Repair & Shape An Auto Body

You might be able to repair minor auto body damage by yourself.

Auto body repair and shaping involves the repair of both minor and major damage to the body of your car including dents, scratches and rusted areas. This type of work requires a certain amount of skill and certain tools. An auto body repair mechanic is often used for this type of work, but if the damage is just a small dent or scratch, justifying the expense of a mechanic can be a tall order. Understanding the basics of auto body repair can help you decide whether a mechanic is necessary.


1. Use a dent plunger to pull out dents using suction power. You can purchase dent plungers from most auto shops. For a relatively small dent, wet the dent with a mixture of water and carwash soap. Place the plunger over the dent and pull out the dent. Remove the plunger by sliding it off using the soapy water. Repeat if necessary.

2. Purchase a dent-pulling kit from your local auto store and use it to pull out larger dents. Drill several small holes in the center of the dent and screw the head of the dent puller into the holes, one at a time. Once inside the hole, claws on the head of the dent puller open and grip the back of the dent. Use a little force to pull out the dent as far as the rest of the body of the car.

Repeat the process with the rest of the holes until the dent is fully pulled out. If you’ve pulled the dent too far out from the body of the car, use a body hammer to reshape it.

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When you are finished, the holes will need to be filled, and finished with body paint.

3. Access the back side of the damaged body of the car and use a body hammer to gently hammer the sheet metal and reshape the body. Once you have reshaped the sheet metal as much as possible using this method, turn the sheet metal over and place a metal hammer dolly underneath on the back side of the sheet metal. Use the body hammer to gently shape the outside of the body. Keep going until you are satisfied with the shape. Body hammers are usually made of rubber to minimize paint damage.

4. Fill any remaining dents and drilled holes with auto body filler. Use a metal file or sandpaper to smooth the metal. Use a putty knife to add the filler, and carefully smooth it over until you get the desired shape. For greatest accuracy, use a paper template of the original shape of the body part.

5. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding drying time for the filler. Sand the repaired body parts with a gritty sandpaper by hand. Work your way down to fine sandpaper. Finish off the sanding with fine grit sandpaper. You will know when the process is complete when you’ve achieved a very smooth surface with no differentiation from the rest of the auto body.

6. Prime the surface of the auto body with a metal primer. Allow it to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using spray paint, apply auto body paint evenly and carefully across the auto body. Do not apply too much paint to any one section, or the paint might peel. Allow the paint to dry, and buff the paint. Apply at three to five coats and buff the paint with a buffer in between, after allowing adequate drying time.

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