Handling Door Dings On Your Own (And Why You Should)

You go in to the store to do a little grocery shopping. The parking lot is pretty full, so you take whatever spot you can get, not expecting that when you come back out with your sacks full of groceries, someone has taken it upon themselves to bang a shopping cart into your paint job while away.

Sometimes they leave a note with their insurance information; more often than not, they flee the scene and leave their handiwork as an unwelcome surprise.

You’ve been there before, and if not, then you probably will be at some point in the future.

Do you file a claim or try to tackle the repairs on your own?

While it may be annoying to tackle such a project yourself, doing so is the wiser insurance move. By keeping your claims to a minimum and using your policy only for the larger repairs, you establish yourself as a lower risk to the company, and that can (and usually will) be shown in your premiums over time.

But what if you’re not that great with tools and DIY repair? Nationwide Insurance recently saved some helpful tips that can help you keep costs and claims low.

Here’s what they recommend.

  • If the scratch hasn’t gouged the clear coat of paint, use a mildly abrasive liquid rubbing compound (any auto parts store can recommend one) on a clean microfiber towel to buff out the scratch. Rub across and down the length of the scratch until it disappears. Follow with an application of car polish.

  • For scratches beyond the clear coat, start with abrasive liquid rubbing compound and a dual-action orbital polisher (again, your auto body shop can provide an effective one). Move the polisher back and forth and in circles over the scratch. Once the scratch is gone, use car polish as directed above.

  • For deeper scratches, prepare to do a little more work. Start by lightly sanding the scratch with ultra-fine sandpaper. Use slightly soapy water while sanding, using light short strokes at various angles. Continue until the scratch is gone. If the deep scratch and subsequent sanding left you with bare metal in spots, you’ll need to touch up the paint. Match the color by bringing your VIN number to the auto parts store. You might also find the name of the paint color listed inside the doorframe. Apply the paint using a Q-tip or toothpick, building up the paint so it’s higher than the car surface. Let dry for at least an hour, sand lightly with 800-grit sandpaper, then use the same technique for small scratches to finish the job.

If you’re not very car-minded, there could be a temptation to leave the scratch where it is, thus forgoing the investment of time and money, but that may not be the best idea. Without touching things up, a minor cut could lead to rust over the long term.


How To Tell Whether It’s A DIY Job

Nationwide advises that you first evaluate the magnitude of the damage. “Examine the scratch carefully, and use your hand to determine how deep the scratch is,” the company states. “If you can’t feel the scratch, it hasn’t pierced the clear coat of paint most newer vehicles have above the base color paint. If you can feel the scratch, it probably hasn’t gone past the base color paint to the metal. If you can see bare metal, it’s a deep scratch.”


In Summary

If you own an automobile and drive it with any degree of frequency, then you’re probably going to encounter annoying issues like those mentioned above. Don’t panic. Most of the time, you can handle the job yourself for a few dollars and minimal effort without involving your car insurance company and building a claims history. It may mean stepping a bit out of your comfort zone, but it’s more than worth it. Stay safe and watch out for those shopping carts!

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