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02 Aug 2021
Jamie Gibbs Jamie Gibbs

How to remove scratches and fix dents on your car


A close up of a grey car with a cumpled dent in its side

You’ve scratched or dented your car but you want to try to save some cash by fixing it yourself. Here’s how you go about it.


How to remove a scratch

Before you attempt to remove a scratch on your car, you need to see how deep it is. With paintwork, there are three layers:

  • primer

  • base coat

  • clear coat.

If the scratch is in the top two layers (base or clear coat) then it’s worth trying to fix it.

If it’s gone through to the primer layer, or if you can see the metal bodywork, you’ll need to get the professionals to fix it.

Before heading out to buy a scratch repair kit, grab some toothpaste from the bathroom. If it’s a whitening toothpaste, even better.

  • Give the area of your car that has the scratch a good clean.

  • Using a 2p-sized amount of toothpaste on a damp cloth, apply it to the scratch in a circular motion.

  • Clean the area with soapy water to remove any toothpaste residue, and dry with a clean cloth.

  • ­Repeat steps 2 & 3 twice more if needed. You could damage the paintwork if you do it too many times.

If the toothpaste trick hasn't worked, you can find scratch repair kits from specialist retailers.

These range from the simple T-Cut, which works like the toothpaste method, to kits for specific manufacturers or colours.

The products range from about £6 up to £40. Though if you took your car to a garage to be repaired, you could be looking at spending hundreds of pounds, depending on how deep the scratch is.


How to fix a dent

How big is the dent? Is it neat or very crumpled? Is there damage to the paintwork?

If it’s a fairly clean or simple dent, you might be able to fix it. If there’s damage to the paintwork, you might need to get the professionals involved.

Or if the damage isn't too deep into the paint, try the fix for scratches suggested above.


The hot-water method

It’s always worth trying this first method as it’s an easy solution when it works.

Fill your kettle and put it on, but stop it before it boils, or get a bucket and fill it with hot water from the tap. Take it to the car and pour it over the dent.

If it’s a simple dent, the metal might flex and pop back into shape.


The plunger method

You’ll need a plunger that’s smaller than the dent. If the dent is pretty small, you could use the suction cup from an in-car mobile phone cradle.

Use a little water on both the plunger or suction cup and the car to help create a seal. Push it all the way down to get the air out and pull hard.

With a bit of luck, the dent should pop out and the job’s a good ’un.


Pushing the dent out

This method is more time-consuming and not always possible, depending on what panel the dent is on.

But if the dent is in one of the doors, you might be able to do this as you can easily access the other side of it.

So if the hot-water and plunger methods have failed, you can remove the inside of the door. This might be tricky, but if you have access to the dent, you should be able to pop it back into shape.

Just make sure to keep tabs on all the screws you remove, and check that there are none left over when you’ve put the door back together.


Should I call a garage?

Of course, you can continue to drive with a scratch or a small dent, and you might not want to fork out to have it put right at a garage.

But if it’s a serious dent, or if it’s minor damage that you can’t fix yourself but you want sorted, compare garages and find one that suits.

Prices can vary a lot, try to get several quotes.

Our friends at tell us the average cost for fixing a scratch at a garage is just over £300, and dent removal is even more, so it’s worth shopping around for the best price.


Does car insurance cover scratches and dents?

As a rule of thumb, yes. Most car insurance policies cover you for scratches and dents. In fact, there are some policies specifically designed to cover you for this sort of damage.

If in doubt, check your policy details to see if you’re covered.

Compare car insurance quotes


Should I claim on my car insurance for scratches and dents?

The answer to the question of whether you should claim on your car insurance isn’t so clear-cut.

Depending on the cost of the repair work and the excess you have to pay on each claim, it might not be worth it.

If you do ask your insurer to pay up, you might be hit with slightly higher premiums when you come to renew, and you also risk losing your no-claims bonus.

In some ways it sounds daft having an insurance policy that you don’t claim on when something goes wrong.

But make sure you know what the overall cost will be of claiming. This includes the excess and the possibility of higher premiums in future – before making the call.

It might prove cheaper to fix it without putting in an insurance claim.


Do I have to tell my insurance provider for small bumps?

You should do, yes. You have a duty to tell your car insurance provider about all incidents you have, whether you’re claiming under your policy or not.

Even small incidents such as reversing into a bollard, scratching the side of your car along a wall or vandalism build up your risk profile.

The downside is that letting your insurer know about these sorts of incidents could see your premiums go up.

If you don’t tell your insurer and you have a more serious incident in the future, your insurer might spot some earlier damage that you hadn’t told them about.

Then you might face having your claim rejected, or having any pay-out reduced. Or, if your insurance things you misled them deliberately, could invalidate your policy for non-disclosure.

If you’re in doubt about what you should tell your insurer, check the terms and conditions in your policy document.


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