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How to remove scratches and fix dents on your car

These minor dings may not hurt your car too bad, but they can hurt your wallet. Here's how to fix them at minimal cost.

Fix dented car

It’s a frustrating and often costly experience returning to your car to find it’s been damaged and the culprit’s done a runner.

But Confused.com’s guide to fixing car scratches and dents will help you sort out scrapes at minimal cost.

Scratches versus dents

Scratches are the lesser of the two evils, whether they’re deeply-scored or a series of light grazes. They're also easier to rectify than dents, which tend to be more complex and can be a complete pain to sort.

But if you know what you’re doing, you can have your car back to its best in no time – and avoid making a car insurance claim.

How to fix scratches

With the right equipment and a bit of patience you can remove that scratch in no time with this DIY approach. 

Locate the problem

What the scratch looks like will depend on how it happened: a kid’s bike going too close will get you a lengthy scratch but hopefully won’t remove too much paint. If you can see bare metal, the repair job’s going to take a bit more work.

Equipment 

To repair a scratch you’ll need:

  • some good quality polish

  • paintwork restorer

  • the smallest brush you can find

  • very fine grit paper

  • the right paint stick for your car

Better yet, you can get a complete touch-up kit from good accessory shops, which have primers and lacquers as well.

For light scratches

Make sure the area is clean and free, particularly from paint flakes. Light scratching can be sorted by patient use of the paint restorer, which removes a microscopic layer. This is the best approach, but cover as little area as possible and be sure to wax it afterwards to protect the paint – otherwise it will fade!

For big scratches

These will need to be painted, so use your tiny brush and once again - be patient. Build up layers of paint rather than doing it all at once: remember you have your paint restorer so you can take off any excess. Once you’re happy with the filling, let it dry properly then go back and use the finest grit paper you can find to smooth it off before polishing.

There are also a number of lesser-known methods of fixing scratches, including using toothpaste and duct tape. 

How to fix dents

A dent doesn’t always require a qualified panel beater. Here's how you deal with that dent:

Size

How you fix the dent depends on how large it is and where on the car it is. The dent may be bigger than you first thought so check the area carefully. 

Easy to reach

To sort dents of all sizes, try and get to the back of the damaged panel - it’s much easier that way. Then it’s simply a matter of tapping the dent out from the rear. Use a suitably sized hammer but make sure you put cushioning between the hammer and the panel - soft woods are best. Go slowly and work from the centre of the dent.

Hard to reach

If you can’t get to the back of the panel, you’ll need a dent puller. There are various sizes available, either to buy from accessory shops or you can hire larger ones from plant hire firms. The dent puller needs to be roughly the same size or bigger than the dent you’re pulling, or it won’t work.

Clean the damaged area to ensure good contact, then apply the suckers to the bodywork. If you have good contact, start pulling – you’ll be surprised at how much force is required.

Seek expert advice

A mix of delicacy and patience is required to achieve good results when dealing with a dent, but if the job looks beyond your expertise, seek advice. It may avoid you having to claim car insurance for a new panel.

First published 8 July 2009

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