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Fixing Vehicle Scuffs, Chips and Dents

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 6 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Fixing Vehicle Scuffs, Chips And Dents

Scuffs, chips and dents are a fact of life with any car. They’re inevitable. And they’re usually not the owner’s fault. Scuffs and dents often appear when other motorists knock a vehicle in crowded car parks. Chips come from gravel and stones flung up by another vehicle’s wheels.

There are specialist companies that can fix scuffs, dents and chips. But there are also ways to deal with these minor repairs at home.


Scuffs are on bumpers or the wings of a car. The first action to take is to wash the scuff and surrounding paintwork. Then use a proprietary rubbing compound on the scuff. Follow this with a polishing compound. Finally, apply a coat of car wax.

A car accessory shop is the best place to buy the rubbing and polishing compounds. If in doubt about the products that are best for a particular paint finish, seek advice from a sales assistant. If the scuff is on a plastic bumper, the only necessary treatment may be a proprietary bumper cleaner.

Bear in mind that scuffs can sometimes take a fair bit of elbow grease to remove. But be careful of damaging the surrounding paintwork. Also never use household cleaners. These may scratch the paint.


If a chip hasn’t penetrated the paint all the way through to the metal, buff it out. Do this with a soft cloth plus scratch remover or car wax. Rub the cloth over the chip in a circular motion. Once the scratch remover or wax has dried, wipe it off.

If a chip has exposed the primer or metal, try a different technique. First establish if the paint is enamel or lacquer based. The car manual or the maker’s website should help.

If the paint is enamel, find the paint’s code. This should be inside the door jamb. Use the code to buy a bottle of touch-up paint. When applying the touch-up paint, don’t use the supplied brush. Try a toothpick instead.

The job may take longer than with the brush. But the toothpick’s fine point helps to prevent paint spilling out of the chip and down the bodywork.

After applying the paint, leave the chip for a few days. Then polish it.

If the paint is lacquer-based, use a clean cloth to apply a small amount of lacquer thinner to the chip. Rub the thinner into the chip carefully. The surrounding paint should loosen and fill the chip. Please note that this technique doesn’t work on all lacquer-based paints.


Dents are not always easy to remove. Some dents require electromagnets to pull the bodywork back into shape. Others may need the attention of a skilled body repairer.

Anyone determined to avoid the expense of a garage could try two methods of dent removal. The first is to buy a dent puller. This comes with special heat glue. Follow the instructions of the dent puller and glue the central part to the dent. Once the glue has set, release the screw handle of the puller. The dent should come out.

The second method is to use a hair drier and CO2 (dry ice). Heat the dent with the hair dryer. Then spray it with CO2.

The dent should spring out but there is no guarantee. A lot depends on the position of the dent, and the shape and tension of the bodywork. Always wear gloves and do not touch the CO2.

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