What is Paintless Dent Repair?
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What is Paintless Dent Repair?

If your car has minor dents in it from hail or a minor fender bender, it might be repairable using paintless dent repair. What exactly is paintless dent repair, and how can it save you money?

What is Regular Dent Repair?

There are 5 common traditional methods for repairing damaged body panels:

  • Hammering the panel back into shape using body hammers and forms.
  • Welding “keys,” small metal pieces with holes in them, to the surface of the panel. A hook is placed in each key and gently pulled, moving the panel outward until it regains its shape.
  • Filling in dents with a filler or a combination of filler and fiberglass.
  • Cutting out the damaged area and replacing it with a new piece of metal.
  • Removing the panel and replacing it with a new one.

All of these methods have one thing in common: whether it means welding and cutting off keys, making a new surface out of filler, or hiding tool marks, the paint has to be reapplied. That means lots of sanding, painting and finishing. It’s also one of the things that can make or break a body repair, since nothing screams “this car was in an accident” like mismatched paint. It takes a skilled painter to get the shade just right so it looks as old and faded as the rest of the car.

What Paintless Dent Repair Is and Isn’t

Since the paint is left undisturbed, there’s no reason to repaint the panel. That means a paintless repair can be done faster, it costs less than a traditional repair, and the paint will still match the rest of the exterior.

Metal body panels don’t have “memory.” That means they don’t just pop back into their factory shape when a little pressure is applied. That means a lot of claims about easy DIY fixes, including applying heat or cold using heat guns or dry ice, or using some “As Seen on TV” suction device, won’t magically pull out a dent and make the panel look new. In fact, there’s a good chance it will damage the panel. Getting a good repair means gently pulling and pushing on the metal to bend it into the right shape.

There are several ways for making a paintless repair, and in most cases, a body technician will use at least a couple of these to remove a dent. Here are some of the most common methods:

Levers: Most repairs made from the inside of the panel are done using a lever with a ball bearing or a rubber coating on the tip. The lever runs through holes in inner panels intended for drainage, wiring, speakers and other accessories to reach the dent in the outer panel. Once in place, the technician can use the tip of the lever to gently push in on the dent, slowly working from the inside to the outside.

How does the technician tell where the end of the lever is if it’s a long way from the hole? Some levers have a magnetic tip: a small ball bearing is placed on the surface of the panel, and it follows the magnet around so the technician always knows exactly where they’re pushing on the panel.

Mini/Glue Puller: Very small dents, like those caused by hail, can be lifted using this tool. First, a plastic piece with a ball-shaped end on top is glued onto the dent. Once the glue is dry, the technician uses a tool that looks like a pair of vise grips with wide rubber flaps. This tool pulls up on the ball end, spreading the load over a wide area using the flaps. This puts all the force on the dent itself. This method gets the panel pretty close to its intended shape, but it will still need to be worked over with other methods to make it completely smooth.

Hammers and Forms: This is a traditional method, but tools have been developed with soft surfaces to prevent damage to the paint. Like levers, the key to getting a good repair is making a series of very small bends, working the metal back to its intended shape.

Where can Paintless Repairs Be Used?

Traditional methods are still used because they can take care of damage that can’t be handled with paintless methods. The amount of force that can be applied is much greater with traditional methods, so they’re used when repairing severe dents.

If the paint isn’t flexible enough, it can separate from the metal and flake off when making a “paintless” repair. This is mostly up to the depth of the damage, but paint also becomes more susceptible to flaking with age, limiting where paintless repairs can be made. Naturally, if the dent was severe enough to damage the paint, the panel will need to be repainted anyway.

If you’re in the Waukesha County area and wanted to see if your vehicle’s dent or ding can be fixed with a paintless repair, stop by Merton Auto Body for a free estimate. You can also call to make an appointment at (262) 538-1319.

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