How important to a car's health is body damage repair?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

My wife has the unfortunate habit of sideswiping our house with our '94
Dodge Caravan. The first time she did it, we took it to the body shop to
have the dented plastic side piece replaced and various scratches
repaired. Of course, it cost an outrageous amount of money for what, to
my mind, was just cosmetic surgery. Well, she's done it again (twice,
actually). My question is, Is this body work important to the car's
health? Or can I just use some touch-up paint and forget about it? I'd
like to keep the car until it dies, so I don't need it to look good in
order to sell it. -- David

RAY: I would absolutely follow the touch-up-paint-and-forget-about-it
route, David. Unless one of your kids is about to go into the auto-body

TOM: The damage she's doing sounds minor and purely cosmetic. She's not
bending the frame or causing any structural damage. If it's just the
plastic, you can forget about it completely. If she scrapes metal, all
you have to do is sand it down a little bit, apply some primer, and then
cover it with a coat or two of touch-up paint. It won't look perfect,
but it should keep it from rusting, and that's all you want.

RAY: And my guess is that SHE'LL probably feel better about it when it's
just touched up like that. It probably makes her tense to know it's just
been repainted for hundreds of bucks and she'd better be careful not to
... (CRUNCH) ... ooops!

TOM: Some day, after she finally rounds off that corner of your house,
you may decide to have the thing smoothed out and repainted. But I'm
with you, David. I can't see any mechanical reason to do so.

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