Learn More About Car Scratch Repair Tips and Quick Fixes

You accidentally scratched your car door with your keys while you had your hands full and now you have an awful mark staring back at you every time you get into your car. Do you have to go to a professional who will charge you for labor? Or can you do it yourself for a fairly cheap price? Well, the answer is, an undersized scuff is something you can most likely fix at home by yourself. However, if you’re small scratch looks more like a tree branch than a stick; it’s time to consult the professionals.

Car scratch repair requires a couple of research steps before you can proceed on the actual scratch repairing. First you have to determine if your car has an enameled based paint, because some of the paint jobs on newer model vehicles won’t blend well with lacquer-based primer paint. Before you get started on the actual work, you can consult your local auto parts store to help you determine the exact color of your car. Take your VIN number so that you can match up the cover-up paint with the car’s original coat. You may be able to find the paint color code listed on the edging of the doorframe or in the glove compartment. A dealership would also be able to tell you the exact color paint you’ll need to repair the car scratch.

Next, buy primer paint labeled for automobile use in a lighter color and body compound that will go on easily in one coat. Then, wash the scuffed area with a laundry detergent to remove any wax or grit that might affect your recover paint. After that, take some fine-grained sandpaper and sand along the scratch, polishing away any rust you find. When sanding the scratched area, you may find that it is easier to buff out enamel with 1500-grit or 2000-grit sandpaper to avoid sanding marks. Be sure to blow or brush away any dust that accumulates and then use masking tape and newspaper to separate the scrape. Leave half an inch of room around the car scratch to work.

As you continue, you’ll need to use a plastic putty knife to apply body compound to any deep scratches; a metal one will cause more damage. Make sure to read the instructions on the label and follow them closely. After the body compound hardens, you can sand the spot flat and blow away all the dust again. Then, spray the primer onto the scratch and let it dry overnight. In the morning, use the brush from the touchup paint to paint the area, and then let it dry overnight. You may find that a finish polish is less abrasive than a regular compound.

It’s time to consult the professionals if the scratch on your car is stretched across a door or the hood, because you’ll find a better finished-product by having a body repair shop repaint the entire panel. If a scratch or scrape is left alone for a long time without repair, the area could start to rust, which is nearly impossible to stop once it has started. A small scratch, though, should be easy to tackle with the car scratch repair instructions given here.

 

Should You Know About Radiator and Cooling System Problems

If steam is pouring from under your hood, a temperature warning light is glowing bright red on your dashboard or the needle in the temperature gauge is cozying up to the High mark, it’s time to pull off the road and shut down the engine before it fries from overheating.

Any indication of overheating is a serious matter, so the best course of action is to shut down the engine to prevent further damage. Driving a car with an overheated engine can warp cylinder heads and damage internal engine parts such as valves, camshafts and pistons.

Even letting the engine cool for an hour and topping off the radiator with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water may not fix what’s wrong. Here are some reasons an engine will overheat:

  • The coolant level could be extremely low, because of long-term neglect or because a leak has developed in the radiator or radiator hoses. Coolant circulates inside the engine block to cool it, and the leak might be in the block, or from the water pump or heater hoses. Old coolant loses its corrosion-inhibiting properties, allowing rust to form and ultimately causing damage.
  • The thermostat that allows coolant to circulate may be stuck in the closed position or a clog may have developed, perhaps from debris in the cooling system.
  • The engine cooling fan has stopped working or the radiator’s cooling fins are clogged with debris so that the air flow that reduces the coolant temperature is restricted.
  • The radiator cap has gone bad and no longer maintains enough pressure in the cooling system, allowing coolant to boil over (engines normally operate at about 210 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • The head gasket that seals the gap between the cylinder head and engine block may have failed, allowing coolant to leak inside the combustion chambers. The steam should be visible coming out of the exhaust system.
  • The water pump has stopped working or the belt that drives it broke or is slipping and not pumping enough coolant.
  • You’ve been towing a 5,000-pound trailer with a vehicle equipped to tow only 2,000 pounds, exceeding the vehicle’s cooling capacity. (You probably also strained the transmission.)

Checking your engine coolant level in the overflow tank on a regular basis can help avoid disasters. If you have to keep topping off the coolant, that’s an indication of a small leak that should be taken care of before it becomes a major one. Having your coolant tested and the entire system inspected by a mechanic every couple of years is an even better way to prevent cooling system disasters.

Replace Drive Axle Boots

Front-drive vehicles, many all-wheel-drive vehicles and some rear-drive vehicles have constant-velocity joints that connect the transmission to the drive axles and wheels. A front-drive vehicle will have four CV joints, each covered by a boot.

CV joints are covered by rubber or plastic boots that keep the joints lubricated and prevent dirt and water from getting in. If a boot tears, grease can leak out and moisture and dirt can get in. If left unattended, it’s only a matter of time before the joint fails from lack of lubrication or corrosion. When that happens, the whole axle may need to be replaced.

Drive axle boots often last the life of a vehicle and are not listed among items that need periodic replacement. They should, however, be inspected at least once a year, or more often on high-mileage vehicles or ones that see what manufacturers describe as “severe” service, such as off-road use or driving-industry conditions.

If a small tear is caught early, it may require only the relatively minor repair of replacing the boot and adding fresh grease instead of more major surgery. Many repair shops, though, will recommend replacing the entire axle if a boot is torn because there may be unseen damage to the CV joints and axle shafts that could result in other problems.

