Dings and dents on the car are extremely annoying. Only on vintage cars, certain marks of use are valued as “patina”. For the common vehicle every additional dent is equal to loss of value. A complete exterior overhaul by a professional garage can be very expensive and therefore a DIY attempt might be worth your while. Here you can read a few tips on how to handle dings and dents on your car.
What is possible and what is not
Dings and dents are small indentures in the metal plating of the car. Accident damage or a warped frame cannot be DIY repaired.
Generally, the smoother and rounder the outer edges of the dent are, the easier its repair will be.
If the outer edge is sharp and pointed, DIY repair might prove to be a problem.
The paint challenge
A dent in the bodywork does not automatically cause paint damage. Modern vehicle paint is elastic and with a bit of luck a dent can be treated without any need for new paint. The most important element in flattening is heat. Cold paint is brittle and crumbles easily. Therefore, a dent should always be adequately heated to enable the paint to adapt to the bending of the metal.
Dents are either pulled out from the outside or pushed out from the inside. Popping out a dent from the back side offers more possibilities for applying the necessary force. Nevertheless this requires extensive disassembly. By pulling it out the challenge exists in applying sufficient force on the spot without damaging the paint. Therefore in case of pulling, vacuum is used. In certain cases glue stickers can be used. However, removing their residue requires the utmost care.
First attempt: hot water
Before applying tools, try the following: wash the dented surface with hot, possibly boiling water. With a bit of luck the metal will flex and pop back in its original form. This also works on plastic bumpers. The hot water always supplies sufficient heat to make the paint and the material smooth.
Second attempt: the plunger
If the dent’s size allows placing a (new!) plunger over it, this is a favourable condition for a successful repair. After treating the dent with hot water, apply the plunger and pull strongly. This is often sufficient for repairing large, shallow dents.
For smaller dings and dents a smaller suction device is needed. The suction pads of a smartphone holder are a suitable option. High-grade holders have strong, small suction pads which can be applied on the metal with force. In retail, heavy-duty suction cups are available for just a few bob.
Attack from the rear
If these attempts are not successful, the dent has to be treated from the back. You could try applying pull with heat stickers or Loctite. However, by doing so you run a considerable risk of damaging the paint. If you want to avoid excessive polishing and spot repair, try repairing from the back side first. For this you need:
1 disassembly tool for interior panelling
1 rubber hammer
1 round log or plastic bar with round tip of ca. 5 cm diameter
First remove the interior panelling. It is strongly recommended to use a professional disassembly tool for this. The small levers only cost ca. 5 EUR (± £4) and enable you to lever out the edges and knobs of the door panelling without breaking them off.
Careful: the plastic foil behind the door cardboard must be fully re-attached again at assembly. Otherwise water will enter the car on occasion of the first visit to the car wash.
When the dent is exposed, it must be heated first. This can be done from the inside if there are no adjacent plastic components. Alternatively the metal should be heated from the outside. Always maintain a minimum distance of ca. 15 cm to avoid scorching the paint. When the metal is sufficiently warmed up and the dent exposed, apply gentle hammer blows on the edge, gradually working inward. If the edge is inaccessible, apply the round log. Place the rounded tip of the log on the desired spot.
Subsequently gently beat on the other end of the stick with the rubber hammer.
Always work circular. This will cause the best result. The dent sooner or later gives in and pops back in its original form, or at least for its most part. The most important thing when denting out: less is more! Careful blows lead to a quicker result and avoid unnecessary damage!
Partial success is also a result
If the dent cannot be repaired with the described measures, filling and painting is unavoidable. Every millimetre of succeeded flattening means less filling putty. Repair is easier and more durable when the putty layer is thinner. Thick layers have a tendency to crumble. Furthermore they absorb water and cause corrosion, which remains undetected for a long period.
Dings and dents: Filling – sanding – repairing
Flattening out a dent, even partially, helps keeping the putty layer as thin as possible. The paint must be roughened or totally ground off prior to filling. Subsequently a primer layer is applied. As spray painting follows, taping off is strongly recommended. A painting repair is always ideal from “edge to edge“. Obtaining a clean transition on a flat surface is almost impossible. Edges and borders are ideal spots for taping off. For smaller spots and on old cars, DIY new painting can be attempted. It is important to use the right colour, which can be obtained at the accessory retailer with the car’s registration certificate.
Alternative for painting
Filling is part of painting preparation of a car. How precise the painting job needs to be, should be considered in advance. A lot of money can be saved by completely filling and grinding the bodywork prior to leaving the car in a garage for a professional paint job. Taping off and removing critical components (rear lights, etc.), considerably simplifies the painting professional’s task. Nevertheless, completely spray-painting an older car is an investment of several hundred up to a thousand pounds.
If it is a case of removing a single or several minor dents, painting might be the most elegant and cheapest solution. If the car needs a total make-over, there is one alternative for new paint: wrapping has an almost similar effect. The advantage: with a bit of practice, every handy DIY’er can master the art of wrapping. Foil, however, just like paint, is only as good as the basis. Therefore, careful flattening and filling pays itself back. Although wrapping is not very easy, it is easier to master than the proper handling of a spray gun.
A smart measure before sale
A fresh, dings and dents-free paint raises the value of the car by several hundreds of pounds. Investing a free Saturday in removing dings and dents therefore pays itself back in ready cash. The value of the car is additionally enhanced by applying the same energy on the preparation of the interior. A fresh and thoroughly cleaned car with clean engine, rugs and upholstery makes you want to get in and drive away. Make full use of this if you want to sell your car.
Foto: ESB Professional, ignatius 63, iMoved Studio, loraks, ThamKC, Bhakpong, Alraun, AlexeyNikitin1981, Syda Productions, hedgehog94 / shutterstock.com