Often the limit on a car's life is the bodywork, usually due to the owners lack of care and attention.

The use of salt on our roads during the Winter months hastens the onset of corrosion but this can be overcome with care, the bodywork can be kept in pristine condition throughout the car's useful life and it's value enhanced when it comes time to trade in.

Wash the car thoroughly after every winter to remove all of the accumulated salt, dirt, oil and tar and then wash at least once a month. Don't use washing up liquid as this contains salt which will worsen any rust spots, use a good quality car shampoo, preferably one containing wax or silicone to seal the newly cleaned surface.

Check the condition of the underseal and use one of the many brush on or spray DIY preparations to keep it intact, it's a messy job though and one that a garage with a hoist can do far more effectively.

3 or 4 times a year, after washing, inspect every panel thoroughly and make good any minor rust spots, stone chips or blemishes before waxing the car thoroughly to preserve the paintwork.

Most car spares shops and garages stock a vast variety of car care products, many specifically intended to carry out regular maintenance or minor repairs to bodywork although if you have little experience of using body fillers, paints, etc it may be best to leave this work to an expert, a lousy touch-in job can knock hundreds of pounds off the resale value of your pride and joy.

If the paintwork has faded it can be revived with a colour restorer. This should be used with great care as it is abrasive, being intended to remove a very thin layer and smooth the remaining paint so that the colour is bright once more.

But if the car has faded very badly or has been damaged in some other way consider a respray. This must really be done by a professional in a proper spray booth and baked onto the car to be effective.

Costs of resprays are now very reasonable and can dramatically improve the appearance – and value - of an otherwise dowdy car. Sensible precautions and a little regular effort will keep the body in good order and it will survive far longer than if, as is so common, it is neglected.

Any work done on your car should always be carried out by a competent garage, preferably a member of a recognised trade association and never is this more important than when undertaking bodywork repairs. A poor job by an amateur may cost you more than going to a professional and destroy the value of your car.

Look out for the sign of the VBRA - the largest body repairers association- whose thousands of members all follow a strict code of conduct, are regularly inspected to ensure the highest standards and meet the rigorous approval procedures of the major insurance companies for crash repairs.

Article © Graham Benge 2007


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