Dealing with minor dents and scratches

No matter how careful you are, minor dents, scratches and chips can still happen. It could be an accidental scrape, another driver opening their door into your car or, especially in winter, grit on the road flying up and causing damage. While there’s plenty of seasonal motoring advice available, scratches, dents and chips can affect your vehicle all year round. All sorts of remedies exist, and our guide includes some of the easiest and most effective ways to deal with such problems.

Remove minor scratches

A scratch is a scratch, right? Well, not necessarily. There are a few different types of scratches your car can experience, with different ways to best fix them.

Swirls

Hand washing your car can result in paint swirls on the top coat, caused by bits of grit getting stuck in the cloth used for cleaning. Clearly, it’s best to avoid this occurring in the first place, by using high quality microfibre cloths and a grit guard in the bottom of your bucket. This should stop the cloth or sponge scratching the paintwork and picking up dirt in the water in the first place.

If it’s too late though, run your fingernail over the damaged area and if you struggle to feel it you can apply scratch remover to smooth it out. Add a small amount of the liquid to a cloth and rub gently in circular motions over the swirl to smooth it out. Rubbing too hard can cause more damage, evident if the cloth turns the colour of your car, which is a sign that you’re taking some of the paint off.

Scrapes

You may have accidentally brushed against a wall or post, scraping off some of your car’s paint down to the bare metal or plastic. The simplest and safest way to fix this is to buy a scratch and paint restore car kit. Check your car’s VIN, which will name the specific colour, to ensure you get the correct paint.

In deep scratches where the bare metal is visible, and it’s quite long, professional attention may be required. Otherwise, repairing scrapes and scratches with or without a kit follows the same few steps:

  • Clean the scraped area with warm water, removing any grit and wait for it to dry
  • Lightly apply the correct colour of paint over the damaged section with a brush, ensuring it blends
  • When the paint has dried, polish the area by again rubbing in circular motions and spreading evenly so it’s smooth with the rest of the paint
  • Finally, wax over the same area to provide extra protection

Fix a dent

You see hundreds of cars driving around with little dents in their doors, caused by a rogue shopping trolley, careless drivers or passengers in car parks or small collisions with a post or other stationary object. Yet you can easily fix a dent if it’s small or shallow by using a range of different dent removal methods depending on its size and location.

Use a plunger

The quickest and often easiest dent removal method is to use a sink or cup plunger, which will work on small to medium sized dents (depending on the plunger size). Wet the plunger and the dent, place the plunger over the damaged area and begin pushing and pulling. This provides paintless dent removal if the dent is light enough to pop back into shape.

Paintless dent removal

Usually paintless dent removal is done by professionals, but it can be done at home too. It only works on shallow dents that aren’t on panel edges and for cars with relatively thin doors. Simply enter the inside of the door through the gap where the window sits and gently push the dent out from the inside. The same method can be done on bumper dents, by pouring hot water on the bumper first to make it more flexible then pushing it out from behind.

Heat and cool

A rapid change in temperature can lead to dent removal. The simplest way to fix a dent through this method is by heating the dented area with a hair dryer before immediately cooling it by spraying with a can of compressed air. Cold air will cause it to contract and the dent should pop out.

Fill it out

If you can’t pop out the dent then you can repair it with filler. This is a longer process and involves sanding the damaged area down to the bare metal (as filler doesn’t stick to paint well). Next you apply the body filler to the dent, sand over it again when it has hardened, before covering with spot putty and sanding over again. Finally, the area needs to be sprayed with primer and painted the correct colour. This is the trickiest, riskiest dent removal process and should only be tried if the others are unsuccessful.

With a bit of time and effort you can repair many minor scratches and fix a dent in a cost-effective manner with the above tips.

Image courtesy of iStock.

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