How to Fix a Dent on Your Car and More Small Body Repairs

 

minor car body damage photoIt’s not a question of if it’s going to happen, but rather when. In a parking lot. In the driveway. On the road. Even from within the safe confines of your garage. Your vehicle is going to get scratched or dented, and in all likelihood more than just once over the course of its lifetime. And because the damage is minor, it’s probably not worth filing a claim with your insurance company considering you’ll have to pay the deductible first and possibly be penalized later with higher rates.

Good News. Minor body damage can often be fixed by drivers with no previous body repair experience, saving time, money and the inconvenience of being without a car while repairs are made.

Body shop professionals are skilled craftsmen and true artists when it comes to repairing collision damage or restoring a classic vehicle. But if the damage is minor or superficial, most body shops are so busy they probably won’t be heartbroken if you try repairing the damage on your own, saving them for the complex jobs.

Metal hoods, doors, roofs, fenders, and plastic bumpers are all going to dent when impacted with enough force, with shopping carts, hail, another vehicle’s door, and even kids playing baseball often to blame. But these tools could help lessen the damage to both your vehicle and wallet.

Suction

For the first dent removal tool no further than your bathroom. Try using a common household toilet plunger, preferably a clean one. Wet the plunger’s end, stick it on the dent, and gently pull to see if the dent will pop out.

If the plunger doesn’t work, upgrade to a tool that works using the same principle but is designed specifically for the task–a suction cup-type dent puller. Available wherever auto parts are sold, this tool can feature just one suction cup or have several on multiple heads for extra pulling power.

Repair kits

There are also several kits available that use the similar pulling-force theory to repair minor dents, but instead of relying on a suction cup they employ an adhesive to attach the tool to the vehicle body.

Home grown science

One homegrown dent-removal procedure popular online involves a hair dryer and can of compressed air. Heat the dent for several minutes using a hair dryer on the hottest setting. Don’t use a heat gun as this could damage the paint. Then take a can of compressed air commonly used to clean off computer keyboards, hold it upside down and spray the area just heated. Minor dents will correct themselves.

The science behind this experiment is that the sudden change in temperature extremes causes the metal to expand and contract, popping the dent out and returning the metal to its undamaged state. It seems to work better at removing dents from a large expanse of flat metal, such as a hood, trunk or fender.

Paint repairs

These methods will work if your vehicle is dented, but what if your paint is chipped, dinged, or otherwise damaged? What’s a frustrated car owner to do? You have several repair options.

First, try a scratch-repair product. Most vehicles on the road today come from the factory with several layers of paint topped by a clear coat for added protection. If the scratch isn’t so deep that it penetrates down to bare metal, you might be able to repair it with a scratch-repair product that hides and blends the scratch with the surrounding surface while improving the finish’s appearance.

Chipped paint from a stone or other mishap needs to be fixed before the exposed metal reacts with the environment and rust forms. Fortunately, touch-up paint can easily hide small blemishes in the finish. The paint is available as an exact match for many vehicle paint schemes and finishes. Depending on the size of the repair, it’s applied as an aerosol spray or brushed on using a small applicator.

Road paint removal

A vehicle’s finish can also be damaged by substances inadvertently added to it. Yellow and white paint used to line roads are two common culprits. If you accidentally drive through wet road line paint, follow these steps to remove it before it dries and damages the finish.

First, drive to a car wash and use the pressure wash wand wherever the paint has accumulated. Unless it’s been on there for more than a day, most of the paint should come off. If the paint has already dried or if any remains after the washing, spray WD-40 on the paint and leave it there for a couple hours. The WD-40 will soften the paint, making it easier to remove. For really heavy paint accumulations or paint that’s dried for several days, coat the paint with petroleum jelly, leave it on for eight to 12 hours, and then pressure wash, repeating as needed until all the road paint is gone.

Removing environmental build up

Tree sap, bird droppings, berries, tape residue, and old bumper stickers can also damage a vehicle’s finish if they’re not removed promptly. To prevent further damage from aggressive removal procedures, use a cleaner designed specifically for vehicles. They soften and break down the substance, making it easier to remove without damaging the vehicle’s finish.

