What is Paintless Dent Repair?
You probably heard of paintless dent repair and have no clue what is it and how does it work.
Does it really work, or is it something made up by people.
Is it a hack or is it a legit way of repairing small and minor dents where the paint is still intact.
Who came up with an idea of paintless dent repair and how this simple idea grew into multi-million dollar business?
Let's find out everything we need to know about paintless dent repair, also known as PDR.
What is paintless dent repair?
Paintless dent repair is a form of art.
The master of PDR has a very high level of hand to eye coordination skill.
By using a reflection from a light board, he can navigate the tip of his tool behind a damaged area.
And that is done without grinding, sanding, using a body filler and repainting a car.
Dents are literally disappearing from the body of the vehicle while maintaining the original factory paint and structural integrity.
It is truly the best and least invasive method of body repair that is fast and often less expensive than a traditional body shop.
A skillful PDR technician can remove a wide range of damages on steel, aluminum, and high strength steel panels.
Paintless dent removal is the best solution for removing body line dents and creases, door dings, hail dents that are caused by a hail storm and more.
PDR also utilizes a "push to paint" or "push to prep" technique. This technique allows you to reduce the use of body filler on the damaged panel before painting. Applying a thicker coat of body filler will eventually shrink, crack and fall off.
By using a "push to paint" technique, you can reduce the use of body filler and repair will last much longer.
A man from Germany named Oscar Flaig was the first person to discover paintless dent repair. In 1960, he worked for Mercedes-Benz as a body repair technician.
He prepared showroom cars for "International Car Show" in New York City and had to make sure vehicles were free of any imperfections.
The public who was attending the show would leave dents and scratches on the vehicles. At night Oscar would have to repair and paint damaged cars to make them ready for the next day.
Oskar used the handle of a hammer to push out a dent so that he can apply less filler before painting. One day, after massaging a small dent out, the result looked perfect and didn't need traditional bodywork and paint.
After the show, Oscar went back to Germany and continued developing paintless dent repair.
Soon, he invented paintless dent repair tools of different shapes and sizes. He used wrecking bars, screwdrivers, handles from brooms and hammers. Oscar discovered that spring steel was the most suitable metal for tool manufacturing.
This is how paintless dent repair was first discovered.
How does paintless dent repair work?
Paintless dent repair is a multi-step process that can be very challenging. To find out how paintless dent repair work, let's break down the process in a few different steps.
1. The damage assessment.
Proper damage assessment is one of the essential steps in repairing any damage. First, we need to take a closer look at factors that may apply to your specific indentation.
- Size and depth of the dent. How big is the dent? Is it a size of a golf ball, watermelon or bigger? Larger and sharper dents require more expertise to get that perfect result.
- Location of the dent. Is it located on the door? Near the door handle? Is dent located on body line or flat spot? Indentation on body lines also requires special skill and knowledge to repair correctly.
- What type of metal? Is it aluminum or steel? What kind of steel? Is it regular, high strength or recycled steel? Aluminum and high strength steel panels are more challenging.
- What is year, make and model of the vehicle? Is it a luxurious car or daily driver? Newer or older vehicle? Luxurious cars are built differently. They are more complex and require special attention to small details.
- Access to the dent. Is it easily accessible from the backside of the panel, or does it require any removal/installation panels to gain access?
- Paint surface. Is paint still intact or needs additional detail work such as buffing or touch up? Dents with paint chips are more difficult to repair.
Let say we have a car that has a dent in its rear door near the handle. (As shown in photo below).
The size of the dent is about 1 inch in diameter.
The access to the backside of the dent is through the window opening. And the door is made of recycled steel.
2. Choosing the right tools and accessories.
Picking the right tools accessories can definitely make the repair process lot easier. For this repair let's use this door tool from PDR Finesse tool company based in US.
3. Gaining access from the backside of the panel.
Now we are going to lower the window down and insert the window protector and wedge in the opening.
