Dent Repair: A Complete Guide

Dent Repair: A Complete Guide

The word “dent” is hardly one that any car owner or driver wants to hear. Though they are a common-enough occurrence, and most are relatively simple to put right, dents are still among the most worrisome of issues with our car’s body. Today’s blog is dedicated entirely to dents and specifically dent repair.

What are the Main Causes of Dents in Cars?

If you’ve ever been walking along and seen a parked car covered in dents, or even with just one (highly visible) dent, you may stop and think, “I wonder how that happened.” Obviously, there are potentially endless ways in which dents could be caused, but below are five of the most common causes:

1. Other Car Doors

Yes, among the biggest culprits for causing dents in our car body’s is none other that other car doors. Technically it’s not the door’s fault since it’s an inanimate object, so let’s blame the people behind the doors. Parking too close to other cars and then opening the door too quickly is the most common cause of this issue. Hopefully they don’t do it on purpose, but it does happen, especially in busy metropolitan areas where parking can be scarcer. The lack of available space prompts people to take risks in more compact spaces or parking too close to other cars.

2. Hail Storms

In many parts of the world, hail storms are a nuisance but fairly tame. The hail stones are small and inoffensive, and won’t do any damage to your car or anything else for that matter. Other places, however, experience hail storms where large, fast-falling hail stones, sometimes the size of golf balls, can do extraordinary damage to your car and property.

If your car is caught in one of these storms with no chance of shelter, the best-case scenario is that you emerge with minor dents in the roof and hood that need repairing. In the worst cases, your roof, hood and car body could be pulverized beyond recognition, not to mention the windshield being smashed.

3. Shopping Carts

Believe it or not, careless pushing of shopping carts is among the top causes of dents in cars. You can be as careful as you want with your own shopping cart, the problem remains that you have no way to manage the behavior of everyone else. Park away from shopping cart areas to minimize the chances of any accidental collisions.

4. Falling Tree Branches

Imagine the irony of a tree at first helping shelter your car from something like a hail storm, only then for one of its larger branches to be brought down by that same adverse weather. The falling branch could do a lot of damage depending on where it lands, but if it big and dense enough and falls from high enough, then it will likely put a dent in your car.

5. Debris from the Road

Another huge factor in the creation of dents is in sticks, rocks, and other debris that can be thrown up at your car by vehicles ahead of your or by the weather. Debris is always increased when there is work happening on the roads to either resurface or otherwise repair them. Nearby construction sites also make their contribution to additional debris. While most of this will be harmlessly deflected, some debris launched at an unlucky angle and high speed might just catch the car’s body in a way that unfortunately leaves a dent.

What Are the Main Types of Vehicle Dent?

Believe it or not, the automotive experts out there have already managed to categorize the kinds of car dents that happen to most vehicles:

Round Dents:

These dents appear like little dimples on the surface of your car, though obviously they are a lot less cute than the dimples you see on people’s faces. They are caused by various rounded objects when they impact your car’s paint surface. This is a type of dent that typically (and happily) be repaired using Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) techniques (more on PDR in sections further below.

Creased Dents:

These dents are caused by sharper objects when they impact your car’s surface, especially the side of your vehicle. They occur when these pointed, sharp objects get dragged along the side panels of your vehicles. Unfortunately, when left unattended they can get worse over time.

Sharp Dents:

These are the dents that occur to the part of your car that industry refers to as “swage.” A car’s “swage” means those lines and parts that slightly protrude from the main part of the car body. As with anything that protrudes – even slightly – it is nearly always the first part of the car that is negatively impacted by a collision, even a minor collision. If the swage itself isn’t hit for some lucky reason, then it could result in dents just above or below the protruding lines.

Hail Dents:

As the name suggests, these are dents that are caused by falling hail stones. These will mostly likely occur on the roof, trunk and hood of the car, but could also affect the sides of the vehicle if the hail stones impact something off the ground and ricochet to the side of the car. Besides making dents, hail stones can also crack and even smash your windshield and rear window glass, depending on their size and falling speed. In the majority of cases, however, hail stone dents are shallow and can be fixed using PDR.

Multi-Point Dents:

These are dents that unlike the other types described above, don’t have any one single central point or line no which the repair professional can focus. They are therefore more complex, but that doesn’t make them impervious to the efforts of strong and experienced dent repair pros. PDR can be used in most cases on multi-point dents, even though the process itself may take a bit longer to complete.

Can All Types of Dent Be Repaired?

It’s more than understandable that a car owner would want any dents in their car removed. Dents may not affect the performance of a vehicle per se, but they are absolutely unsightly and undesirable in every respect. Today, drivers have a series of choices when it comes to repairing dents, but which ones are viable depends on the type of damage they have received. Certain methods work well on certain dents, and some dents might be too serious for these approaches to work properly.