Body damage also occurs frequently to vehicle lights, exterior mirrors, door handles and other plastic components. You can clean your headlight lenses with a couple of simple methods. Oftentimes though the easiest and most economical method for repairing actual damage, particularly in the case of light assemblies, is simply to replace the damaged part with a new or salvaged one from an auto parts store or other supplier. For example, the hole in the Subaru tail light assembly pictured here could eventually lead to more serious damage for the vehicle’s electrical system because of water exposure. The broken tail light can be replaced with one costing less than $100 following an easy procedure that takes less than 15 minutes. broken tail light picture

Since the vehicle’s body has already been damaged, drivers don’t have much to lose when it comes to trying to repair minor damage themselves, and the rewards of a better-looking vehicle and money saved make the effort worthwhile.

Note: Always consult your owner’s manual before performing repairs. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure warranties are not voided.

What simple fixes have worked for removing dents and scratches on your vehicle? Leave us a comment.

10 Tips on How and Why to Organize Your Trunk

Messy Car trunk picturesWhether you’re driving a sedan, SUV, pickup or wagon, chances are that its trunk or cargo area is in need of some serious organizing and TLC. For most drivers, these cargo areas get messy in a hurry and understandably so. Being out of sight and a somewhat expansive area, it’s a natural tendency for the trunk to become a catch all for items hurriedly placed in the vehicle, and then just as quickly forgotten.

There are undoubtedly some things that belong in every trunk, such as an emergency kit, and then a whole lot of other items that can probably be removed. It’s a new year and time to get organized, and even if organization isn’t one of your resolutions, just consider this top ten list of how and why to organize your trunk as a way to get a jump on spring cleaning.

1. Increase safety – when a vehicle stops short or is involved in a collision, its occupants are (hopefully) restrained thanks to safety belts. The same can’t be said for items lying loose in the vehicle. In an emergency situation, these items become airborne projectiles capable of inflicting serious injury on occupants and causing significant damage inside the vehicle, particularly if the loose items are heavy. This isn’t as much a concern when the items are contained in the trunk as compared to loose items in an SUV’s cargo area or a pickup truck bed. Loose items can also impact vehicle handling in unexpected ways. Heavy items rolling about can cause a loss of vehicle control during cornering because of the uneven weight distribution and sudden weight shift. Organizing items back there, removing unused cargo and securing what remains can greatly improve passenger safety.

2. Save money – the extra weight being carried around is having a negative impact on both fuel mileage and your wallet. Reduce the vehicle’s weight by removing unnecessary cargo and increase your fuel mileage. A better organized cargo area also helps save money because you know what you have at a glance – such as windshield washer fluid, oil, deicer or bottled water – helping prevent the purchase and unnecessary expense of purchasing duplicate items.

3. Drive (or ride) happier – most vehicle owners aren’t fond of disorder, chaos, and clutter when it comes to their vehicle’s storage area, or any aspect of their environment. Organize your vehicle and be a happier, more efficient driver.

4. Remove everything – the first step in organizing the trunk is to remove everything so you’re starting with a clean slate (after you’ve vacuumed and shampooed the carpet, that is) and you can actually see what’s been lurking back there these past several months. Next, decide what’s staying and what’s going.

5. Get an organizer – there are numerous products on the market that will help you achieve an organized trunk or cargo area. It can be as simple as a device that prevents shopping bags from tipping over or cargo from rolling about, to a multi-compartment organizer that collapses when not being used. Only you know what works best for your lifestyle and trunk. The key to organization is knowing what you have, and having a designated place for it.

6. Keep it out of the trunk – one good way to keep your trunk or cargo area better organized is to not put stuff back there in the first place. Plastic or re-useable fabric grocery bags, your purse, or pretty much any bag with handles might be better off riding up front with you. These ingenious hooks slip over the headrest, providing a convenient and secure spot to hang a bag with handles. With the bags not being in the trunk, they won’t spill over and you won’t run the risk of forgetting they’re back there.

