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PAINTLESS DENT REMOVAL
PAINTLESS DENT REPAIR IS PDQ
Paintless dent repair, also known as PDR, is a quick and easy technique used to remove small dents from body panels without the use of body fi ller, or without sanding and painting the damaged area. Developed in the 1930s, this procedure has become popular over the last 20 years or so, and has saved car owners both time and money.
The automotive repair world is becoming more specialized. The first specialist was likely the windshield installer who started coming to a home or business, or wherever a windshield was damaged, instead of forcing the customer to take the car to a dealership or a local car repair facility. Then lube shops started to appear, featuring the drive-through oil change. Likewise, an explosion in expensive alloy wheels spawned the onsite wheel repair business, saving people hundreds of dollars when one of their wheels was dented or damaged.
The PDR guy who comes onsite to repair dented vehicles is the latest convenience in the world of repair. Often, dealerships schedule a PDR specialist for in-house repair on a particular day, every week, to fi x dents. The work isn’t even being done in their body shops because like most, body shop personnel don’t replace windshields and they don’t do PDR, either.
WHY PAINTLESS DENT REPAIR?
While the basic principles of paintless dent repair have been around a long time, this practice has only recently become commonplace in the repair shop. The reason is simple. The two basic requirements for the use of PDR are (1) the sheet metal must have enough flexibility to allow it to be pushed back into shape and (2) the paint must be tough enough to prevent breaking or cracking. Technological advances in both of these products have made the use of PDR practical.
Sheet metal has become significantly stronger over the last 25 years with the introduction of high-strength steel (HSS) and high-strength low-alloy steel (HSLA). These steels have also been developed to allow automakers to use thinner gauges to reduce weight. An added benefit is the ability to pop out a dent more easily. Chalk one up for PDR.
Paint has also improved, especially from a durability standpoint. Today’s paints are less resistant to damage from the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, and are more flexible for a longer period of time. This is important for the use of PDR because when sheet metal is dented, the paint is less likely to crack than in the past, allowing for paintless repair.
THE BASICS OF PAINTLESS DENT REPAIR
The basic principle of paintless dent repair is simple–push the dented metal, from behind, back into place. Work from the farthest point toward the center of the dent in the same manner as you would with a dolly and hammer. With PDR, however, the process takes a bit longer and, instead of a dolly and hammer, you are using a steel rod.
The steel rod is rotated and its tip, which often has a small hook, pushes the metal out. It’s kind of like massaging the metal with your fingertip while pushing inward, but you’re using a steel rod, not your finger. The highly skilled PDR technician might have as many as 60 different tools to accomplish this repair work.
The key to successful paintless dent repair is access to the back of the damaged panel. Depending on the location of the dent, sometimes this can be difficult. If the dent is in the center of the hood, or trunk lid, access is relatively easy without removing much material. If the dent is in the roof of the car, the headliner has to be removed.
A dent in a fender or quarter panel, depending on its location, can be tricky too. That’s why a PDR tech may have a large number of tools with a variety of lengths and thicknesses.
It is not recommended that access holes be drilled in door jambs, fender flanges or similar locations, especially on late model vehicles. Not only does a drilled hole weaken the unibody, but it compromises the factory corrosion protection system, greatly increasing the possibility of rust formation.
Generally speaking, the shallower the dent, the easier it is to push it out. As long as the metal is not stretched and the paint undamaged, PDR techniques can be used for the repair.
Removing creases, though, is nearly impossible, except for the best technicians, and even then, it’s very tough. Also, if the dent is within the 1 inch border around most body panels where the metal is rolled over, PDR won’t work.
In order to ensure that metal is brought back to the correct contour, the PDR tech will use a fl uorescent light (this light is usually 4 feet long and mounted on a stand) and shine it on the surface, looking for reflections in the area surrounding the dent. By moving the light over the surface and carefully watching the refl ections, the tech can bring the metal back to the original contour without over pushing.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE
Paintless dent repair sounds pretty straightforward and simple. So does painting a car. But, it’s not that easy. A good PDR tech has a lot of practice under his belt. Like welding or painting, PDR takes skills that don’t come naturally. It might take as long as three months of daily practice to learn how to remove a simple door ding or a hail dent in the hood.
PDR, much like painting a car, is an art form. It’s a slow, methodical procedure that requires a bit of patience, and a steady hand. But, if you can master PDR, you can provide a valuable service to your customers while saving them time and money on dent repair.