A close inspection of vehicles passing through traffic jams or looking around in parking garages, reveals a large array of dents and dings. They are caused by other car doors, shopping carts, hail or just about anything you can imagine. Typically, when this type of damage occurs the customer takes their vehicle to a collision repair center and waits three to four days while it is being repaired.
Today there is a quicker, simpler and more affordable method called paintless dent repair (PDR).
It’s a process that removes the dent by gently massaging the metal back to its original shape. The damaged area is accessed from the backside and a special tool is used to push the dent back out. In some cases, such as a trunk lid, dents can be pushed back in. Access can be gained on the hood either directly or by removing sound deadening pads. The roof requires the removal of the head liner. Quarter panels can be accessed through light assemblies or jambs. Doors offer a variety of access points from window openings to interior panels. When a brace creates an access problem, special tools called Whale Tails can be used to slip between the brace and the metal.
After the dent is identified and access is located, the technician will choose the proper tool, dent reading system and technique to make the repair. These three choices vary with the types of repair and the individual.
It’s an acquired skill
It is important to remember that PDR is as much a practiced skill as a learned technique. The candidate chosen to become a PDR technician should be committed to his position to insure the investment. Initial training may only take one week, but that person may have to practice from one to six months before becoming truly proficient at the trade. This is due to personal differences in abilities such as dexterity, vision, depth perception and concentration. Fortunately, there is a variety of tools, dent reading systems, techniques and training methods to accommodate these individual differences.
Literally hundreds of unique dent tools are available and more and more are being created each day. They differ in length, diameter, tip, bends and composition. The length, diameter and bends are functions of access to the dent. Various tips are chosen for the removal of the dent.
Identifying and reading dents is made easier with the use of reading lights, boards and poles. The systems show the dents, waves and marks in the vehicle’s body. As the repair process moves along the technician can observe the tool movement and disappearance of the dent.
Three Types of Dents
During the repair process, a variety of techniques can be used to remove different types of dents. The choice of technique is dependent upon the dent’s type, size and location.
The three most common types of dents are called lows, highs and creases. Lows represent the majority of the business. These are depressions in the metal caused by a direct perpendicular impact such as from a hailstone or a golf ball. Highs are the opposite of lows. Most highs are caused by closing the hood or trunk on an obstacle or by an object left inside free to bounce around while the vehicle is moving. Creases are created when the impact folds the metal to a point. This is the most difficult type of dent to repair.
The size of a repairable dent can range from a dime to three inches in diameter. This is a conservative range for new technicians. Seasoned veterans can remove dents the size of footballs.
Location can be a limiting factor as to which tool should be used to remove the dent. The fundamental law of PDR is to “know your tools.” The location may determine a specific length to reach the dent, a certain diameter to enter a difficult access point and a precise number of bends. The number of tools able to enter a difficult access point may limit the choice of tips. As the technician becomes more familiar with his tools, this will not be a problem.
Where to begin?
When the actual dent repair begins the first question is “Should I start in the middle and work my way to the outside of the dent, or start from the outside and work towards the center?” The answer depends on the type of dent.
Metal “remembers” its shape before it was dented. Therefore, the objective is to examine the dent and push the metal to its previous shape. Push where the damaged metal is tightest and relieve the stress. Removing stress from the dent helps the metal use its memory to return to its previous shape.
The second question is, “Which tip do I use?” Several tip designs are available in the market and all work well in their own tool groups. Each tip is designed to move metal in a different way. The ball tip is an excellent all around tool. The spherical shape of the tip gives the tool a softer touch. This is a good starting tool as most beginners find it easy to control. The pencil tip is a good finishing tool. The end is shaped like a cone with a very fine rounded tip. Because of its shape, it is best suited for pinpoint accuracy when trying to remove microlows.
Some individuals will use one tip to work every dent, where others will use multiple tips to massage out the metal. The advantages and disadvantages of each tip should be thoroughly understood and practiced by the technician.
The risk and rewards
Paintless dent repair is a profitable opportunity to expand existing business and increase revenues. As in any sound investment decision, the risk and rewards must be measured against the business plans and objectives.
As a quick and clean add on service for car wash and detail centers, PDR is a profitable option that is worth serious consideration.