Who Knew I Had A Talent For Bodywork?

Several weeks ago, on one of our special, special, windy Nebraska days, the wind ripped my car door out of my hands and slammed it into the cart return at the grocery store. Instant dent, with a lovely crack in the paint as a bonus. You can imagine how thrilled I was. And because the paint was cracked, I couldn’t just learn to live with my car’s imperfections- it had to be fixed so the metal underneath wouldn’t rust. 

This is right after the accident. It looked SO much worse by the time I fixed it because someone (*cough* a kid *cough*) later pried off a chunk of the paint, exposing the metal. Naturally, I didn’t photograph that stage. 

Anyway, I filed a claim with my insurance, and took it in for an appraisal. We carry a $1000 deductible, so naturally the estimate was for … $1048. Super. I have better things to spend $1k on, so that’s about the time I started googling how to touch up paint. A few YouTube videos later, and I decided I was prepared to tackle the job myself. Despite not being crafty, or patient, or even able to listen to someone sanding something without cringing. 

Insurance payout of $48 in hand, I set out for the automotive section at Walmart. Total purchased:

Assorted sandpaper (4 packs different grit)= $13.95
Respirator masks = $4.24
Primer= $4.97
Exact match car paint (from Amazon) = $7.99
Clear coat = $7.49
Car masking tape = $4.72
I had rubbing alcohol, trash bags, cleaning cloths, and gloves at home already. 

not pictured: the masking tape, gloves, and trash bags

Total spent: $43.36+ tax

Much better. Of course, none of this ensured I’d do a good job, but hey, I saved a thousand dollars, so I’m not too worried about it. 

First, I used my highly tuned reflexes and a hammer to bang the dent more or less back into place. It isn’t perfect, and I stupidly forgot to take a before picture of the edge so you could compare, but I’d say I got at least 90% of the dent out.

Then I got to work sanding, and to be honest, it wasn’t nearly as horrible as I worried it might be. Once I got to the smoother grit sandpaper it was even possibly a little fun. I started with 80 grit to really take the edge off the chipped section, then 180 to even out the entire area I’d be painting, and get it feathered in nicely with the existing paint and primer (check me out using vocab and shit). Next I used 400 grit, first dry and then wet, to get a nice smooth surface for painting. It ended up looking like this:

At this point I stopped because I had to wait for the paint arrive. I remembered to check the weather for some nice days I could get the work done, but I didn’t order the paint in time to arrive for those days. I’m super organized and always plan ahead before jumping in to projects. So by the time the paint came, my weather window had closed, and it proceeded to rain for a week straight. 


Finally, today dawned nice and clear, with a forecast of dry, sunny days all week, so I got to work. My car had already started rusting a tiny bit, so I resanded just a bit to make sure that was all gone. Then I washed the door panel, taped off everything I didn’t want to get paint on with masking tape and trash bags, and got ready to begin.  

I wiped down the area with rubbing alcohol, and sprayed a thin layer of primer. After that dried for about 10 minutes, I sprayed another layer. 

I gave that a full 30min to dry, then I wet sanded it using 1000 grit sandpaper. Very gently! 

I cleaned it again with rubbing alcohol, and then moved on to the paint. (FYI, somewhere on your car there is a label with the VIN and other vehicle info. Mine is on the edge of the drivers door. Look for a code labeled paint- that’s the specific match color for your car. So I just googled that code to find the brand and shade that would blend perfectly.) Here’s the first coat:

Third coat:

I gave each coat 15 minutes to dry before applying the next. It ended up taking 5 coats in total, and after the last one I waited about 2 hours before I applied the clear gloss. Partly to let it dry, and partly because I noticed that the gloss I had bought was actually white paint, and not clear top coat. Whoops. 

Fortunately I discovered my mistake BEFORE I sprayed it on my car, and I was able to get the correct top coat fairly quickly thanks to the magic of Advanced Auto Part’s order online/ pick up in store. Big shout out to my mom for doing the pick up so I didn’t have to remove the trash bags and tape. 

finished for today: 5 coats paint and 3 coats clear coat

There are a few tiny imperfections, but I’m really happy with the results. 

At this point, I have to wait another 48hrs for everything to really dry before I can sand it smooth (wet sand with 1500-2000 grit sandpaper) and then buff it to a shine. I’ll update this post with the ultimate finished project, but for now I think it’s pretty damn good. The color matched extremely well, and I didn’t spend $1000! Win win. 


About lonek8

stay at home mother with four beautiful children. Devoted television watcher and reader; wannabe novelist and fashionista.
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