Whether or not you’ve recently been in an auto collision, it’s helpful to be familiar with auto body repair industry basics. Photo: Coelho’s Body Repair & Auto Sales, Inc. (2015)

Automotive work is a multifaceted field that consists of many subdivisions, from manufacturing to engine repair. One important segment of the industry is auto body repair, which concerns aspects such as vehicle paint and collision repair. The following article contains useful information to help you get more acquainted with this part of the automotive field, including key terms, DIY tips and answers to frequently asked questions.

Key Terms

Chipping: Auto paint is said to “chip” when stones and other debris cause the colored paint finish to break off in small pieces. Auto body shops can buff out and refill chipped areas with matching paint to make the damage invisible.

Clear coat: This is the top layer of auto paint that’s applied to add shine and protect the colored basecoat. A clear coat doesn’t have pigment added to it, so the color of the basecoat shows through.

Dent repair: This is a method of removing dents by pushing or hammering them out from the underside of the vehicle. Vehicle dent repair is effective for large and small dents, and it may require the application of fresh paint depending on the severity of the dent and the condition of the paint surrounding it.

Direct repair program (DRP): DRP insurance programs are usually an agreement between auto body shops and auto insurance companies. DRP repair shops agree to repair collision damage using a standardized set of rules and procedures in exchange for insurance companies directing customers to them.

Touch-up: This localized auto body paint repair only covers a small area. Touch-up paint jobs usually hide nicks, dings, chips and scratches that occur on car hoods, doors, bumpers, and fenders.

Minor auto paint scratches can often be removed with the application of some rubbing compound and a little bit of elbow grease. Photo: Anchor Auto Body (2015)

Minor auto paint scratches can often be removed with the application of some rubbing compound and a bit of elbow grease. Photo: Anchor Auto Body (2015)

DIY Tips

Repairing rock chips
After cleaning the chipped area with soap and water, rub a bit of polishing compound over it and clean it again, this time with isopropyl alcohol. Carefully apply the correct type of paint to individual chips and, after allowing a couple of days for the paint to cure, re-polish the area to blend it with the rest of the top coat. Touch-up paint can be purchased at an auto supply store.

Removing aerial contaminants
Aerial contaminants such as bird droppings, insect remains and tree sap are extremely corrosive to a vehicle’s paint, which is why it’s important to regularly clean affected areas. Kerosene is a good product for this—it’s inexpensive and it’ll remove contaminants without harming the paint.

Polishing out a minor scratch
If your car’s exterior gets scratched, in some cases, it can simply be polished out. Run your fingernail across the scratch—if your nail drops into a groove, the repair will likely require additional paint, but if it brushes seamlessly over the scratch, there’s a good chance it will polish out. To do this, apply a small amount of rubbing compound to a rag and rub it vigorously over the affected area. After just a few seconds of polishing, it’ll appear as if the scratch had never been there.

While your insurance company will provide you with a list of direct repair shops, the choice of where to have your vehicle repaired is ultimately up to you. Photo: George McGill's Body Shop (2015)

While your insurance company will provide you with a list of direct repair shops, the choice of where to have your vehicle repaired is ultimately up to you. Photo: George McGill’s Body Shop (2015)

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My insurance company gave me a list of auto body shops in their direct repair network. Do I have to use one of these shops or can I choose where to get my repairs done?
A: Your insurance company can suggest auto body shops in its direct repair network, but you have the final decision on where you take your vehicle for collision repairs. Your obligation is simply to take your car, truck, van or minivan to the body shop you prefer and contact your insurance company to let them know where your vehicle is.

Q: Do I have any say in the parts that are used to repair my vehicle?
A: Auto body shops have a variety of materials and parts they can use to repair vehicles damaged in collisions. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are the most expensive, so many shops automatically install used parts, refurbished parts or even salvaged parts to cut down on costs. If you caused the accident, the wording in your insurance coverage may require the body shop to install used, remanufactured or salvaged parts in your vehicle. However, you may have the option to pay the difference for OEM parts if you prefer. If, on the other hand, the accident was not your fault, you can tell your auto body shop which parts to install. Ask for OEM parts that will restore your vehicle to its pre-accident condition in terms of safety and value.

Q: My insurance company wants me to bring my car to their claims center for an appraisal. Do I have to do this?
A: Insurance companies can ask you to bring your vehicle to their claims center before taking it to an auto body shop, but it’s not a requirement. You can take it to them for an appraisal if you want, but you’re under no obligation and may request that your insurance company inspect it at your chosen repair shop instead.

Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified auto body repair shop?
A: At a time when you most need assurance of a job well done, Diamond Certified helps you choose an auto body repair shop with confidence by offering a list of top rated local companies that have passed the most in-depth rating process in the United States. Only auto body shops rated Highest in Quality earn the prestigious Diamond Certified award. Most companies can’t pass the ratings. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with in-depth and ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified auto body shop for your vehicle repair.

