Do It Yourself: Auto Body Repair
Whether you are repairing a classic car or trying to fix a small dent from an unfortunate grocery cart incident, the basic principals of car bodywork apply. With just a few basic tools, an eye for detail, and patience, you too can work on your own car and save plenty of money in repair work. Here are a few basic guidelines to get you started.
Hammer & Dolly. If you need to repair dents, a hammer and dolly system is your best bet. Basically, you place the dolly on the outside of the dent, and use a hammer to pound the metal from within to get the metal back to its original shape. You can’t skimp on the right tools, however: a traditional hammer won’t work as well as one specifically designed for bodywork.
Metal Puller. If you are dealing with a larger dent or one in a place that you cannot reach the inside of to hammer out, a metal puller does the trick perfectly. You can use them to pop out dents with ease.
Bondo. Ah, the meat and potatoes of auto body repair! Bondo is an amazing filler material that can be sculpted and painted to make your car look as good as new. But you need to be careful; there are different Bondos for different jobs. For larger holes that need filling, you need to use the Bondo with fiberglass in it. For smaller jobs, regular Bondo can be used, or even sometimes a simple filler putty can be used in shallow repairs such as scratches.
Sanding. Don’t make the common rookie mistake and think you can use a traditional wood sander. For auto body repair, you need a Dual Action Sander (commonly called a DA Sander). Use 60 to 120-grit paper to smooth the initial Bondo repair, and then use finer grit to feather the edges into surrounding surfaces. You should also be sure to include old-fashioned block sanding to really fine tune the surface.
Primer, Primer Sealers, and Paint. This is another area to not do on the cheap. Make sure you are using the best products, and be sure to use a color matching your car if you are doing small dent and scratch repairs. Nothing looks worse than a repair done with mismatched paint!
Before you get started, a word of caution: survey your car carefully and take note of the work that needs to be done. Think the job through all the steps BEFORE you start. This can save you from thinking a job is a small and simple repair when it is really a major issue that will take a skill level you don’t have. But if you are cautious and thorough, you should be able to tackle auto body repair! Good luck.