Outer boots (the ones closest to a wheel) are more prone to tears than inner boots. One indication of a torn boot is grease spots under the front axle or grease splattered on or around the inward-facing side of a wheel. Among the indications that a CV joint or drive axle has been damaged is a clicking or popping noise when turning, or vibrations at highway speeds.

Automatic Transmission Act Funny

This is a great question, but we must examine what “acting funny” means when referring to one’s drivetrain before recommending a course of action. Do any of the following seem familiar to you?

Slipping

When an automatic transmission seems to slip in and out of gear, or the engine revs up but the vehicle goes much slower than the engine seems to be running, it’s known as slipping. Sometimes the gears reengage harshly.

Shuddering

This is where the whole vehicle shudders and shakes while driving, as if it’s having a convulsion. It feels like you’re driving over rumble strips even if you’re on a smooth highway.

Neutral Drop-Out

A condition that feels similar to slipping, neutral drop-out is where the transmission drops into Neutral when the vehicle comes to a stop or while driving, typically at slower speeds. Sometimes when driving, the trans drops out of gear resulting in the engine racing up, and then either sliding — or banging — back into gear, or you step on the gas and the engine revs but the vehicle goes nowhere as if it’s in Neutral.

Heavy Drivetrain Vibration

This heavy vibration is felt throughout the vehicle under acceleration, especially when the drivetrain is under load, such as driving up a hill or pulling a trailer. Though many things can make a car vibrate, this type of drivetrain vibration will subside when coasting or idling.

What’s Causing This?

The potential causes behind these behaviors are many. The most common include leaking internal or external transmission seals; mechanical damage to the transmission and/or transfer case’s vital internal hard parts such as gears, drums, etc.; old, worn-out transmission fluid; improper fluid; electrical software and hardware glitches; worn drivetrain components; bad transmission and engine mounts.

What Can You Do?

Most of the causes listed above require a mechanic, certainly, but you can start by inspecting the color, consistency and smell of the vehicle’s transmission fluid. Low fluid level can cause the slipping described above.

Even if the vehicle is not doing any of the stuff above, if the fluid is brown or lightly dark, then it’s probably time for transmission service, essentially a transmission oil change. Like the engine, the transmission has a filter and oil (called fluid because it does more than lubricate) that needs to be changed at regular intervals outlined in your owner’s manual. If there’s no reference in your manual, then check with your mechanic.

If one or more of the symptoms described earlier are present and the fluid smells burned and feels rough or gritty between your fingers, then have a professional look at it, because more than simple service is required.

For the conditions above, we recommend transmission repair specialists who have access to diagnostic repair info that could lead directly to the cause of the problem, rather than muddling around in hit-and-miss fashion. They can run pressure tests, dye-leak tests and an electronic diagnostic scan of the drivetrain control module.

Diagnostic costs vary with the eventual verdict, but you can determine the likely cost of transmission fluid maintenance for your specific vehicle in your area using our fair-price estimator. After inputting your make, model and year, select the maintenance category and then the service called automatic transmission fluid/filter change.

Smell in Your Car

If your vehicle is giving off an unusual or sickening odor instead of that new-car smell, follow your nose and find the source of the aroma. Bad smells can lead to expensive repairs or health hazards and shouldn’t be ignored. Here are some common odors and their possible causes:

Musty: If turning on the air conditioner generates a musty smell, mold and/or mildew have probably formed in the air-conditioning system. Moisture naturally collects on the cold air-conditioning evaporator (a small radiator that carries refrigerant into the car’s dashboard) and it may be harboring mold. Running only the fan at high speed (with the air conditioning off) can dry the evaporator.

However, that doesn’t guarantee the problem won’t reoccur — especially if it’s being caused by a clog in the drain tube that allows water to drip out under the car. A musty smell also can be caused by carpets that get wet when water leaks into the interior.

Sweet: Antifreeze has a sweet, syrupy odor, and smelling it inside a car usually means there’s a leak somewhere in the cooling system. The source may not be easy to see. For example, the leak could be from a corroded heat exchanger (aka heater core), which is usually behind the dashboard. The leak could be in the form of steam that enters the cabin, producing the smell and potentially fogging the windows. Have this problem addressed, because breathing antifreeze isn’t good for you.

Burning: Oil could be oozing onto a hot part of the engine or exhaust system. It also could come from overheated brake pads and/or rotors — due either to aggressive braking, pads that don’t retract when you release the brake pedal or the emergency brake being left on while driving. On a vehicle with a manual transmission, the clutch plate could be worn or overheating from riding the clutch pedal. Leaves or other material in the engine compartment — sometimes imported by nesting rodents — also can burn on hot surfaces.

Rotten eggs: If you can smell rotten eggs or sulfur, your catalytic converter may have gone bad. The root cause could be an engine or emissions-system problem that made the converter overheat.

Rubber: The smell of burning rubber could be an accessory drive belt that’s slipping or getting chewed up by a broken pulley or hose rubbing against a moving part. An overheated clutch plate also can smell like burning rubber.

Electrical: Smell burnt toast? That could be a short circuit in an electrical component or overheated insulation. Take electrical odors seriously, because short circuits and overheated components are common sources of fire.

Gas: It’s normal to smell a little gas when a cold engine is first started because of incomplete combustion. If you smell gas after the engine is warm, though, the gas cap could be loose or the evaporative emissions control system — which is supposed to contain fuel vapors and recycle them through the engine — could be leaking or clogged. Even worse, gas could be leaking from the tank or another part of the fuel system. Always investigate gas smells you discover when your car is parked before starting the car and potentially igniting the fuel.

Rotting fruit: It’s probably what it smells like. Look under the seats for a decomposed apple or banana.