4. Setting-up a professional PDR light board.
This uniquely designed for PDR light boards help you to navigate and see the tip of your tool behind the door skin. With this light, you can literally see every tiny imperfection.
5. Massaging the dent out.
Now it's time to start applying your pushes. Your pushes have to be directly in the center of the dent, or you can end up with a volcano effect. Volcano effect created when you push everything around the dent but miss the center.
Of course, you will need some patience and time. Remember, by going slower you can avoid a lot of mistakes and have better results at the end.
This is how a traditional method of paintless dent repair works.
However, sometimes you get dents with limited access. In that case, you can use other methods of paintless dent repair such as glue pulling, blending, or heat magnetic induction.
Paintless dent repair techniques.
There are four widely used techniques of paintless dent repair. You choose one that works best for you depending on size, depth, complexity, location of the dent, and type of metal.
- Glue Pulling
- Knockdown / Blending
- Heat magnetic induction
This is a traditional way of repairing dents and done by using specialized hand tools such as rods, picks, hooks, wire tools, whale tails, flat bars and more. These tools allow you to gain access from the backside of the dent and apply pressure to massage the dents out.
Pushing technique used on dents of any size but works best on sharp dents and for finishing larger dents. This technique provides good control and precision when you need it.
Glue pulling technique used in areas where you can't get behind the damage with a tool. Roof rails are a perfect example of such because it is a tube-shaped looking structure with no access.
There are some limitations to using glue pulling technique. It is not recommended to use glue pulling on re-painted panels. If the paint is not original, then you have a great chance of pulling it off the vehicle.
How does glue pulling technique work?
First, clean the area from oil and wax with 91% Alcohol. Next step is to get hot melt glue on special glue pulling tab.
Then place your tab directly to the center of the dent, press it down and give about 20 seconds to cure. Now using a mini lifter tool or a slide hammer tool, pull the tab and done.
Sounds easy, isn't it? Yes, but likely you just created a high spot and you are going to have to use your knockdown tool to tap it down (knockdown technique).
This method is very time-consuming because it is less precise than the pushing technique. You will need to repeat pulls and knockdowns many times before you can achieve perfect results.
Blending and Knockdown techniques
This is a new process of dent repair, and It's done with special blending hammer that comes with polished tips.
Blending technique works by creating a vibration on the surface next to the dent. By knocking around the dent with a blending hammer, you create a vibration. The metal has a memory and vibrations cause the metal to move back to its pre-accident condition.
Blending method works great on small and shallow dents in areas like roof rails, C-Pillars, and A-Pillars. It is also used in finishing larger dents. You can blend micro ridges and imperfections with the rest of the panel.
( Image Source: Dent Craft PDR Tools )
Knockdown is a process of tapping down outward dents that are caused by an impact from the back side of the panel. It's done with using a special knockdown tool with removable tips.
There are four different types of knockdown tips.
- Fine Tip
- Blunt Tip
- Rubber Ball
- Mushroom Tip
I use fine tip for very sharp indentations and final touches.
It is very sharp and can leave scratches on paint if not handled properly.
So you want to be careful how you use it.
Blunt tip mostly used to tap down medium sized crowns,1/8'' to 1/2'' in diameter. Blunt tips are not sharp and don't cause any paint scratches in the repair process.
Rubber Ball tip originally was designed to remove large sticking out dents from 1'' to 4'' diameters. You can use this tip for blending and knocking some large "eyebrows" and buckles.
Mushroom tips work great for blending and finishing dents on rail roofs, A-pillars and C-pillars.
Heat Magnetic Induction
This technique of paintless dent repair is the latest and most advanced. Heat magnetic induction was designed to work on small and shallow dents.
It doesn't work on larger or sharp dents.
Paintless dent repair tools.
There is a large variety of paintless dent repair tools. They come in different shapes and sizes depending on what type of dent, the location you want to repair.
