Q: I recently put an 18-inch scratch on the rear passenger side door of my 2015 Subaru Outback. It is a fairly narrow scratch, but down to the metal in a few spots. Estimates from body shops ranged from $1,300 to $1,600 and would include removing both doors and the side quarter panel and repainting the whole passenger side of the car. They said if they just did the one door, it would likely be noticeable. Another shop quoted $600 for just the door but did not recommend it. I haven't decided yet whether to file an insurance claim. Can their paint job be as good and as long-lasting as the original paint? My inclination is to buy some touch-up paint and cover the scratch to prevent rust. I plan to keep the car so am not immediately concerned with resale value.
A: I'm not sure why the entire side of the vehicle would need to be repainted. Since the scratch is only on the rear door, I would think just the door could be repainted. Yes, blending new paint and clearcoat on a panel is difficult to do without visible evidence of the repair. But an accurate color repaint of the entire door should be very difficult to notice. I tend to agree with the idea of not repainting an undamaged area of factory paint unless absolutely necessary. The quality, finish and durability of the original paint is tough to duplicate.
I believe there are four major factors in your decision — cost, appearance, durability and corrosion protection. Plus resale value, which you're not concerned with at this point. Here's my suggestion — pick up factory touch-up paint, rust converter primer, small paint brush, preparatory solvent for cleaning, etc. If you do need to do any sanding, try using a very small piece of 600 sandpaper under the eraser tip of a pencil. Take your time and try to "wick" the paint so that it fills rather than covers the scratch.
The good news is that if you don't like the result, you can wipe it off with the solvent and try again. Remember, you can always have it professionally repainted in the future. As long as you've sealed the scratch to prevent rust and you're satisfied with how it looks, job well done.
Regarding claiming the full repair on your collision coverage, carefully compare your deductible and potential increase in insurance rates if you claim the repair.
Q: I have a 1987 Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup with 5.8-liter engine. The EMISS light recently came on. In my reading, the EMISS light is not diagnostic like the Check Engine light but merely a time clock.
I have been unable to learn where this time module is located. I understand that one can reset the time clock by inserting a screwdriver in the reset hole (or there could be a button). I have heard that you can return to a dealer and they charge for simply resetting this clock. Can you tell me specifically where the time module is located for my truck?
A: Amazing how "new" technology becomes old so quickly. Your OBDI engine management system was state of the art 30 years ago. Today, that's like comparing an early F-80 jet to the newest F-35 — they are both fighters but that's about all they have in common.
The EMISS light on your 1987 truck is set to illuminate at 60,000-mile intervals (not time) as a reminder to replace the EGR valve and solenoid. The module is located under the dash to the left of the steering column and can be reset, as you described, by inserting a small Phillips screwdriver through the small hole near the reset button sticker. Press and hold the button down and turn the ignition to the "run" position. After five seconds, remove the screwdriver. The lamp should go out within another five seconds, then switch off the ignition.
Paul Brand is the author of "How to Repair Your Car" and "How to Repair Your Truck and SUV," published by Motorbooks.