It's a fact of life. Our cars get scratches. But how do you know when to compound, touch up, or take the car to a body shop? Find out today on this episode of Autoblog Details.

Watch all of our Autoblog Details videos for more tips on car cleaning and maintenance by professional detailer Larry Kosilla. While you're at it, check out Larry's other video series on how to diagnose, fix, and modify cars, Autoblog Wrenched!
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[00:00:00] It's a fact of life. Our cars get scratches. But how do you know when to compound, touch up, or take the car to a body shop? Find out today on this episode of Autoblog Details. The severity of paint damage depends on the depth and the length of the impact regardless of the object causing the damage. Here are some quick rules of thumb that can help you decide what options you may have to repair it yourself or hire a body shop to repaint the entire panel. Surface scratches do not completely penetrate the clear coat.

[00:00:30] Good examples of these may be improperly dry wiping your paint without a microfiber towel and causing fine lines or love marks or maybe a tree branch lightly rubbing across your paint as you back out of your driveway. Rule number one. If you rub your fingernail across the scratch and do not feel or hear it catch, there's a good chance you'll be able to remove it with detailing. Detailing may include wet sanding, compounding, and/or polishing. Every scratch is unique and may require different combinations of these detailing techniques.

[00:01:00] But you may be able to avoid a trip to the body shop and days or even weeks without your car. Rock chips are caused by the impact of an object breaking or puncturing through the clear coat, paint, and down to the metal or plastic. Although this type of paint damage is based on the size and shape of the object, it's commonly isolated to the front of the car. Rule number two. When repairing a rock chip, the number one goal is to cover the exposed metal with touch-up paint to prevent it from oxidizing and eventually spreading or eating through the metal.

[00:01:30] The very distant and second goal is cosmetic or to simply make it look better. With your priority being rust prevention, you should be able to avoid a costly visit to the body shop. And if the rock chip happens to look a little better, then that's icing on the cake. This type of paint damage occurs when an object's weight, shape or pressure penetrates the surface of the clear coat, paint, and into the bare metal.

[00:02:00] Although these are similar to rock chips with respect to their depth, deep scratches are usually accompanied by dense or divots in the metal caused by this severe pressure furthering the need for a body shop repair. If you can feel or hear the scratch with your fingernail, this is most likely gonna require a body shop repaint especially if 100% perfection is desired. At the very minimum, you'll need to find a professional detailer to minimize or round off the severe edges to lessen the visibility of the scratch if a body shop visit is totally out of the question.

[00:02:30] Remember if your only concern is rust prevention, then the DIY repair is the quick and cheap way to go. However, if the cosmetic look is the highest priority, then a trip to the body shop is in your future. Body shops will make the deep scratch disappear 100%. The downside of course is the cost of a couple hundred dollars or more and a couple of days or even a couple of weeks without your car. Ultimately your decision comes down to one question I've asked hundreds of car owners in the same situation.

[00:03:00] Can you live with less than perfection on your car? If the answer is no, then go to the best body shop regardless of the cost. The old adage of you get what you pay for holds true with body shops. If you're gonna do it, do it right or not at all. Likewise if you're walking past the touched-up scratch everyday and it doesn't drive you crazy, then save your money and move on with life. If you found this video helpful, please share and keep up with all the latest detail videos by liking or subscribing to the Autoblog page. I'm Larry Kosilla from Thanks for watching.

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