Any car driver will tell you that after a long enough period of time is nearly impossible to escape getting some dings and dents in your car. So long as you're actually driving the car in the world you are subject to any number of potential accidents. That could be anything from a rock that gets kicked out from the side of the road to a careless driver who parks next to you in a parking lot and bangs the side of your car with their door when they open it. When you get a dent, it can be frustrating and upsetting. Nobody wants a dent that's going to make their car look like some beat-up old junker. So, what can you do about fixing it?
How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Dent?
The cost of removing a dent from your car is something that has a number of variables to factor it. Depending on the size of the dent, not to mention the make and model of your vehicle, if you take your car into a body shop to get your dent fixed up you are probably looking at a cost of somewhere between $125 and $325.
You also need to factor in what kind of dent we're talking about here. In auto terms there is a difference between a dent and a ding. When someone refers to a ding this is very much a surface blemish on the vehicle. Typically, this is less than a half an inch across and might even be hard to notice at certain angles. This is the kind of thing that is caused by a light door tap, or maybe a shopping cart in a parking lot hitting the side of your vehicle. The difference between this and a dent can be significant. A dent is more likely caused by a straight-up accident. Another car ran into you, or maybe you backed into a street sign, the bumper of your car ran a foul of a cement pillar and a parking structure, etc. These often come with some paint damage that really makes them noticeable
If you have a small enough ding, then a body shop may actually be able to repair it for you without even charging. If the thing is small enough, no paint is required to fix it, and it's been in an area where there's no previous damage, they could possibly pop it up for you in just a few moments at no charge. However, if there are any complications then there would certainly be a fee associated with it.
What is Paintless Dent Repair?
Paintless dent repair is a method of fixing shallow dents in your vehicle that works by removing the affected panel and then slowly applying pressure to both sides until the ding is smoothed out. It only works for minor problems, the kinds of dents that are caused by things like a hailstorm for instance. A professional will have to take a look at the damage and then gauge whether or not the metal has been stretched too far for this to work. If there's been no chipping of the paint and the dent isn't wider than a hand across, it could be a viable solution.
Do Dent Pullers Really Work?
If you're not interested in taking your car to a body shop to get any dents removed from your vehicle there's always the possibility that you could pick up what is known as a dent puller and try to handle this job on your own. Most DIY dent pullers that you can find at places like Walmart or Amazon.com look like big suction cups with handles on them. Not all dent pullers are created equally however, and not all dents can be fixed with a dent puller. It's also worth noting that there are basically two different kinds of dent pullers out there that you can buy. You have a choice between the suction cup style dent puller that you're probably most familiar with, as well as a glue-based dent puller. Let's take a look at each one and see what they're all about.
Suction Cup Dent Pullers
As we said, these are the ones that look like a big suction cup with a handle on them. These ones are pretty easy to find at a very low price on the internet. The principle behind one of these is that you will attach it to your car with the power of suction. Sometimes they have a pump included that allows you to build up suction once you achieve a seal by pressing it to your car. After the seal has been achieved and it has a good grip on your vehicle you can use the handle and some brute strength to pull the dent back into shape. Basically, these work the same as a plunger does in your toilet. You push and pull until something moves.
Glue Dent Pullers
A glue dent puller works on a different principle than the suction one. If you've ever tried to use a suction puller you know that maintaining a sealed can be difficult with an oddly shaped dent. If there's any air escaping around the cracks of a suction dent puller then you can't create a perfect vacuum seal, and you can't pull the dent.
A glue dent remover allows you to glue a pull-tab right onto the dent. After the glue dries you then use the pull-tab to yank the dent out. While the main problem with the suction cup dent puller is often getting a seal, the problem with this one is making sure the glue doesn't end up causing more damage to your vehicle. If getting the glue to release afterwards proved to be difficult you could end up having a dent still plus a problem with your paint job. For that reason, if you do choose one of these, it's best to test the glue on a tiny, inconspicuous part of your paint just to make sure there's going to be no damage.
DIY Dent Puller Problems
We've already covered a couple of the problems that you're going to face if you use one of these DIY dent pullers at home. The suction cup method needs to have a perfect seal to work, and the glue method may end up causing more trouble than you're trying to fix.