First of all, the smaller the dent is, the more likely that the innovative newer methods like PDR will work. Huge dents that are inflicted on the car’s surface may be reparable, but could take much more extreme methods. Typical modern methods like PDR work better on smaller dents like the ones we described in the section above. When a bumper-sized dent from a collision with another car has been left in the side of your vehicle, it could be more economical just to replace the entire side panel or door rather than try to fix and possibly repaint that section.

Smaller dents don’t harm the overall integrity of the car’s body, which is why repairing them is a good idea. It’s similar to when you get a very small chip in your windshield, perhaps a quarter of an inch in size at the most. In such a case, one might argue that the structural integrity of the windshield was compromised, but the truth is that a small chip like that can be repaired and the integrity restored. The same its true of your car’s body and the dents that impact it from time to time.

Finally, whether dent repair can succeed or not depends greatly on how quickly you have the dent seen to by a professional. There general rule of thumb is that it is better to fix a dent sooner rather than later, no matter how minor it appears or how little you care about how much it impacts the look of your car. That may seem perfectly obvious to you, but there’s a bit more to it than you think.

Leaving Dents Unattended Makes Them Grow

Dents that start out fairly small only grow bigger when you leave them unattended. The trouble is that the more minor the dent and the busier or less caring about the car’s looks the individual is, the longer it will remain, potentially getting worse whenever any more pressure is put on it or the area is impacted further by other things.

Dents Can Develop Rust Problems

What starts as a somewhat ugly blemish on the skin of your car can become something more serious if and when the impact has caused cracks in the surface that allow water to seep through. When this happens, you have the inevitable risk of oxidization, more commonly known as rust. Whether or not this can happen depends on the nature of the dent. Rounded dents may have less risk of rusting, but ones caused by sharper or larger objects come with added risk to breaking the clearcoat layer on the paint and allowing water to seep in and settle there, causing rust.

You Can Cause Long-Term Paint Damage

As we touched on in the point about rust above, what starts as minor damage to your car’s paint can actually turn into longer-term damage when you don’t fix it quickly. When the cracks or dent lines grow larger for whatever reason after not being repaired immediately, then it impacts a larger area. Bigger cracks mean more risk of paint cracking and flaking, and in the end, you add a whole new dimension to the repair job.

The Car’s Resale Value Will Go Down

Dents and their after-effects leave their mark on your car, sometimes even after you’ve fixed them. The faster you fix the dent, the more “like new” your restorative job will be. When the dent has been there for months, even restoring the body can leave signs that buyers will spot and use as an excuse to offer below your asking price or below even what the Kelley Blue Book says.

The outer appearance of a vehicle has a huge impact on how well received the vehicle is to buyers. It’s like eating in a restaurant, the first bite of the dish is with the eye. When a buyer assesses your car, any flaw in the appearance is amplified 10-fold, ruining the first impression and putting you on the back foot as you try to convince the buyer of the car’s other merits.

The Longer You Wait, the Bigger Your Bill

Finally, you should get dent repaired immediately for the same reason you should see to paint problems on your car quickly. If you don’t, then the repairs are only going to become more complicated over time, which naturally results in a bigger bill from whichever auto shop you use to get the repairs done. Dents are most easily repaired immediately after they happen. The less labor and time required to do the job, the better it is for your pocketbook.

What is Traditional Dent Repair?

Before people started using Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) as a technique for fixing dents and restoring car body panels, they used other methods with paint or body filler. These were used and painted onto the vehicle in order to balance out the exterior and restore the appearance.

It’s a more labor-intensive and time-consuming method to restore a car’s surface, which many now view as a poor investment because the older more traditional methods of fixing car dents didn’t actually repair the dents themselves, but rather worked to cover them up. There are a number of negative effects here.

First, the work done is less durable and prone to exposure. If the area is impacted again, then no matter how well it has been filled, sanded and buffed to perfection, it’ll always be a “weak spot” on the car that is prone to being exposed once more.

Second, the car’s inherent value decreases despite investment in repairs. You’d spend a lot more money on these repair methods compared to the PDR methods that we describe further below, and yet the benefit of at least hiding the fact that the car had been dented from potential buyers doesn’t even come. It’s a poor deal when you invest so much to make the car look better, only to know that when the time for selling the car comes, you may as well have left the dent visible.

Third, the only alternative is part replacement. During these times, the only alternative for dent repair was to simply replace the entire part, which while removing the “stigma” of the dent, would mean much more extensive, time consuming and expensive repair bills at the end of it.

Fortunately for everyone, more advanced methods have been created that see dents repaired quickly, painlessly and cheaply without the need for any kind of major bodywork or paint repair. We’re talking about Paintless Dent Repair (PDR).

