Should You Fix Auto Body Damage Yourself or Use a Professional?

You’re at a red light minding your own business when someone bumps into you from behind. If you’re like most drivers involved in minor fender-benders, your first thought is, “How much is this going to cost?” Dings, scratches, and other areas of surface damage might seem like a minor, easy DIY job. But should you ever fix auto body damage yourself? The answer is, probably not. YouTube has given many people a false sense of belief that they can do any auto job themselves. But there are a few things that should be left to the professionals, and auto body repairs is one of them.

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Auto body repairs can seem expensive, and in a lot of cases, your insurance policy won’t cover these types of restorations. That’s doubly true if the damage was caused by an act of nature, such as a tree limb hitting your car in a storm, or if you were the unfortunate recipient of a hit-and-run that left your car dented. A lot of drivers aren’t conscientious enough to leave behind a note on your windshield if they bumped into your car while it was parked.

You can indeed find a video online of a layperson doing practically any professional job. While you might see someone successfully complete a minor paint job or fix a dent in a car door, you don’t know what happens days, weeks, or months after the fact. DIY auto body repairs can cause more damage to your vehicle then if you’d just used a professional. Below are several common auto body repairs you shouldn’t do yourself.

1. Rust

Vehicles can get rusty from negligence and adverse weather conditions. If you live in or purchase a car from an area prone to ice and snow, like Colorado, rust is a pretty common nuisance. Salt and other environmental hazards can wear away your car’s paint, leaving it vulnerable to rust. Older cars are especially prone to rust unless their exteriors have been treated for it.

There are a ton of products on the market that are supposed to remove rust, and it’s easy for consumers to think that rust removal is an easy job they can do themselves. While rust products might be easy to apply and use for the average person, these products only eliminate the appearance of rust on the exterior of the vehicle. The problem with rust is that it’s a corrosive element and, in most cases, you can’t fully see the extent of the damage. Often, the rust has penetrated deep into the body of the car where it’s hidden from view.

Spray on one of those DIY rust-removers, and all you’ve likely done is removed the surface rust, while leaving behind a large patch of rust in the frame, making it vulnerable to more extensive, more expensive damage. But that’s only if you get a good rust remover. A lot of them don’t even do a decent job of removing the appearance of surface rust anyway. In most cases, rusty panels need to be sanded down to the metal to remove the corrosion, or they need to be replaced. A professional will be able to remove the rust entirely and protect the frame of your car from further damage and corrosion. Leave this one to the pros.

2. Paint Jobs

Giving your car a paint touch-up should be easy and straightforward, right? Well, not really. Painting a vehicle is not the same as painting a room in your house. The availability of a wide range of different car paints on the consumer market makes this auto body repair seems like the prime DIY job, but it’s not and here’s why.

Matching paint for even a small scratch or faded panel can be incredibly difficult. A lot of newer cars have paints that require up to three coats of different colors to get that signature sheen you see on many current models. If your car has a pearlescent or metallic coating, you’re going to have an especially hard time matching the shade. Regardless of how much you channel your inner Van Gogh, you’ll most likely end up with a patch of your car that looks completely different than the rest of the body. It will be a different shade, and it will also look raised and rough compared to the rest of the car’s surface. A professional should do this for you.

3. Fixing Dents

With the way a lot of cars are made today, you can reach around to the inside of the panel and pop a dent back out with your bare hands. In most cases, larger dents that aren’t so easy to manipulate by hand can be hammered back out with tools you can find at your local auto parts shop. But the biggest problem here is what you don’t see.

Sometimes, dents are only part of the problem. There could be underlying structural damage to your car from the dent. Driving a vehicle around that’s structurally compromised means it won’t be able to protect you if you get into a wreck.  This can also be a significant liability issue for you if you’re going to have someone else drive your car, or have a professional transport your vehicle (this page has some good information on the topic) when it is structurally unsound. Plus, dents can cause issues with the car’s paint as well. An auto body repair shop will be able to fix the dent and any structural problems with your vehicle, ensuring that it’s safe to drive around.

Fixing auto body issues yourself might seem like the easy, cheap, and fun thing to do if you like DIY projects. But in most cases, you can’t see the full extent of the issue, and you probably don’t have the tools to fix it properly as a professional auto body repair shop would. Instead of fixing these seemingly minor issues yourself and potentially causing larger issues, it’s best to leave them to the professionals.

Jay M.