Another problem with these home dent pullers is that they only work on certain kinds of dents. You need a pretty small, shallow dent for either of these methods to be effective. And they can be effective if they're used correctly on the right kind of dent. A suction cup puller on a very small shallow dent could pop it right back out again and leave almost no sign that you ever had a dent in the first place. If you get the glue to release properly from the glue puller, the exact same result can happen. You could end up with your car looking as good as new.
It's likely, however, that even if you managed to pull the dent out you will have an issue with the finish on your car. When you look at it from certain angles with the light reflecting there will be a noticeable distortion where the dent used to be even if you have pulled it back out again.
Worse than these problems though is if you have a larger dent that you're trying to deal with. If you have a very deep dent, or it's got unusual angles in it then dent pullers are likely going to be unable to help you in any way. Also, if it's in a very thick part of the metal on your vehicle then a dent puller will not have the strength to get the job done.
Another thing that you need to remember about using these DIY Dent pullers is that if you have paint damage as well as a dent you probably want to avoid using a DIY dent puller on it. Especially with the glue dent pullers, you may end up only pulling more paint off and damaging the finish of your car while the dent stays where it is.
Basically, when it comes to these DIY dent pullers that you can pick up cheaply, if you really have a small, barely noticeable dent then they may be worth a try. The suction cup method will likely be less damaging and easier to use, but if you have a significant size dent it may not even be worth trying in the first place.
Alternative DIY Dent Removal Techniques
Aside from dent pulling devices there are some other tricks you might find people recommending to get dents out of your vehicle. If you're looking for a low-cost solution, and the dent you're dealing with is not so severe that you're going to need to take it to a body shop to get it fixed, then some of these may work for you. Just remember, these small dings are the ones that you would want to try these solutions on. Significant dents that pushed the metal in more than half an inch, or they are more than a hand width across are not likely to benefit from these techniques. However, if a ding is small enough to qualify then you may want to give these budget-friendly DIY options a try.
The Plunger Method
We mentioned earlier that suction cup dent pullers work much the same way as plungers do. Well, some people actually try to use plungers to perform the exact same job. Since a suction cup and a plunger are literally the exact same thing, if you wet your plunger in order to create a seal when you press it to the metal of your car, as long as the circumference of the suction cup can cover the ding that you're trying to pull out this may function in the exact same fashion. This will likely not work if you have a flange plunger.
The Vacuum Method
For this method to work you need a bucket and a vacuum cleaner. Drill a small hole in the bottom of the bucket and then cover the dent with the open end of the bucket. Put the vacuum cleaner hose over the hole in the bucket and turn it on to turn the bucket into a large suction device. This may work for very minor dents, but there's little evidence to suggest this will work on any kind of major problem with your vehicle.
The Hair Dryer Method
This method is not as easy as it sounds and will require the use of dry ice which is not exactly a household item even though some people will refer to it as such. The idea here is to use a little bit of science to get the dent out of your vehicle. You hold a hair dryer 6 inches away from the dent in your car, remember this has to be a fairly shallow dent, and heat it up. Then, covering the dent with a piece of aluminum foil, use some safety gloves to handle a piece of dry ice and rub the dry ice across the aluminum foil.
If you don't have access to dry ice, there's also the possibility then you can use some compressed air which is also very cold when it comes out. The science behind this is that the change in temperature, from the heat of the hair dryer to the rapid cooling of the dry ice or compressed air will cause the dent to pop out. This should take only a moment to happen. If it doesn't happen very quickly, it's not going to work.
The Boiling Water Method
This is a trick for fixing dents in plastic parts of your vehicle such as the bumper. You just boil a pot of water and pour it on the dent. Once you’ve done that you can reach up behind the bumper and use your hands to pop it back into place. This may require you to actually remove the bumper entirely to get the job done. Once it's popped out, you can pour some cooler water over the area to help it set again.
The Bottom Line
As aggravating as dents and dings can be, once they happen you just have to either ignore them or deal with them. If you let serious dents go for too long that can cause problems with corrosion and make the problem that much worse. For that reason, it's best to get them handled as soon as you can. Small dents can be handled fairly easily as we've seen, there's a good chance you can even take care of them on your own. If the dent is too large however, you're definitely going to need a professional to take a look at it for you.