How to fix annoying dents on your pride and joy
As we head into a new lockdown it’s time to fix your dings…
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We’re not sure about you, but nothing makes us more furious than returning to our car to find it’s been beaten up by careless motorists. Why can’t others just be careful with your property? Gah. You spend all that time polishing your motor only for some halfwit to treat it like a punching bag when opening their door.
Supermarket car parks have a lot to answer for
Luckily, fixing scratches and scrapes is something you can do at home with the right tools and knowledge. Thanks to our friends at Halfords, we’ve put together this quick guide to repairing your bodywork at home. Or, if you prefer, you can check out the video guide below.
Firstly, why bother repairing it?
It’s tempting to leave scratches and dents to fester, with the mindset that it’ll only happen again. That might be true, sadly, but scratched paintwork can accelerate corrosion of body panels, which will end up requiring a more costly professional repair later on in your car’s life. So it’s best to sort scratches as soon as possible.
Can you T-Cut it?
Before we break out the spray cans, it’s worth trying to remove any scratches with our old internet-meme favourite, T-Cut. “That’ll T-Cut out” is a phrase usually found under a photo of a mangled race car after a huge crash, but you’ll be surprised how many superficial scratches can be fixed with our favourite cutting polish. If T-Cut doesn’t fix the job, you’ll need to prepare for a spot of DIY painting. Here’s how.
Prep for painting
You’re not going to get a decent paint finish if you don’t put in the hard yards on the prep side of things. First, clean your car thoroughly, then get your car to as dry and clear a location as possible before starting work. Don’t bother doing it on a windy day on your driveway – you don’t want sticks, leaves and the neighbour’s tabby stuck to your fresh paintwork.
Take time masking off any areas you don't want to paint – it's better to do that than spend ages clearing up overspray
Next you want to lay out everything you need so you don’t have to nip into the garage halfway through to find something. Also, you should be wearing PPE such as gloves, a dust mask and coveralls or clothes you don’t mind ruining.
With that done, use a coarse sandpaper (about 80 grit should do the trick) to remove the paint around the scratch. Be gentle and work in a methodical way to take the area back to bare metal. If your scratch is only light then you can use a finer grit to preserve the metalwork.
If you have a dent, now’s the time to use filler to reshape the panel and smooth things out. Take some time to envision how you’re going to apply it – you only have a short amount of time to work the filler onto the panel before it begins to set.
Let each coat of primer dry before building it up with further layers
With the panel stripped back and reshaped, now’s the time to prime the panel to accept your new paint (you can’t just paint directly onto the metal). Find a primer that roughly matches your car’s colour – red, white and black primers exist, as does grey. Apply two or three coats of primer, leaving each to cure for an hour before applying the next coat. If you need to work more quickly, buy an etch primer – these create a chemical bond with the bare metal, thus curing more quickly than regular primers.
Paint it black (or red, or yellow, or…)
Firstly, make sure you’re using the right colour paint… sounds obvious, but it’s tricker than you think. Luckily Halfords stocks spray cans for 73% of current production cars, and there’s a paint-mixing service on offer if you’re in the remaining 27% – just tell Halfords the paint code for your car (this can usually be found on the VIN plate, under the bonnet or in the driver’s side door frame). They’ll sort you a spray can with the right colour within 24 hours.
Again, multiple thin layers will give a better result than one thick gloopy layer that takes ages to dry
Now it’s time to spray. Gradually build up layers of the paint. It’s best to spray on several light coats of paint rather than going mad with one heavy coat that’ll take forever to set and potentially run. You’ll want to do a minimum of two layers, and leave at least 10 minutes between coats.
Once you’ve sprayed over your scratch you’ll need to cover your new paintwork with a clear lacquer. Again, two or three light coats should do the trick, and once it’s set you’ll have glossy protected paintwork again. Now you can remove the tape – but leave your paint for 48 hours for the paint and lacquer to properly cure and harden.