Everyone’s done it. You clip a pole, hit a stray shopping cart, or scratch your car door with a sharp object. The result is unsightly. Turning in a small damage claim to your insurance company can raise your premium, and if you’ve received an auto body repair estimate, you already know that parts and labor alone can be very expensive. There’s an alternative, however. You can repair it yourself. All it takes are a few household items, some paint, and a few minutes of your time.

Nasty Dents

Dents can be pulled out easily, provided your finish didn’t crack. Simply pour some hot soapy water over the dent and plunge it out gently, as if you were plunging a clogged sink. If it doesn’t pop back into place right away, have a friend tap on the other side of it with a light rubber hammer. Once you’ve pulled it out, the soapy water will allow you to slide the plunger down the panel to break the suction.

For smaller dents, you can place a small block of wood at the top of the dent and lightly tap the wood with a mallet (or another small tool) to force the panel back into place. Tapping gently around the edges can force the metal back into its original shape. Be careful not to crack the finish though. It will expose the metal and lead to rust. Then you’ll really need to hire an auto body repair specialist.

Scratches and Scrapes

Most hardware stores and body shops have touch up paint for sale. Pairing the right color is easy, because all you need to know is your car’s make and model. Each manufacturer has its own paint codes and finding out what they are is easy. It’s usually located in the door panel or inside the glove box. If your car has been painted, you might have to make an educated guess. Even then, it’s not too hard to figure out.

To apply the paint, you’ll need some soapy water, fine grit sand paper, waxing and buffing cloths, and of course, a small paintbrush. Wash the damaged area thoroughly with soapy water, paying special attention to any gunk that may have accumulated. Wet your sand paper and begin scrubbing gently around the affected area. Make sure to keep your paper wet. Dry the area and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. This will ensure that the area’s dried completely. Next, carefully apply a light coat of paint (add a second if needed) and leave it to dry overnight. Use a rubbing compound and wax to protect your finish.

Paint cures best when applied on a sunny day with little to no humidity. If that’s not possible, try to do it inside a heated facility with a dehumidifier running. You can also use a hair dryer or heat lamps if necessary to help cure the paint.

As you can see, auto body repair can be done with household items. For those of you who don’t have the time or patience to fix your own damages, however, there’s always a professional out there who’s willing to help get it done right.