For many people, a car is more than just a way to get from point A to point B-it’s a personal statement about who they are. On average, Americans spend 600 hours per year in their cars, which accounts for about 7% of their lives. But sometimes, coughing up the money to keep your car looking fresh becomes a heavy burden. These tips for do-it-yourself car maintenance can help you keep your ride in shape and save you a costly trip to the mechanic.
Dings and scratches are inevitable with age, but getting them professionally repaired can be expensive. However, you can touch up your paint job and take care of these blemishes yourself. There are two types of scratches:
Minor Nicks. If it is only a light scratch and the primer is not showing through, you can purchase touch-up paint from any auto body shop or online. For an exact match, find your car’s paint code in the owner’s manual. Simply apply the paint evenly to the affected area and watch the nicks melt away.
Deep Scratches. If the scratch is deep enough to reveal the primer, it needs to be filled. This can be achieved by applying multiple coats of touch-up paint until the coat is even, or by purchasing scratch filler or rubbing compound and applying it to the scratch. Once the scratch is filled, sand it smooth with fine-grained sandpaper before applying the final layer of paint.
Dents are unsightly and, if left untreated, can provide a foothold for damaging rust. Unfortunately, body work can rack up a big bill at the mechanic’s, and many will try to replace the part instead of repairing it. For repairing dents from home, there are two options:
Suction Repairer. A commercial dent suction repairer is an affordable handheld tool that uses a suction seal to pull out dents. Although this method is not always effective, it’s worth a try and could save you a lot of time and effort.
Body Filler. This is similar product to scratch filler, but more substantial. It comes as a two-part epoxy consisting of a base and a hardener that begins to permanently harden as soon as it’s mixed. To successfully repair a dent with body filler, first sand off the paint from the affected area. Once the area is ready to fill, mix the filler and apply it to the dent, using a plastic smoother to even it off. After it’s fully dried, sand it smooth with a fine-grained sandpaper, then spray it with an aerosol primer. Sand it smooth once more, and then finish it off with touch-up paint.
Car repairs are expensive, and many people find a way to live with cosmetic problems to save money. However, many mild to moderate body and paint work problems can be repaired from home with little to no experience. Following these tips can help you keep your car looking sharp without breaking the bank.