Rods work great in open and easily accessible areas, such as hoods, quarter panels. Hooks are great for doors, and to get behind those door braces.
( Image Source: DentCraftTools)
Rods are typically used on open areas with plenty of access. Their size varies from 16" and can reach up to 80" long. Diameter vary from 3/8'' to 5/8''. Rods can provide a stable and very controlled push to move a large area of metal.
( Image Source: Blehm PDR tools )
Hooks mostly used in the upper area of the doors. They are made to get behind those dents that are blocked by a door brace. Their sizes also vary as well as their shapes.
( Image Source: Dent Craft PDR Tools )
Whale tails are other great tools to get behind those dents with limited access.
Their edges are sharp and can easily cut through brace glue and reach to dent. Whale tails come in different widths and lengths. The width of a whale tale can be anywhere from 3/8'' to 4'' wide and length from 4" to 50''+
( Image Source: Anaconda tools )
You can use these dent repair tools mostly on fenders. Fenders are wide open and provide plenty of access where you can insert a flat bar of any size and length.
Flat bars provide significant leverage, and that makes them unique when it comes to a large dent repair on fenders.
There are only a handful of companies that make these flat bars.
One of them is Dent Dial. The ability to bend this bar in different shapes is a unique feature of dent dial bars.
Dent Dial is based in California and made by Sal Contreras.
Sal used to be a carpenter. When he learned PDR, he wanted to make his tools.
In a little while his tools became so popular that he decided to start a production line and sales.
Sal and his Dent Dial bars are leaders in today's PDR world.
Anaconda is another popular brand. These bars come from Russia.
They also provide excellent leverage and can be very helpful in certain situations.
Professional paintless dent repair work can not be done without special PDR lights.
Paintless dent repair can't be done without professional light. These lights help you to place the tip of the tool directly in the center of the dent.
Sooner you hit that center of the dent, better results you will have at the end. Without using light, it is almost impossible to do that.
PDR Lights come in different sizes and variations. Some are shop lights, and some are designed for mobile use working on rechargeable batteries.
Light boards can be small as 14" and reach up to 48" wide.
Large lights give a crisp view and attention for small details. They used mostly on hail damage repairs.
Small lights are portable and great for all around use.
Prices for smaller portable PDR lights range from $400 to $650 and for shop lights from $800 to $1500 with all necessary accessories and batteries.
( Image Source )
How long does it take to learn paintless dent repair
The learning process of paintless dent repair varies. Some people have a natural talent, and some have to achieve that.
It takes about four full weeks to learn all basic knowledge of PDR.
Learning paintless dent repair process is very difficult and has its curves.
It will take a whole life to master paintless dent repair.
Benefits of Paintless dent repair
- Maintain original paint
- Retain original parts
- No Carfax history report
- Quick Turnaround time
- Environmentally friendly solution
- Save Money
- No harm to your vehicle ( least invasive way of repairing minor dents )
- Approved by all insurance companies
Maintain Original Paint
With paintless dent removal, your car doesn't need to get re-painted. Special skills and tools allow us to gain access behind a dented panel. Once we gain access, we begin to massage the dents out without damaging the paint on your vehicle.
If Paintless dent removal is done by a professional technician your existent paint job, whether it is original or custom will not get damaged or cracked.
Retain Original Parts
When your car gets dented body repair shops often replace the damaged panels.
Most body repair shops use aftermarket parts. As you may have heard aftermarket parts are low-quality parts.
Using low-quality aftermarket parts may affect the drivability and aesthetic look of your car. Because of poor quality, they usually don't line up well and cause some other problems.
Aftermarket parts are made of thin and cheap recycled steel.
With paintless dent repair, we can save original parts on your vehicle and restore its pre-accident look and shape without the need to replace it.
No Carfax History Report
For us to understand this benefit fully, we have to understand what is Carfax and what it does to our vehicles when we get into a small fender bender.
