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Car Care and Repair: 6 Quick Fixes

Many of your auto-related issues can be fixed without costing you big bucks, or requiring a trip to the shop. Check out our list of common car problems and surprisingly simple solutions

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Problem: A Rock Chipped my Windshield

Solution: A pebble tumbles out of a dump truck on the highway, your windshield smacks it at the maximum speed limit, and your day is ruined. Not necessarily-small chips and bull’s-eye cracks are easy to repair. First, keep dust, mud, bird droppings, and such out of the crack, because they will interfere with the repair. So pull over and put some clear plastic tape over the windshield crack until you can make your permanent fix. Then tend to the crack as soon as possible. Changes in temperature and everyday vibration caused by driving can worsen the crack. Swing by an auto parts store and pick up a clear epoxy repair kit designed specifically for windshields. Apply the adhesive according to the package directions.

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Problem: Someone Scratched My Car’s Finish

Solution: Rub your finger gently over the scratch. If you can’t feel the indentation made by the scratch, you’re in luck. Only the surface clear coat was marred, not the paint layer. Go to an auto parts store, pick up a polish, and follow the package directions.

If you can feel the scratch on the surface of your car’s finish, buffing and polishing will not help. The only solution is to paint over the scratch to make it less noticeable. Browse through the fingernail polish available in your home, a drugstore, or a department store. When you find a shade that matches the color of your car, delicately paint over the scratch and let it dry. If you mess up the patch job, dab on a little nail polish remover with a cotton swab to clean it up, let it dry, and start over.

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Problem: My Car Has Been Dented

Solution: If the dent is on or near the wheel arch, you’ll be able to tap it out with a hammer, but only after you unscrew the black plastic shields under the arch. To do this, first make sure the emergency brake is in place. Next, using a small screwdriver, unscrew the four to six screws holding the shield in place. Depending on the size of the dent, use either your fingers or a hammer to knock out the dent. Of course, if the dent is on the plastic shield itself, there is no need to take it off. Just get underneath it and push out the plastic with your fingers.

If the dent is on the side of your car, you’ll need a little suction to repair it. Find anything with a suction cup attached. Many automatic pencil sharpeners, for instance, have them on their bases. Most auto supply stores sell suction cups for pulling out dents. Take the cup, place it directly over the dent, and pull it off. That wonderful pop sound indicates you’ve pulled the body back into shape.

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Problem: I Got Car Wax on My Bumper

Solution: Until they make car wax that easily comes off plastic car components, thank goodness for WD-40. Spray a little of it on the wax and wipe it off with a rag or an old toothbrush. This also works for wax that gets into crevices.

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Problem: I Can’t Jump-Start a Dead Car Battery

Solution: You found a kind soul to help you cable up your reluctant car battery, but the engine still won’t turn over? Don’t despair. The good news is that a car battery might get really, really weak, but it’s never completely dead.

If your jump-start isn’t working and there’s a lot of corrosion around the battery terminals where you attach the cables, pour a can of cola on the corroded area. The acid in the cola will dissolve the corrosion, improving your connection and increasing your odds of a successful jump-start. The cola also contains electrolytes, which will help improve the electrical flow. Once you get home, wash the battery with a little bit of water to get rid of the cola residue.

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Problem: My Car is Specked with Stubborn Sap

Solution: Soap and water won’t remove sap stuck to the finish of your car. But there is a simple solution. Pour a drop of rubbing alcohol directly on the sap spot, rub with your fingertips, and watch the marks disappear. No need to rinse, either. The alcohol will evaporate.