If you tend to get dings and dents in the body of your vehicles, learning how to do paintless dent repair (PDR) could be a useful skill. As a matter of fact, if you become very skilled at it, the ability could be very profitable.
What Is Paintless Dent Repair?
Throughout the 1990s, automotive paints and vehicle body materials were high quality and much more resilient to bending. Since both the paint and the body could be bent without significant damage to the paint or permanent damage to the body materials, an entire industry formed based around the concept and technology of repairing dents.
PDR is a specialized form of autobody repair where technicians use special tools and techniques to slowly reduce a dent down in size until it completely disappears.
Learning How to Do Paintless Dent Repair
PDR is a learned skill. Through trial and error, technicians gradually begin to understand the specific areas of a dent to manipulate, exactly how to manipulate certain locations of a dent, and the specialized processes and technologies used to remove a dent without the need to repaint the area.
If you are considering learning the skill of how to do paintless dent repair, it's important to understand that it isn't simply a matter of "popping" a dent out and expecting that the body will be perfect again. PDR involves a very slow and methodical process that requires special tools, a certain level of knowledge and skill, and a great deal of patience. Some dent repairs, even on small dents, can take up to two hours.
Assess the Damage
The first step to performing a dent repair without using paint involves assessing the dent itself and determining if a paintless dent repair is even possible. According to most experts, 80 to 90 percent of dents can be repaired using PDR techniques. However, there are a certain percentage of dents that are impossible to repair without following it up with a paint job. The following types of dents usually fall into this "non-PDR" category:
- Very deep dents - Even very large dents can be repaired using PDR if the dent is fairly shallow. However, if a dent of any size is pushed in too far, the metal can't be bent back into place without damaging the paint and requiring repainting.
- Dents near edges - If a dent of any size is situated near the very edge of a body panel or near a seam, PDR repair may be impossible. The reason for this is that in order to repair a dent using these techniques, you need to access the back side of the dent.
- The dent has a crease - If there is a sharp crease (like a folded page) in the dent, PDR likely will not work.
- Older vehicles - If your vehicle is older than 1990 or is a classic car, the odds are good that attempting paintless repair techniques on a dent will damage the paint. This is because the paint quality on older body panels can't withstand the strain of the repair techniques.
- Paint damage - If there is existing paint damage in the dent (usually on the edge of the center), then there's no getting around the fact that you'll need to repaint the area.
Once you've gone through this checklist and determined that using paintless dent repair is possible in your particular case, then you're ready to take on the task using these specialized techniques.
Prepare the Area
Almost every repair using these methods requires that you access the back side of the dent. The process will also require special tools and supplies (see the resources below to order your own supplies). In order to access the back of any dent, you'll need to determine the path that you can take. This might require removing interior panels inside your car, or removing parts of the body on the outside of your vehicle. Determine how to remove those panels, and then carefully remove them using the proper tools. Now that you have access to both sides of the dent, you're ready to perform the dent repair.
Perform the Repair
This is the part of the repair that takes time and experience to perfect. When you order your supplies, make sure to purchase a technicians instruction manual that will walk you through the specific areas of the dent that you'll need to look for and how to place each of the tools before you start applying slow pressure to the dent. In general, the way the process works is as follows:
- You can use fluorescent lighting or special light boards to create shadows in the dent which tell you precisely where you can place the tools on the back side of the dent.
- Tools are positioned behind the dent, and sometimes special glue can be applied to the front of the damaged area so that pressure can be carefully applied to both the front and back of the area.
- You then slowly manipulate the outer edge of the dent until the area bends back level with the surface. After slow and methodical work around the outer edge of the dent, the size of the dent gradually shrinks until it eventually completely disappears.
Finding PDR Tools and Supplies
In order to go through the process correctly, you'll need the right tools. The following suppliers offer high quality PDR supplies and instructional materials:
If you are interested in learning how to do paintless dent repair, make sure that you take the time to gather the right tools and supplies, learn about the detailed process of PDR, and then spend time practicing your own repair techniques on metal panels from the local junk yard before you start doing repairs on your own vehicles.