35 Responses

  1. DoloresB says:

    After a collision it’s important to get in for auto body repair. They can fix up dents and scuffs so your car looks brand new again. It might be hard to match the paint color, but it’s easier to let them do it rather than have you try and find a matching color.

  2. bryan flake says:

    If I got in an accident, what would be the cost difference between the clear coat being replaced and the color paint being replaced? I have the assumption that the clear coat may not be as costly. However, I just don’t know for certain.

  3. Steve Holt says:

    I learned a lot about what to do when in a car wreck after I was T-boned in an intersection, but I still feel like I still have a lot to learn. Knowing exactly what to do would have helped me in my first accident, so I want to make sure that I know how to take action if it happens again. You mentioned whether I should take my car to my insurance company before having it repaired. I wish that I knew that I didn’t have to do that ahead of time. That would have helped me save a lot of time so that I can have them inspect it at a repair shop instead. It’s a good thing that I know that now so that I can save time and money if someone crashes into my car again. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Natalie Darcy says:

    I dented my car, but put off going to a shop because I couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately, I get less careful when there is already a dent and I have accumulated more than I had planned on. I really appreciate your tips about how to get this don and when it needs to be done. Do you have any tips on doing this in the most inexpensive way possible? Thank you for a helpful article!

  5. Meg Lund says:

    I really appreciate the terms that you define in your post. Specifically, I was intrigued by the clear coat that be put on your car. You talk about how this coat doesn’t have pigment to it, so the base coat shows through. I was just wondering if you can put this clear coat on your car and it will protect your car’s paint from getting chipped and warped? Thank you for your help!

  6. Eric Blaise says:

    DRP is a term and program you should familiarize yourself with if you are dealing with collision repair. You need to be in contact with your insurance company with regards to what parts the auto body shop puts on your vehicle to bring it back to its original aesthetics. If at all possible, have them put OEM parts on the vehicle, if not, ensure they do not go with the cheapest alternative, this may compromise the ability for the vehicle to protect you if (hopefully not) you are ever involved in another collision. They also tend to not last as long, or will not fit on the vehicle properly.

  7. Ella Ross says:

    It is so helpful to learn all these things that an auto body shop can do. I had no idea that I could get chips fixed or that I could get dents repaired fairly easy. My car was recently hit, so it needs to get a little bit of body repair done. If I could get these things done, I am sure that my car would look much better. Thanks for the great post!

  8. Casey Jones says:

    Thanks for all the auto collision repair advice! That is really neat seeing how they paint the cars. Perhaps I will take my car in for a new paint job.

  9. Jason Scott says:

    I recently had someone rear end me and need to take my car into an auto body shop to get a quote and repair. I am assuming that they will have to do dent repair and touch up the paint. They might even have to repaint the whole bumper. I was worried that I would have to take it where my insurance said, but it is good to know I can go wherever.

  10. Brandon Roberts says:

    I got into a small fender bender the other day, and I don’t know what I should do about the dent. That being said, I really appreciate you talking about this and letting me know of some ways I can best repair the damage. I got to jump on this right away to make sure I get it all fixed up.

  11. Deanna Jones says:

    The road that I take to work gets really gravely at one point, so I get rock chips in my car on a regular basis. I’ve tried a lot of things to get rid of them from my car, so I should try out your method to get rid of them. Cleaning the area before applying polishing compound, isopropyl alcohol, then cover the area up with paint seems like a good way to repair my rock chips. I’ll try that out to see if it will improve how my car looks. Thanks for the tips!

  12. Eliza Cranston says:

    Thank you for the tips on auto body repair! I have some rock chips and I’d like to fix it myself if possible. I’ll try out cleaning and polishing it and then painting over it and see how that looks. What type of paint is best?

  13. Breck Lewis says:

    I really like the tips you give on fixing dents on your car. Dents are so common now days and they come in all sorts of sizes. I recently got a dent in my car and I thought to myself that it can’t be that hard to fix. I took a hammer from underneath like you mention and got it to look a lot better. Thanks for posting this because it definitely help me out to get my dent out.

  14. Olivia Sherwin says:

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that a chip is when stones cause the car’s paint to break off in small pieces. I got back from an extensive road trip about a week ago, and my vehicle took on a lot of chips. I’ll definitely take it into an auto body shop to see if that can be fixed. Thanks for the great post!

  15. Fred Summers says:

    Thanks for including those key terms. Sometimes when I go to these shops it seems like they are speaking a whole different language. I didn’t know what a DRP was so now I will be able to better communicate.

  16. June Robinson says:

    I really appreciate that this has basic information about auto repair. My husband and I just got my son his first car, and maybe I’m pessimistic, but I feel like it’s only a matter of time before we will need a repair shop! I like that this explains the process that repair shops go through to restore your car back to its original condition. I will show my husband this information tonight!