Carfax history report is powered by vehicle specific data that is tied to a VIN number of each car. It stores information at the Carfax database about your vehicle's age, mileage, service records, accidents, recalls information, and a number of owners.
This specific data also helps car purchasers to know if a car was used as a fleet, taxi or a rental car. Based on all this information a Carfax can give you a clear picture of what your vehicle's worth and its history report.
Vehicle's history is an essential factor in determining its value. Every history report helps us to find out how much the car is worth.
As you can see from the Carfax report, this Honda Accord lost its value due to an accident which resulted in a salvage branded title. It is now $2700 below book value.
That's because this accident became a part of the Carfax history report and is available to anyone who wants to purchase your car. Such reports can work against you even if a professional shop fully repaired your car.
Any accident report even if it was a minor fender bender will result in the Carfax report and later in diminished value. Simply put, your car is worth less than a similar model that has not been in a wreck.
Quick Turn-around Time
Traditional bodywork and paint is a multi-step process that requires more time.
You can't skip any of these steps. Otherwise, you will get inferior results that will not last a very long time.
Sanding, filling, again sanding to achieve a nice smooth surface may take days to complete. Once these steps are done then priming is the next important step.
After priming, you are required to sand again to have a surface ready for paint.
Paint is also a very time-consuming process. The latest paints require a multi-step application.
2 - 5 coats of paint have to be applied to achieve a nice color blend, then 3 coats of a clear.
Just imagine now how long should all these steps take. Two days? Three days? It may even take weeks to get your car back on the road.
With a paintless dent repair method we can get your car back on the road the same day. Most of our repairs take 2 - 3 hours.
A door ding size of a quarter or smaller on a flat surface may take about 30 minutes only.
Environmentally Friendly Solution
As you may have heard paints and other chemicals that are used in the automotive industry are very toxic.
These chemicals are hazardous and cause birth defects, lung cancer, brain damage, and also pollute our environment if mishandled.
Paintless dent repair is known to be the cleanest, the only environment-friendly method of removing dents.
This method doesn't use any chemicals or paints and is safest way of removing dents.
As we already know traditional bodywork involves a multi-step process of repairing auto body, preparation then paint and blending.
This multi-step process makes it very costly and time-consuming. Paints are getting more expensive because of strict government regulations on safety and handling. For example, two quarts of paint can cost up to $500 ( just enough to paint half of the car ).
Paintless dent repair doesn't involve any paint or bodywork. That allows us to save the original finish and parts and also will allow us to reduce the cost of the repair by half and sometimes by 75% of the total cost of the traditional body shop.
No Harm to Your Vehicle
Paintless dent removal is known as the least invasive method of repairing minor auto body damages, including creases, body line dents, and hail damage.
The PDR method does not involve any grinding, sanding, filling, or painting. We use special PDR tools to gain access from behind the dent and slowly massage dents out until we get the panel back to pre-accident condition.
It is the only way of repairing small damages without re-paint or sanding and grinding.
Doesn't Affect Your Insurance Rates
What happens when you file a claim with your auto insurance company?
First, they record the accident and assess the damage. As soon as your insurance company gets that part done you already have an accident history report.
And that causes your premium to go up, even if the accident is not at your fault.
According to carinsurance.com, your insurance can go up to 31% for the first reported accident. And up to 110% for the second reported accident.
So, if you have minor damage to your car and that damage will not exceed $500 in repairs then don't report to your auto insurance company.
Avoid all hassle and headache that will come after the report. It will cost you a lot less in the long run if you pay out of your pocket.
Besides that all insurance companies have deductibles. The deductible amount can range anywhere from $200 to $500 depending on your insurance coverage and company.
Paintless dent repair without a doubt is the best option for repairing small and minor damages as long as your vehicle's paint is intact.
Of course, paintless dent repair has its limits and is not a solution for all dents.
However, PDR can save you money, headache and time, avoid your insurance premium raise and save your vehicle from the Carfax history report. This method is fast and proven to work.