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Summary
  • Over time, your vehicle’s body will inevitably end up scuffed and scarred. Good thing there are a number of tools available that can help you restore your vehicle’s body to its former pristine state.
  • Use repair panels if you need to replace large sections of your vehicle’s body after an accident. Dent pullers can work fine if the dents on your vehicle aren’t too large.
  • Polishers can help you get rid of surface scratches on your vehicle’s clear coat. Follow it up with car wax. Use touch-up paint if the scratch goes deeper than the surface coat. If it’s a large, deep scratch, you might need to use a sander, followed by a new coat of paint.

Over time, your vehicle’s body will inevitably end up scuffed and scarred. Tiny pieces of debris can scratch the paint, or a roadside accident can lead to dents and bends. More often than not, the safe option is to have a professional repair your vehicle’s body for you. But if you have enough DIY experience under your belt, you can try these projects yourself using these handy tools for car body repair.

Repair Panels

Repair panels replace large sections of your vehicle’s body. These panels cover your vehicle’s internal parts and systems, protecting them from the environment. If you get into an accident and one of your vehicle’s original body panels ends up dented and unusable, you can buy repair panels to replace them. Just make sure your vehicle’s frame is still structurally sound before installing new panels.

Before attempting to replace panels and such, learn the right way to remove them. There are supports and panels on vehicles that need to be spot welded on. You have to know how to remove them and reinstall them.

Before attempting to replace panels and such, know how to remove them. Repair panels have supports and panels on vehicles that are spot welded on. You have to know how to remove them and reinstall them.

Anthony Harlin, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

Skill Level Required: Installing repair panels and identifying structural damage aren’t for the beginner DIYer. It’s best to leave these repairs to a professional if you aren’t confident in your automotive skills.

What To Buy: Parts like the Key Parts Body Repair Panel slot into the old panel’s place with ease. Just be sure to buy the correct panel. It needs to fit your vehicle’s make and model and cover the correct area.

mechanic using a dent puller to a car
Most dent puller kits come with instructions and are relatively beginner-friendly.

Dent Puller

Dent puller sets are another option if your vehicle recently got into a minor accident. If one of the panels has a small dent, all you need to do is use the appropriate tools from the kit to pull the metal back into place. They’ll save you a trip to the shop and a pricey repair bill. That being said, dent pullers only work on shallow dents found on flat, flexible parts of your vehicle’s body. They’ll be ineffective on deeper, angular dents and those along the edges of your vehicle’s body.

Skill Level Required: Most dent puller kits come with instructions and are relatively beginner-friendly. That being said, if you aren’t careful, you might make the dent worse.

What To Buy: The OEMTOOLS Dent Puller Set is a good set to start with. It includes various attachments for dents in hard-to-reach places. These attachments are dropped forged steel as well, meaning they won’t fall apart as you pull on them. There are also kits with dent pullers, which use a substance similar to hot glue to pull dents.

Polisher

Scratches are some of the most annoying blemishes you can find on your vehicle’s body. Repairing them might mean a whole new paint job in some cases. But if your vehicle has smaller surface scratches, you can likely do some paint correction using a polisher. Paint correction is a welcome alternative to any major paint work because it only affects the vehicle’s clear coat. By using a polisher with polish or a compound, you can remove minor scratches, marring, hazing, and swirl marks. The polisher gets rid of very thin layers of clear coat, resulting in a very smooth finish.

Skill Level Required: Polishing your vehicle is a straightforward, if tedious, task. It’ll take approximately two hours, but even beginners should have an easy time. Take care not to overpolish any areas though, or you’ll end up removing the top coat entirely.

What To Buy: Buying a Chemical Guys Orbital Polisher is a good first step if you want to get into polishing your vehicle yourself. If you already have a polisher, consider buying a new polishing pad like the Meguiars Buffing Ball. Use these items with Chemical Guys Precision Paint Perfection Polish, and your vehicle’s paint job will look fresh in no time.

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Car Wax

After polishing, you’ll want to add a coat of car wax to protect your vehicle’s body from corrosion, UV rays, and more scratches. Car wax reinforces the clear coat, keeping harmful debris and dirt from the paint layer while also adding an attractive shine to your vehicle’s body. While it’s more a preventive measure than an actual repair tool, car wax does also seal particularly bad dirt stains, making them less visible and obvious.

Skill Level Required: Waxing a vehicle is an easy task for any beginner. Just take care not to add too much wax, and follow the proper procedures before starting and while waxing.

What To Buy: Though a waxing machine will certainly make the process faster, it isn’t strictly necessary. You can get away with using a regular wax like the Sonax Liquid Car Wax and an applicator like the Chemical Guys Workhorse Premium Microfiber Applicator.

Touch-Up Paint

If the scratches on your vehicle don’t go away after a proper polish and wax, they might reach deeper than the clear coat. Run your nail gently over the scratch. If it catches, that means you’ll need more than just a polish. A touch-up paint pen can handle small scratches that cover an area less than two square inches in size. These pens look like weird markers, and you use them in a similar fashion.

Skill Level Required: Touch-up paint pens are very easy to use. Take care not to apply too much paint at a time and work in thin layers starting from the top of the scratch.

What To Buy: Touch-up paint pens, like the AC Delco Paint – Torch Red, come in a wide range of different colors. Try to get one as close to your vehicle’s original paint color as possible.

Sander

If the scratch is too large for a touch-up paint pen to handle, you might need to sand down and repaint that section of your vehicle’s body. For that, we recommend using a sander. This is a car body repair tool that can remove the old paint and varnish, leaving a smooth area behind that’s ready for a new coat of paint.

Skill Level Required: While you can sand and repaint your vehicle’s body at home, keep in mind that this project is for extremely seasoned DIYers. Most of the time, it’s best to leave this task to a professional.

What To Buy: You can purchase an OEMTOOLS Random Orbital Sander for this project. Random orbital sanders deliver more power than traditional orbital sanders, and they also have a more varied sanding pattern.

And there you have it, our list of car body repair tools for your DIY needs. While it’s best to let professionals handle a number of these projects, some can definitely be done at home. If you follow these tips, you’ll be sprucing up your car’s body in no time.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Tony Harlin is a Master Gas and Diesel Diagnostic Technician with over 18 years of experience. He works full-time at a large independent automotive shop as a driveability and repair technician working on all types of vehicles with a focus on diesels. ASE certifications include A1-A9, L1 and L2, as well as X1.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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