7. Bare necessities – in keeping with point number six, above, the less that’s in your trunk means the less you have to organize. That’s not to say the trunk should be empty. At the very least, there should be an emergency kit with jumper cables or a battery booster, first aid kit, tire inflation, flashlight, snacks and water, fresh batteries, flares and/or emergency warning triangles. If it’s winter and you’re driving in colder climates, also include a small snow shovel, blanket, and traction material

8. Use protection – whether its hauling bags of potting soil, sandbox sand, or water softener salt, or just muddy or snow-covered boots, things can get pretty dirty back there. That’s ok, because the cargo area is designed for this. That doesn’t mean, however, that the carpet or other items stored in the trunk have to suffer from damaging stains or moisture. Trunk and cargo-area liners are made to fit snugly in the area they’re protecting, feature a lip around the edge to contain spills, and are made from moisture proof rubber or plastic materials that make clean up a snap.

9. Stay clean – your vehicle’s exterior probably isn’t sparkling clean 100 percent of the time. And when it’s at its salt- or dirt-covered nastiest, you can be sure that’s the day you’ll need to lean over the back bumper to retrieve something out of the trunk. When you do, you can prevent getting your clothes dirty with this trunk protector that’s always in your trunk and attached to the carpet when you need it. Simply unroll it over the bumper and you’re leaning up against a clean surface.Car trunk organizer photo

10. Contain it – loose items and trunks, beds, and cargo areas aren’t a good combination because they’re guaranteed to deliver spills, damage, frustration and potential injury. The solution is simple – no matter what you’re driving and what you’re hauling, contain the cargo. Bars, tie-down straps, and pet and cargo barriers will help better protect you, your cargo and the vehicle.

 

Editor’s note: Count on Advance Auto Parts for your trunk storage and organizational needs. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Top Projects To Do While Your Car’s In Winter Storage

Classic car in a garageIt’s hard to put your pride and joy into winter storage. You know how it goes—you spend all winter waiting to drive the thing, and then it’s winter again before you know it. But winter car storage doesn’t have to mean total separation. The car’s right outside in the garage, you know; it’s not like you’ve sent it off to Siberia.

In fact, winter’s a great time to catch up on all the little projects you haven’t found the time for yet. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Paintless Dent Removal

Paintless dent removal guys really are artists, and they don’t close up shop just because there’s snow on the ground. Since your car’s sitting around all day anyway, why not do an inventory of all the dings and dents on the door and body panels, then have your local dent specialist come by and pop them out? If you take action now, a few hundred bucks at the most will buy you peace of mind come spring.

2. Full Hand Wash and Polish

This is definitely a DIY, and for some it’s an annual tradition. When it’s time to store the car, hose it down in the driveway to get the surface stuff off, and then roll up your sleeves and get down to business. All you need is a jug of Turtle Wax Car Wash solution, a nice big sponge and a lot of elbow grease.

You’ll want to go over every inch of the sheet metal with that sponge. Try to make it cleaner than it was on the first day of spring. Then wipe all the moisture off with a non-scratching water blade to avert streaks and water spots. For the grand finale, get a hold of an orbital polisher and some high-quality Meguiar’s polish. A whole winter is a long time for a car to sit still; it’s only proper to put it to bed with that like-new shine.

Pro Tip: Consider a one-step sealant to help prevent rust.

3. Clean and Deodorize Interior

There are countless approaches to cleaning your car’s interior, but when it’s time for winter storage, focus on two aspects: upholstery and odors. For upholstery, start with Lexol leather cleaning spray if you have leather seats. Let it dry for an hour, and then finish with plenty of conditioner. If you do that every year, your leather should be good till kingdom come.

As for odors, look, even if you’re careful about keeping food out of the car, things just start smelling musty over time. You can get in front of this problem by treating your interior with Eagle One E1 odor eliminator. They say the stuff actually changes the chemistry of odor molecules. However the science works, it keeps cars smelling fresh all winter long, and that’s all you need to know.

Pro Tip: Place a few dryer sheets in the cabin, and under the hood. This helps prevent mice from making their way into your car or engine bay and building nests over the winter.

4. Check your cooling system

Check your vehicle’s antifreeze to make sure it protects against even the coldest evenings. To help with this, pick up an antifreeze tester to ensure that your car’s cooling system does not freeze solid.  A cheap antifreeze tester may be the key to a smooth ride next spring.

5. Fix What Needs Fixing (and maybe some other stuff, too)      

Last but definitely not least, winter is the perfect time to bust out your tool kit and get your hands dirty. Hey, it’s not like you’re going to be busy driving the car, right? Think about all the time you’re saving by not getting behind the wheel—and devote a few of those hours here and there to DIY projects of your choosing.

