Dents, Dings, and Scratches: Auto Body Repair and Protection

Dents, Dings, and Scratches: Auto Body Repair and Protection

When Does Damage Require a Trip to the Body Shop?
Kip Doyle
Car Dents and Dings

Over time, cars can suffer minor defects in their finishes due to road debris or careless actions by owners and other motorists. Fortunately, for those who like to keep their vehicles looking like new, there are ways to repair or prevent certain kinds of damage at relatively moderate costs. There are do-it-yourself options, but in many cases the services of a professional will provide better results.


Paint Scratches and Chips

Paint damage is an automotive fact of life. Scratches can happen in any number of ways, while chips are usually caused by stones thrown up by other traffic. If the damage penetrates the primer, it will lead to rust and corrosion unless properly treated.

Minor surface scratches can often be buffed or polished out, but more significant damage generally requires panel repair at a body shop. Small chips can be filled in using touch-up paint available at car dealers and also at auto parts and other stores. Newer cars may require a two-step color and clear coat process.

Clean the damaged area per the paint supplier’s instructions, then apply paint in several thin layers to fill the chip. Some kits include ultra-fine abrasive paper to remove excess paint, after which the repair is completed by waxing or applying a clear coat, depending on the vehicle finish.

If the front of a car is badly chipped, talk with a car dealer or professional detailer about alternative repair options that can provide a more satisfactory finished appearance. There are companies that routinely repair this type of damage for auto dealers using special procedures and equipment.


Metal Dents and Door Dings

Dings and small dents can often be fixed using paintless dent repair (PDR), a process in which a skilled technician gains access to the backside of the dent and then uses special tools to “massage” the metal back to its original position.

PDR is not a viable option if: a dent is too large or located where the backside is inaccessible, the paint is damaged, the panel is creased, or the metal has been stretched beyond its “memory” point. Done right, a panel repaired with PDR will look completely original with no indication there was ever a dent.

However, PDR is more art than science, which makes it a poor do-it-yourself project. Instead, shop carefully for a skilled provider who has excellent reviews and recommendations.


Some car projects can be taken care of from home, while others are best left to the pros. Use AAA’s Approved Auto Repair Facility Locator to find a trusted mechanic in your area.

AAA Approved Auto Repair

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