Auto Dent Repair: How to Fix a Dent in a Car
DIY dent repair saves hundreds of dollars
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IntroductionIf you follow these steps, you can patch a car dent yourself in just an afternoon and save a few hundred bucks over body shop prices.
- Angle grinder
- Corded drill
- Dust mask
- Extension cord
- Hearing protection
- Safety glasses
- Sanding block
- Body filler
- Finishing glaze
- Latex gloves
- Tack cloth
- Wax remover
We’ve patched quite a few car scratches and dents in our day. We used to do it the same way we tape drywall, by applying five pounds of body filler and then sanding off 4-9/10 lbs. Then we went to “boot camp” at 3M and learned there’s an easier way (as in, the correct way) to do car body repair.
We asked expert Jenn Cook, a senior technical service engineer at 3M, to walk you through the same car dent repair process. Once the car dent repair is patched, you just spray on a primer coat and matching paint from the dealer or an auto parts store. The repair won’t look like a professional job, but at least it won’t stand out like a sore thumb. Here’s the process.
Project step-by-step (6)
Prep and Clean Before Filling
- Wash and dry your car.
Remove the Paint
- Start by removing the paint inside and around the dent with 24-grit paper.
- Switch to 80-grit sandpaper and hand-sand the entire dent.
- Use the same sandpaper to rough up and feather the paint around the edges of the dent.
- Clean the entire area with wax remover and a clean rag.
- Then wipe with a tack cloth.
Mix the Filler
- Spread the filler down the mixing board in an S-shaped curve.
- Then scoop it up and fold it over.
- Repeat until the filler has a consistent color.
- Don't mix body filler on a scrap piece of cardboard. Instead, use a mixing board or an old, clean cookie sheet you're willing to toss.
Apply a “Tight” First Coat
- Scoop up some filler and press it hard into the rough metal.
- Spread the filler to form a “tight” coat. That will burp air out of the scratches and wet the bare metal.
Add More Filler
- Wipe on a thicker "fill coat" layer of filler to completely fill the dent.
Sand to Shape and Glaze
- Sand the filler to match the contours of the car body using 80- and 180-grit sandpaper.
- Then feather the edges of the filler right up to the painted edge.
- Next, apply finishing glaze to the entire patch and then sand with 180-grit and then 320-grit sandpaper.
- Spray the patch with primer, then paint it.
- Use DIY car paint sealant to keep the patch looking fresh.