Preventative maintenance

For instance, a lot of folks might put off replacing their spark plugs because the car’s running fine, but why wait for it to start getting rough? Get yourself one of these handy magnetic swivel sockets, if you don’t have one already, and give your engine a new spark for the spring. For those of you who have room to get a floor jack under there and raise your car up, there’s a bunch of sensible preventive maintenance you can do while you’re on your back, including fuel-filter replacement and retorquing all your suspension bolts to factory spec with a quality torque wrench.

Upholstery repair

A couple other projects worth considering are upholstery repair and chrome upkeep. For the upholstery repair, you’re gonna have to be handy with a sewing machine, but it’s not a terribly difficult job if you’ve got the time. Plan on spending a few days, though, if you have to remove the seat covers for re-stitching—and plan on rejuvenating the foam underneath, too, because if you’ve got rips, you’ve also got cushion compression from years of butts.

Make it shine

As for chrome upkeep, whether you’re talking about wheels, bumpers and tailpipes or headers and such under the hood, you’re gonna want a bottle of Mothers California Gold. Go after any tarnished surfaces with that stuff first. If they don’t get shiny enough for you, I would consider calling in a professional, but you can also get a DIY chrome kit and try to do the job yourself. Be careful, though, because the process involves an acid bath and some pretty freaky chemicals. It’s one you can definitely brag about to the boys if you pull it off.

Pro Tip: At the end of the day, you know better than anyone what kind of mechanical TLC your car could use this winter, and now’s the time to do those nagging repairs you’ve been putting off. Our suggestion? Make a list of priorities, and check ’em off one by one until it’s driving season again. Your future self will thank you next year when the car’s performing better than ever.

Spring’s around the corner!

Don’t let the chilly season get you down, my friends. Pass the time with some targeted DIY projects, and before you know it, it’ll be time to hit the road again. When you’re ready, here’s how to bring your car out of storage.

Any suggestions for some good projects this winter, by the way? Let us know in the comments.

Top 5 Cleaning Products For Both Car And Home

Woman kneeling at the floor cleaning while smilingCleaners do double duty! Our DIY Mom explores the handy dual uses of common car cleaning products.

If you think maintaining your car is time-consuming, let me tell you, it’s nothing compared to keeping your house in order. Between my car, my house and my kids, I’ve got three full-time jobs, and none of them pays a dime! But what if you could use some of your car products to maintain your home, too? There are a lot of dual-use car products out there, and I want to introduce you to a few of them today.

1. Brake Cleaner Brake cleaner has always been an indispensable piece of the home mechanic’s arsenal, allowing you to prolong the life of your brake components by keeping oil, dirt and other contaminants at bay. But did you know that it can also remove tough grease and oil stains from your driveway or garage floor? Think about it: if it’s strong enough to get in there and clean your brakes, a little grease is child’s play. So next time you’ve got an industrial-grade spill to clean up, save yourself the trip to the hardware store and just pull out your brake cleaner instead.

2. Automotive Upholstery Cleaner Have you ever heard of a specific product for cleaning your couch? They’re out there, of course, but chances are you don’t already have a bottle in your cabinet. What you do have, though, if you’re into DIY car maintenance, is automotive upholstery cleaner. And if you think about it, the only difference between cloth automotive upholstery and the stuff on your couch is where it’s located. Here’s another fun trick, by the way, and I speak from experience: automotive upholstery cleaner also works great for carpet stains. Give it a shot before you spend a bundle on renting a carpet cleaner or having a professional stop by.

3. Car Wax I know what you’re thinking: “What could I possibly use car wax for in my house?” This one’s definitely not obvious, but when you think about it, it’ll make a lot of sense. What I want you to do is try applying some car wax to your kitchen and bathroom counters. Why? Because food’s less likely to stick to a waxed surface, for one thing, and also, if you spill anything, the liquid will bead up for easy cleaning. Moreover, with that layer of wax in between your counters and whatever’s on them, the likelihood of staining is greatly reduced.

4. Automotive Glass Cleaner Next time you’re about to buy some Windex or a comparable cleaning product, pause for a moment and ask yourself if you’ve already got some automotive glass cleaner in your garage. If so, guess what — it’s basically Windex for your car. So why not bring it inside and use it on your mirrors, windows and other indoor glass surfaces? In some cases, the automotive formula might even work better, because it’s specially formulated to cut through dried bug residue and all the other nastiness that ends up coating windshields over time.

