £20) that contain everything you need in one handy pack.
Whatever product you choose, there are some basic rules for how to go about it. First, you need to wash the affected area and make sure it's dry, so that you don’t rub any dirt or grit into the paint as you're trying to fix it. Use warm, soapy water and then dry with a good-quality microfibre cloth.
Then follow the instructions on the pack of whichever product you’re using. Take your time for the best results. When you’ve finished, it should look as good as new, but you should also wax the car to protect the paint, as the repaired area might fade.
If you are after a simple life hack, look no further than a tube of toothpaste. Yes really.
After cleaning the affected area, squirt a 2p-sized amount of toothpaste (ideally a whitening one, but whatever you have to hand will do) on to a dampened microfibre cloth. Then rub this into the paintwork, in circular motions, applying as much pressure as it takes to distribute the toothpaste over all the affected area. Rinse with soapy water and dry with a cloth. If it's not pristine, try again a couple of times (but no more), rinsing and drying between processes.
Car dent repairs
You’d think that dents in a car’s metal might need a specialist bodyshop to fix, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
If the dent on your car is small or shallow, there are a few ways to sort it out yourself.
The quickest and easiest way is to fix it with a bathroom plunger. For small dents, wet the plunger and the affected area, place the plunger over the damage and then push and pull the plunger, so the suction pulls out the sunken metal.
You can also undertake paintless dent removal, something that is often done by professional. As long as the dent is shallow, and not near a panel edge, you can reach into the car’s door via the gap where the window sits and gently push the dent out from the inside. This also works on bumper dents: in this situation, pour hot water on the bumper to make it more flexible, then push the dent out from behind.
Quickly changing the temperature of a section of bodywork can also help fix dents. If you first heat the dent with a hairdryer, then spray it with a can of compressed air, the dent will pop out, as the cold air will cause the metal to contract.
Finally – and this is a solution for only the handiest of owners – you can use a filler to repair the dent. This involves quite a bit of work, involving sanding down the dent to bare metal, applying body filler, sanding it, then priming and painting.
If you know what you’re doing, go for it, but it is a risky process – especially if your car is an unusual colour that you’ll have to match.
It’s worth noting, only undertake any of the DIY measures if you feel confident about what you are doing. If you don’t fancy the risk, call a professional.
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