How To Save Money On Touching Up Exterior Defects

From dents to paint scratches, a car's exterior can get grungy fast. Here's how to repair those imperfections without spending too much.
By Alison Lakin
Over the course of a car’s life, exterior imperfections like dents and dings occur no matter how careful you are. Everything from the weather to an overly enthusiastic Little Leaguer can inflict expensive damage to the body. The more damaged it becomes, the more time and money it takes to deal with it. Luckily, we can share a few tricks to keep you from spending a fortune to maintain your car’s looks.

Dents
Before you go rushing off to the body shop to take care of a dent on your car’s sheet metal, give the repair a go yourself. The first trick involves a plunger and won’t cost anything at all, as long as you have one handy. Firmly place the plunger over the dent. Then, using the suction power, pull the dent out with it. Voilà! If that doesn’t work, you might need to pick up a hair dryer and air duster. The hot/cold combo can expand and contracs the metal enough to pop it out. This video explains it all in detail (ignore the poorly formed English sentences). Considering dent removal can be a pricey repair, spending a little time to cover all your options first is decidedly worth it.

Scratches
Scratches are almost unavoidable if you have a car. An errant key or runaway shopping cart can easily cause damage to your vehicle’s paint. You usually don’t need to head to the body shop to get them fixed; the most minor ones can be smoothed out by any number of DIY scratch removers, found online or in auto parts stores. For slightly deeper ones, we’d recommend the $20 Quixx Scratch Remover. Make sure to follow the instructions very carefully with this product. It involves gently sanding the area, a process that can make the scratch worse if you’re not careful.

Paint Chips
Paint chips are tricky, and the best way to conceal them is to ensure you have the exact color match to your car’s paint. Since every manufacturer has different blends, the result is that the white paint you bought for touch-ups might not exactly match the hue of your Toyota Land Cruiser. Dr. Colorchip’s kits (starting at $39) provide all the tools needed to make the body paint look like new without you having to spend a couple hundred dollars at the body shop.

Cloudy Headlights
If you’ve noticed your headlights have turned a milky color, you’re not alone. Cloudy headlights are caused by an oxidization of the protective covering, and the problem isn’t just a cosmetic issue, but also a safety concern. Mobile services are available, but they can cost up to $100 and replacement parts would cost even more. Luckily, there are a number of products out there designed to clear up your headlights for about $20, like the Crystal View Headlight Restorer. They’ll take the layer of film off the covering while restoring UV protection and sealing them against the elements.



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