Bob Ingrassia

I Did My Own Auto-Body Work — And Lived To Tell About It

May 14, 2011 · 2 Comments

A few months ago, while I was letting Roxy the poodle run at the dog park in east St. Paul, someone bashed the back of my car — and took off.

One estimate for repair was more than $1,500. A secone estimate came it at $2,300. I have a high deductable on my insurance, so making a claim made almost no sense.

Plus, I dreaded the hassle and extra expense of having to rent a car for a week while the car was in the shop.

Then it hit me: I could do the repair myself. I heard a few doubts from friends and colleagues, but several people were curious to see how my endeavor would turn out.

The first step was to replace the smashed tail light. I hit the internet and, after a bit of digging, found an after-market fit for my Mazda5. As you might imagine, a lot of the online auto parts retailers are fairly shady. I went with Parts Geek — after checking Reseller Ratings and finding the company was at least somewhat legit. Several sellers I checked weren’t even listed on Reseller Ratings, which is a bad sign.

I installed the tail light without much trouble, but the body work would have to wait for warmer weather. Finally, in May, I got started.

Here’s what the damaged area looked like after I scraped off broken paint and rust. An astute observer will notice that the area already had been repaired — this was from a professionally done job a few  years ago. (That bash was totally my fault.)


I decided to avoid Bondo auto-body filler and go with Evercoat, a brand that some reviews indicated was a bit higher quality. It didn’t take much skill to mix and apply the filler … it’s a lot like using epoxy or wood filler. It took a bunch of applications because I was filling almost three-quarters of an inch.

Here’s the car awaiting paint:


I ordered the primer, paint and clear coat online. My supplies:


Painting turned out to be a breeze. I was pleased with the color match. In the end, I achieved my goal of completing a repair that was “good enough.” Here’s the finished product:



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