DIY dent repair advice?
July 30, 2007 10:31 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have experience with DIY car dent repair?

We had an unfortunate incident involving backing our vehicle into the rear panel of the neighbor's vehicle.
The resulting dent is pretty sizeable, but shallow. It looks as though it would pull right out, but I don't have any experience with trying to do that...I tend to look at dents as character, but I guess there's no accounting for taste...
I know there are kits you can buy, and I think we'd rather go the "hot glue on" route, rather than the "drill a hole in to the body of the car" route.
Also, the paint did crack in a couple small areas, so we need to at least "rust proof" those areas (perhaps with some sort of sealant?), if not completely repair the cracked paint.
We definitely want to do right by the neighbors and get this thing repaired and looking good again, if not looking perfect. The car is older, and the whole rear and top of the body are all constructed from one solid panel...replacing it would be terribly expensive, and not worth it to anyone involved. The neighbors have approved us taking a stab at the DIY approach, with the caveat that if it isn't up to their standards then we'll have to pay out of pocket to take it into a shop...

Any and all advice regarding how one might best go about remedying this sticky situation would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks AskMefi!
posted by dan g. to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
Just don't order that "DIY dent repair" crap off late-night television infomercials. It most definitely DOESN'T work (except for the most miniscule of dents). If you're really wanting to "do right by the neighbors," let them submit it to your insurance company (if the damage is minor, you won't take a hit).
posted by amyms at 10:41 PM on July 30, 2007

Seconding amyms. The WTN channel here in Canada has a show called The Shopping Bags and they tested one of those glue-on dent popping gadgets. It didn't work at all and in some cases made things worse:
posted by sanitycheck at 11:28 PM on July 30, 2007

Try using a toilet plunger. If the indented area is the right size, you might get satisfying results and trying it out doesn't cause further damage.

To do:

Wash the panel to remove road dirt. While still wet, apply plunger. Pull. Repeat as necessary.

There's also this technique, involving a hair dryer and a can of compressed air but I haven't tried it. I've pulled many a dent out with the good ole' plunger, though.
posted by jamaro at 11:47 PM on July 30, 2007

"... The car is older, and the whole rear and top of the body are all constructed from one solid panel ..."

Highly unlikely. There are probably lead filled or welded seams either at the roof line, or the top of the quarter panel, and at the rocker panel, that you can't see without grinding paint.

If the dent is larger than 3 inches in diameter, or depressed more than 1/4" it is definitely beyond the skill range of an inexperienced DIY repair. Within those dimensions, if no stiffening crease or contour is involved, it might be possible to do a "paintless" dent repair, or you could try a dry ice pop out.

If paint cracked, it's a good indication that the metal or body filler underneath is permanently deformed; even if a hammered repair is possible to restore the original panel contour, you'd need tools, knowledge and skills you obviously don't have to complete a decent repair, and your interim efforts could make the damage worse, not better. Damage the panel enough, and you may make the only option replacement.

The cracked paint can't be successfully "repaired;" it needs to be feather sanded and resprayed. Just the thermal expansion/contraction of sitting in sun for a few days will cause cracked paint to further delaminate over any externally applied "rust treatment." Things like clear filler lacquer and touchup paint are really only intended for chips smaller than about 1/8" in diameter; beyond that, you need to sand edges back to good paint, and respray.
posted by paulsc at 12:40 AM on July 31, 2007

Toilet plunger and vaseline.
posted by A189Nut at 4:05 AM on July 31, 2007

Lifehacker says canned air and a hair dryer. Another place I saw said dry ice + hair dryer. Worth a shot, no?
posted by TomMelee at 4:54 AM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can buy a suction cup meant for this at an auto parts store. They are really cheap -- just a few bucks. I used one on a large, shallow dent with perfect results.
posted by probablysteve at 5:36 AM on July 31, 2007

I have tried the heat-gun-and-can-of-freeze technique, on some small dings. While it did reduce them some, they are not gone.

Similar to the toilet plunger is this device, which is cheap and has probably never been in a toilet.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:49 AM on July 31, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the help so far everyone.

@paulsc: Thanks for the info re: the panel seams actually being hidden under the paint. I hadn't considered that. It really does look like the entire back is one seamless panel though. Also, If needed, I have no problem sanding, priming, and repainting the cracked paint...was just hoping to hear if there was a simple fix that would suffice.

Thanks again everyone....I'll let you know how it turns out.
posted by dan g. at 8:39 AM on July 31, 2007

I've had good luck with the suction cup screw thing, and for a more significant dent, there's always bondo.
posted by klangklangston at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2007

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