5. Metal Polish Metal polish is a must-have for car collectors, and even if you just like to keep your car spic and span, it’s a good product to have around. But your car isn’t the only thing in your life that needs its metal polished. Think about all the metal in your house, whether it’s stainless steel surfaces, metal door knobs or handles, door hinges, cabinet knobs, even sink and shower faucets. You can use that automotive metal polish on all of the above, and just like the glass cleaner, it might even do a better job than an actual household product, since cars really need high-strength formulas to deal with all the grit and grime.

It’s time to get busy!

You all know I’m big into DIY, so I would love to hear your ideas. What are some dual-use car/house products that I didn’t mention? Let’s get creative and help each other get the most out of our car products. Happy cleaning!

Editor’s note: as you get ready to buff and polish your prized possessions, count on Advance Auto Parts for the best values in cleaning supplies, tools, accessories and more.

Pee-Yoo! Get Rid of Those Bad Smells from Your Car

Clean car interior

Source | Sean DuBois/Unsplash

Something’s not right inside your car and you know it. You can try to blame the funky smell in your car on neighborhood pranksters. Or maybe you’ve convinced yourself that it’s temporary. It’s more likely, however, that the odor originates from a combination of dirt, pets, and stray food wrappers. And, sorry, but it’s sticking around until you deal with it. Luckily, you have a number of options for getting rid of that car smell. You can:

  1. Send your kids to boarding school (pets too, for that matter)
  2. Invest in gas masks
  3. Roll up your sleeves and get to work

You probably want to keep your kids and pets around a while longer. And you should save your gas masks for a real emergency, like a zombie apocalypse. So, let’s take a closer look at Option 3: Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Cabin air filter

When it comes to eliminating interior odors, the best place to start is the cabin air filter. The cabin filter is located inside the vehicle, usually on the passenger side, between the floor and the dash or glove box. The filter traps dust, mold, pollen, and other contaminants, and prevents them from entering the interior. Like any filter, it needs to be changed on a regular basis—every year or 12,000 to 15,000 miles. Changing your cabin air filter is simple. While you have your cabin air filter out, vacuum the filter compartment. You may be surprised at what you find. Or not.

Floors

Remove the floor mats. Ten points to Gryffindor if you’ve installed rubber floor mats to protect your carpeting. Hose them off (maybe with a little scrub to release any sticky residue) and allow them to dry. To clean the floor mats that come standard with most vehicles, vacuum up excess debris, then scrub them gently with a mild detergent, hose them off, and let them air dry.

Next, sprinkle baking soda on the floor carpet to deodorize smells. Let it set for a few hours. Meanwhile, use an interior detail brush to pry out the remnants of last month’s egg and cheese biscuit from the cup holder, seat creases, and wherever else it might be hiding.

Finally, give the entire interior, including seats, compartments, and cup holders, a thorough vacuuming.

Seats

Cleaning your upholstered seats may be a little trickier than the floors. That’s because sweat, soil, and food stains on fabric can be difficult to treat if they’ve been left too long. A light sweep with a hand-held steam cleaner can make a big difference (same goes for the floors once you’ve vacuumed up any baking soda).

You can also use one of a number of effective cleaning products designed to make your seats look like new. Follow the directions carefully for best results. To clean and protect leather upholstery, use a cleaning agent specific to that purpose.

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cheese fries, so if you really want to keep your seats looking and smelling fresh, get yourself a set of seat protectors.

Odor eating options

If you car still doesn’t have that new car smell (let’s face it, that ship may have sailed), you can also turn to car deodorizers. Decide if you want an air freshener that you spray, place in your vehicle’s vents, hang from a rear-view mirror, or even a little tub of freshener that emits scents based on how much you open the lid. As far as scents go, the sky’s the limit—”new car,” cherry, outdoor breeze, rain, jasmine, vanilla, and fresh linen. Or all of the above if you’re not ready to give up on eating meals in your car. The choice is yours.

Have you had to banish a bad smell?  Tell us about it, and share a weird thing you’ve found when cleaning out your car. (We found a perfectly intact snail shell. …what happened to that snail!?)