  17. Jason Strong says:

    My little brother’s car was involved in a pile up accident in his school parking lot and his car isn’t looking good at all. Luckily the body damage wasn’t to severe and he was able to get that all fixed up fairly quickly. What took the most damage was the paint on his car. I’ll have to show him this and see if it can help him find a way to get it fixed.

  18. Drew Harrison says:

    I had no idea that you could take your car outside of an insurance network! For my minor dents and dings I’ve been taking my car to my approved list, but I haven’t been a big fan of this repair shop’s work. I know a mechanic that does a really great job on other cars and I may have to pay the little bit extra and give him a visit. Thanks for this really handy Q&A!

  19. Wendy Cartright says:

    Thank you for sharing this information about auto body repair. I noticed that the paint on my car has been looking a bit worn. I think it would help a lot to have a clear coat put on for protection.

  20. John Blake says:

    I have been needing to take my car into the shop. I had no idea that i could polish off minor scratches. I might go ahead and try it myself. Thank you for the help.

  21. Stewart Boomer says:

    I had no idea that you could fix so many things yourself. I had some rock chips in my paint that I didn’t want to pay to have fixed, so they’ve just sat there for a while now. I think I’m going to go try what you suggested and see if it works! Thanks for sharing.

  22. emily bennette says:

    Painting a car yourself looks like it would be a huge job for just one person. You would have to sand it down, cover the glass, paint it, and then put on the protective coating. Putting on the protective coating seems like it would be easy to mess up. Which would be an awful thing to happen after you spend all the time doing everything else.

  23. Jeff Curtis says:

    Wow, this is a lot of great information on auto body shops. I really like the questions you included. I think the most important one is probably asking about insurance companies. It is always good to have a body shop that is experienced in handling your type of vehicle, but also that is good to use your insurance. Thanks for the post!

  24. Davis says:

    “Auto body shops can buff out and refill chipped areas with matching paint to make the damage invisible.” – When they buff out and refill, does that area become more prone to other issues, like rust for example?

  25. Grace Turner says:

    I didn’t know that I still had a say in where I could take my car to get repaired. My husband told me that we could only take it to places that the insurance company said. The one they suggested is really far across town but we have a closer one that I’d prefer to go to. I’m glad I now know that it is a viable option for auto repair, thank you.

  26. Zequek Estrada says:

    James, I appreciated the format of your post. I don’t have much knowledge when it comes to auto repair or maintenance stuff, so I like how you had key terms at the top for things like clear coat and direct repair program. I am wondering if there is a cost difference between body repairs between trucks and cars? Also, what would you recommend to look out for when trying to find a place to fix or touch up your vehicle?

  27. Tara Jones says:

    Thanks for mentioning that I actually do have a say in what kind of replacement parts the shop will use! I am going to have to take my car in to a shop to get the breaks fixed, and I’d prefer to get original parts. It’s good to know that I will have to expect to pay quite a bit extra, though, and that I’ll have to specify that that’s what I want.

  28. Zequek Estrada says:

    I didn’t know that you didn’t have to go to the list of direct repair shops your insurance provided. I actually need to find a panel beater because of an accident I got in last week. I’m glad I was able to find this and hopefully I’ll find an auto shop that will take good car of my car.

  29. Kate Hansen says:

    I’ve been in a few accidents but not bad enough to take it to a collision repair center. Dealing with cars always makes me nervous because I am not that familiar with all the terms. So thanks for defining all these things to know when going to get your car repaired. Knowing that a collision repair shop could help touch up the paint on my car makes me want to go get it painted right now!

  30. Luke Smith says:

    I had no idea that tree sap could be corrosive to a vehicles paint! I can definitely see how having an auto body shop capable of removing this type of contaminant safely would be important. I would think that if possible you should try to get referrals from your friends in order to choose a shop that you know will have good service.

  31. Jenna Hunter says:

    Last night, while coming home from my sister’s birthday, a deer crossed the street and hit my car. It was handy to that the article stated that vehicle dent repair is effective for large and small dents, and it may require the application of fresh paint depending on the severity of the dent. I will be sure to talk to an expert to make sure my car is fixed properly!

  32. Dave Anderson says:

    I agree that it would be important to know different terms for types of accidents that can occur to your car so that you will know how to communicate your problem with the auto body shop. Also, if they tell you something like they are going to do a DRP you will know that they have worked something out with the insurance company. I appreciate all of the terms that you have explained that I can now use and understand.

  33. Lary Cook says:

    A very precise article that mentions minor auto body repair problems and their solutions. I am thankful to you for mentioning some good questions which we often think about. Most of the insurance comapnies tell to get your car to their claims center for an appraisal and I thought it was mandatory. But the next time I will request them to inspect it at the service center of my choice.

  34. Lary Cook says:

    Well, if you have minor dents on your vehicle like very minor instead of spending a hefty amount on it, it is better to cover it up with a nail paint of same color. This is a tip I read on blog for car hacks.

  35. Richard Taylor says:

    Thanks for sharing such an informative post. Really found it very interesting. I’ll be recommending it to my friends!

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