Professional bodywork to repair dents, scratches or dullness on your car can be costly. So before you rush off to a garage, try these easy fixes at home, which can restore your car’s dignity for very little money.
Problem: A body panel is dented
Solution 1: Pull it into shape with a plunger. A rounded, smooth dent can sometimes be pulled out with a plunger. Moisten the plunger’s rim, then press it into the centre of the dent. Pull away sharply and the dent will (hopefully) pop out.
Solution 2: If the dent is on a flat panel, away from any edges or creases, use a hair dryer and a can of compressed air.
- Use masking tape to secure a square of aluminum foil over the dented area. This will protect the paintwork.
- Set a hair dryer to medium heat and use it to warm the dented metal for a minute or two. Switch off the hair dryer.
- Immediately take a can of compressed air (available from computer stores for dusting off components) and hold it upside down so that cold propellant is sprayed out. Squirt this onto the foil covering the dented area. The sudden and extreme change in temperature may cause the dent to pop out.
Problem: My chrome bumper has lost its shine
Solution: Check if the surface to be cleaned is chromed steel or plastic chrome (a plastic substrate covered with a thin layer of chrome). Older cars may have bumpers and sideview mirrors made of chromed steel, while chromed plastic is often used for details on more modern cars. Apply a magnet to the bumper; if it sticks, it’s chromed steel, if not, it’s probably plastic.
- Chromed steel may appear dull or have rust spots, but it can be restored by polishing vigorously with grade #0000 steel wool.
- Don’t use steel wool on chromed plastic – instead, rub it with a 2:1 mixture of white vinegar and water, or use a specialist chrome polishing compound.
Problem: My headlights and taillights are dull
Solution: Give them a thorough wiping with toothpaste.
Problem: My alloys and trim are dull
Solution: A weekly wheel wash can prevent damage to alloy wheels, which can become pitted as a result of the hot dust that comes off your brake pads. However, if it’s too late to prevent the problem, you can restore your alloys with one of the specialist compounds available from auto stores. Faded black plastic trim around windows and door frames can also be returned to its original finish with today’s chemical treatments.
Problem: My car has deep scratches
Solution: Scratches and chips that penetrate beneath the car’s lacquer topcoat can’t be polished out. If you run a fingernail over the scratch and it sticks, you’ll need to buy a touch-up kit from your auto store and follow the instructions. For an exact match, find out the code number of your paint – it’s usually printed on the driver’s door jamb or under the hood. Some auto stores will match a paint colour; if you can, take a portable part of the car (the gas cap, for example) with you.
Saving money by repairing minor damage to your car at home means more money for gas, so why not give these quick fixes a try!