Fixing gouges rather than getting gouged?
October 29, 2010 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Real bad scratches on a black '08 Toyota Yaris. Can this be self-fixed by somebody with no real skills, or are we out $700?

Back in July, my wife decided to see how the Yaris would stand up to a stress test against a concrete pillar in an underground parking lot: it should come to a surprise as nobody that the pillar won. The result is scratches that cover the top of the wheel well for about a palm's width up, some damage to the plastic protector around the base of the door (vertical part, shin-height) and a couple of minor scratches on the door.

I was hoping it was cosmetic damage, but the aesthetics people referred me to a body shop, and I have two estimates, $650 and $800, to repair the damage. Which is kind of stunning, but I'm not a "car guy." A $500 deductible makes it barely worth it to go through insurance, especially since we have a "get out of jail free" card (one accident that won't affect our rates) and I don't want to blow it on a $150 difference.

I'm tempted to try to self-repair, with instructions like these, but I don't want to screw things up even worse. Also complicating things is the fact that it's already November, and very cold outside, making for uncomfortable and possibly unsuccessful work if paint requires the car to be over a certain temperature.

The scratches definitely go through the paint. There's some urgency here, as once winter hits, road slush (mostly salt) will probably start rusting away the body of the car.

Honestly, with a $700-after-tax estimate as the good one, I'm not sure if I could screw things up to the point that it'd be more expensive to fix. But spending a weekend outside in 40-degree weather working on something that will prove ultimately futile doesn't appeal either.

So: gouged paint on a relatively new car. Fixable by a shmuck? Or worth $700 to repair?
posted by Shepherd to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's worth $700 to repair. And yes, you could screw it up to be more to repair.

If the scratches polish out, then you could maybe do it yourself, but it will be a lot of work to get as good a job as a $700 polish job would be. It's certainly worth trying, but I'd be surprised if a concrete post scrape would purely polish out, and I'd also be surprised if you could do as good a job as a machine buffer and someone who has all the fancy polishes to hand.

Honestly, for a 2 year old car, $700 to get it looking nice again is really not all that much for bodywork.
posted by Brockles at 10:19 AM on October 29, 2010

It has been my experience that the "fix" from the body shop will be "replacing the panel with a new one", not some sort of hammering and re-painting job. So it doesn't matter how much it's messed up, they'll just replace it. It might be worth a call to the shops that gave you the estimates to confirm that that's what their fix is. If so, then I would try doing it yourself first, as there would be no harm except for a bit of uncomfortableness.
posted by brainmouse at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2010

Response by poster: Not trying to police my own thread, but the estimates were definitely for sanding down and building up, not replacing the panel.
posted by Shepherd at 10:25 AM on October 29, 2010

Could post a photo of the damage?
posted by caek at 10:26 AM on October 29, 2010

Depending on what exactly you mean by scratches, Toyota sells touch up paint pens. First, you hit it with the paint side, let that dry, then go back over it with the clearcoat side. You certainly won't be any worse off than you are now. If it doesn't work, now you're out $605 instead of $600.
posted by wierdo at 10:31 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: As a stopgap, would the touch-up pen prevent water/salt/crap from getting in the gouges over the winter? I'd rather save up and pay for the fix in real money rather than incur debt over it.

I don't live or die on having a car that makes people gape in awe: I own a Yaris. While I'd rather have an impeccable car, for $700 I could live with a version where you can see home-filled scratches if you tilt your head at the right angle.

Re. photos: I'll take care of that this afternoon or failing that over the weekend.
posted by Shepherd at 10:50 AM on October 29, 2010

Yes, the paint pen will seal the area, so long as you make sure to clean the scratches and surrounding area very well before applying. If you really want to make sure to do it well, you can add a wet sanding step with a very fine grit sandpaper directly around the scratches to help it blend better.

The idea there would be to sand a little, paint with the pen, sand it smooth, then use the clear coat on top of that, but it's designed to work with nothing more than a cleaning.
posted by wierdo at 11:14 AM on October 29, 2010

If the area isn't too large you could also seal it with clear nail polish. You can probably do a decent job filling the scratches with some bondo and using progressively finer grades of sandpaper. You'll be hard pressed to make it look nice paintwise without the help of a professional.
posted by zeoslap at 11:43 AM on October 29, 2010

Response by poster: Close-up on scratches
Overview of scratches
Damaged plastic bit
posted by Shepherd at 12:22 PM on October 29, 2010

I own a older model (hehe) Yaris as well. I'd say live with them, especially since you mention that it isn't that big of a deal, because at some point down the road someone's going to bang a door into you, hip-swipe their keys/cart into the door, etc and simply drive away leaving you to go through all this again.

Do what you can with the self-service stuff and it will pass the glance test. I'd follow the directions to the letter however, especially anything that occurs BEFORE you apply touch-up paint.

I also hear that some Yaris purchasers got small bottles of touch up paint when they bought their car from the dealer (YMMV, I didn't get any when I bought mine).

We Yaris drivers are into the car thing not for the looks but for the mileage/low maintenance costs.

Please keep this question updated if you decide to take action on your own and/or MeMail me with the results since I may be doing the same thing with some scratches (though not as obvious) on mine.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:07 PM on October 29, 2010

You don't necessarily have to go to the dealer for touch up paint. Some auto paint stores can mix touch up paint based upon your car's make, model, year.
posted by Carbolic at 1:24 PM on October 29, 2010

Not only are those scratches pretty bad (especially at the leading edge of the door opening), but it also looks like it has gone all the way through the paint in a few places and creased the panel. There is little to no chance an amateur would be able to make this better to the point that you'd 'have to turn your head a certain way', it'll just look a bit better than it does.

It will still, after cleaning up, look like you've spooned your car into a post.

Honestly, if it were me my two options would be:

1 - give it a quick polish with some cutting compound (like this) until it stops looking better and then touch up the rest of it with a paint pen and laquer over the rest of the scratches as best I could. It would be obvious and still clearly a minor crash from all ranges, but the paint quality would not get any worse - cost would be around $30 for polish, rags, paint pens and maybe some thinners style cleaner. Definitely don't start sanding lacquer off or filling - it'll look worse.

2 - Get it fixed properly. Honestly, $700 to fix that isn't all that bad a quote.

Anything in between these two options (especially trying to sand and fill it yourself) will look crappy unless you are already good at this sort of thing, and any sanding or especially filling will need some kind of paint application, which will look like crap on a new car if you don't use proper equipment. It's possible that a proper shop will be able to pop that dent out without much filler, so filling it yourself will make more work later to fix it properly. Either leave it largely alone, or fixit properly is my advice.
posted by Brockles at 1:29 PM on October 29, 2010

There are airbrush touchup places that can repair that for much less than $700. They sand the area down and spot respray the area. It may not look 100% factory but won't be noticable unless you looked for it.

The shallow scuff marks can be mostly buffed out (and/or wetsanded) depending on how deep they are. I would go have a reputable detailer look at it, it might be salvagable.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:33 PM on October 29, 2010

Try finding a community college in your area, and see if the teacher would like to use your damage as a demonstration piece.
posted by bodaciousllama at 2:14 PM on October 29, 2010

EDIT: I should have mentioned you need to find an auto body repair or paint teacher. Not some psychology of human sexuality professor.
posted by bodaciousllama at 2:15 PM on October 29, 2010

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