A PDR specialist removing a dent from a car door.
A look at the skills and science behind paintless dent repair.
"I tell people, 'When you buy a new car, kick it. Just kick it, bring it to us to fix and get it out of the way,'" muses Tyler DeBow, manager of Miracle Dent Repair in Winnipeg.
It is, of course, a joke, founded on the superstition that after the first ding, the car is impervious to future damage. While that advice may be questionable, the notion of using paintless dent repair, to save hundreds or thousands of dollars in body work, is not. Paintless dent repair (PDR) is a lesser-known process in body repair. Sheet metal is incrementally and painstakingly moved to restore the body's original profile without—as the name suggests—breaking the paint. Preserving the factory finish is a big part of the attraction.
"You need good eyes and lots of patience to do this job," says Kurtis Bouskill, president of Miracle Dent Repair. Getting the dent to come out can take hours of work—and becoming a qualified PDR technician requires many, many hours of training.
"You don't touch a customer's car until you've had two years in here," DeBow adds. Apprentices start off working on scrapyard panels or doors, eventually moving on to dents on used-car inventory from local dealers. To fix a dent, a PDR tech locates the back of the dent and gently pushes it out. To gain access, parts like the headliner are often removed. Other times, technicians go in through the window slot and must blindly feel for the dent, like a doctor diagnosing a lump. It's clear to see why the process is difficult to master.
DeBow says the increasing use of aluminum in body panels makes repairs tricky, but not impossible. While steel can be pushed out and flattened back to its original profile, aluminum has limited flexibility, requiring the technician to get the repair right only from behind. "If you push past its original shape, the metal stretches and there's nothing you can do."
Dents, big or small—from a parking-lot door ding to an errant basketball to hail—are all candidates for PDR, which starts at $95. For its part, MPI welcomes the use of paintless repair. "As an industry-recognized repair method, PDR ensures efficiency and quality of repair for hail-damage claims," says MPI spokesman Brian Smiley.
Dent dos & don'ts.
Miracle Dent’s Tyler DeBow shares a few pointers.
Don't use a plunger.
Each dent has a brow: the outer ridge surrounding the sunken part. Using a plunger to pull out the dent will pull the brow out with it.
Do park next to a clean car.
If the car is pristine, the owner cares about it and is likely to avoid dinging yours.
Do pull over in a hail storm.
Avoid driving through hail, as it will only make the potential damage even worse.
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