What is Paintless Dent Repair?

Paintless dent repair (or removal), commonly known as PDR is a methodology by which dents are repaired quickly and easily without the need for reconditioning the car’s paint or replacing any part of the car’s bodywork. In this sense, it is a greener, more eco-friendly method of auto repair that is increasingly favored by drivers and repair professionals alike.

There are four main steps taken by PDR professionals when doing their work. These steps are:

Step 1: Damage assessment

Step 2: Finding and gaining entry to the dent

Step 3: Looking closely and understanding the structure and nature of the dent

Step 4: Applying pressure slowly to work the dent back out, allowing the car body to return to normal again

There isn’t a single and unifying specific technique behind PDR. Practitioners will use various methods when it comes to getting the dent out as there is more than one way to apply pressure to dents to render then car body smooth and even again. The main principle behind PDR is to achieve these goals without having to also complete additional steps like paint and scratch repair.

When using PDR, professionals might make use of suction tools on very minor dents, but more specialist bars and wrench-like tools to apply the pressure and complete the job in difficult jobs where the dent has a tricky crease that even a normally effective suction cup can’t quite pull back out. From the outside, it almost looks like magic as the car body is restored to its former glory.

Can I Use PDR on My Car Dent?

The main criterion for PDR to be effective is that the car’s paintwork is still intact in the area that has been dented. Most dents, even some relatively serious ones, can be fixed using this method, but when the paint has been broken, then the repair work will have to include the additional steps of paint correction and well as dent correction.

Another important point is access. Depending on the location of the dent, it might be either impossible or just extremely difficult for your car repair professional to gain access to the affected area. The good news is that experienced PDR specialists have learned how to get at dents just about anywhere. Any PDR professional worth their salt will tell you can they reach any of the following areas of your car to perform PDR on the surface:

  • Doors
  • Front fenders
  • Quarter panels
  • Hoods
  • Roof

One more thing to consider however is that even when there is apparently access to the dent, the materials that your car’s body is made from might prohibit the process of PDR, forcing you to use an alternative method like the traditional dent repair method described further above. If you are parts are made from any of the following materials, then PDR is likely not an option:

  • Plastic
  • Fiberglass
  • Carbon fiber
  • Some other composites

The somewhat good news is that these materials are extremely tough to begin with and it takes quite an extraordinary force to dent them in the first place. That’s why people like to invest, for example, in carbon fiber bumpers, hoods, spoilers and other components that offer some protection to the rest of the car.

A final factor in the process is the presence of a crease in the dent. If the hollow part of the dent is bowl-shaped with a rounded interior, then this type of dent can almost always be fixed up as good as new just so long as the paint is still intact. If there is a crease line, however, then things get tricky. Above, we mentioned already that tools like suction cups don’t work as effectively (or at all) when there is a tough crease line to get out.

You can see the impact of creasing on metal surfaces yourself by crushing a soda can. When you crush the can hard and a crease forms, the task of restoring the can to its original cylindrical shape is now rendered almost impossible without cutting the can open.

The following is a list of common dents that can be repaired using PDR as a method:

  • Door dings
  • Minor hail damage
  • Impacts from sports balls like basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, etc.
  • Minor collision damage

How Much is PDR and How Long Does It Take?

To the first question, average estimates on PDR usually fall between $75 and $125 for small dents caused by things like hail stones. For larger dents caused by collisions with other cars, the repairs might cost up to $450, depending on the number of dents and the relative complexity in getting them back out. All of this, of course, depends on there being no paint damage. If there is paint damage, then it’s no longer “Paintless” dent repair.

The vast majority of PDR jobs can be completed on the same day, quite possibly while you wait for the vehicle. Ultimately, that will depend on how busy your local auto shop is and how many other jobs they are attending to on the same day. The job in itself, however, is short and simple. The only complicating factor that can extend the work time somewhat is if the dent is, for whatever reason, hard to access.

Conclusion: Approach Dent Repair with Care

After learning about the different kinds of dent repair that exist, the best conclusion we can draw is that proper dent repair requires both care and professional standards. There are affordable tools such as suction cups, which you can buy online for $10 or less, that will get the job done on dents that are relatively small.

There are even other methods you could consider doing at home, such as using a hair dryer and a can of compressed air for minor dents. The action of heating the affected area to expand the plastics in the car, and then the immediate cooling of the compressed air afterward to create contraction can cause dents to pop out like magic. In this way, everyone can try their hand at PDR at minimal risk to your car’s integrity or appearance.

If these methods should prove inadequate, however, then we still recommend that you look to the professionals and have the dent repaired properly, and sooner rather than later. PDR can be used if the paint is intact, but even if not, the damage is better fixed than not, especially if at some point you intend to try and resell this car.

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