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Paintless Dent Removal (PDR) realities

Updated on September 7, 2013
The light allows the repairer to see the shape of the ding, and using that light they will work the metal to remove the dent leaving a smooth surface.
The light allows the repairer to see the shape of the ding, and using that light they will work the metal to remove the dent leaving a smooth surface.

There are lot of people out there that will give you their opinion on Paintless Dent Repair (PDR). From some of the posts I have read, people are only telling you part of the story. And more importantly, who to trust to do a quality repair.
I have been working on cars for 20+ years, and have spent almost as long around repair shops of many types. I have worked at Collision shops, Mechanical shops, Dealerships and privately owned repair facilities. So I have seen a pretty good share of the good, bad and the ugly.
PDR is performed by a trained person using either special metal tools or glue/stick on type pulling tips to remove dents in panels using fluorescent light to reflect the damage. There are a few important things to know about who you select to do your repair.
Does the person you select value your car as much as you do? Will they treat it the same as you would? I ask because many of these people have a different approach to these repairs. The best PDR people I have seen can typically find a way to access the dent from behind using an access point already available on the car, even if it means removing a few interior trim panels or lamps to get there. They should never drill a hole without asking you first, and certainly not without telling you.
I have seen many hacks out there that don't even attempt to keep your car in original shape, and will drill a hole anywhere they can to access the dent without attempting to remove parts or find an existing point of entry. To them, it is just faster money to do it the easy way. So not only are you left with a hole that was not there previously, but they typically don't apply enough, if any corrosion protection to the hole they have just drilled to prevent rusting. Most often they will stick a black hole plug in it and send you down the road. Really just hoping nobody notices the addition to their vehicle, and hoping not to see you back with rust on that spot. Often they will even need to apply a coating to the inside of the panel where there tool made contact, often these tools will scrape or scuff the panel coating on the inside leaving a bare metal spot.

Some of these people are storm chasers, or will drive around the country going from town to town just after a hailstorm looking for work. In a hail storm the surface of your vehicle starts to look like that of a golf ball. Small indentations all over the surface, and they do it without cracking or chipping your paint.

This light colored vehicle shows what a poor quality Paintless dent repair can look like.
This light colored vehicle shows what a poor quality Paintless dent repair can look like.

Not all dents can be repaired with this method for a few reasons. Inside of these panels are a few different obstacles they will determine the level of success you may encounter. Sometimes the dent is in a location where the metal is too thick to manipulate this way. There may be inner reinforcement panels that prevent them from even accessing the dent, especially if it is near the edge of a panel. On some panels there are beams, sound deadening pads or material, or bonded(glued) portion of the panel that will not allow for this method to work.
Another important thing is to have them look at it, and an honest PDR person will tell you how good they think they can get the ding/dent out. They may say no problem and mean it. A good PDR person will tell you if they have doubts, or if they feel they can get it 80%, 90% or 100% better. They can warn you if they feel the paint will crack by using the PDR method (not that it is foolproof that anyone would always know paint will crack).

The final difference to watch for is the finished product. Does the panel appear to be smooth throughout the area the dent was in, or does the panel now look like it has goosebumps? Poor technique always causes the dents to appear a bit lumpy on close inspection. The photo above is easier to see to bumps left behind by their tool. Some of the new high strength steel panels also are harder to straighten this way. If it is a hard spot, you will also more likely get a few bumps. But it should be minimal, and something that you have to look closely to even see. The idea is that when done right, this is a good cost effective way to perform minor ding repairs that are fast. And to someone that never knew the dent was there before, the area will not grab their attention when done correctly.
I always offer my customers the option of PDR when it is right. When I think it will come out and be satisfactory enough for a customers needs. We don't make much on the PDR repair, but I do gain a customers long term trust and confidence that I will make the right decision for them, and not just target them as an easy buck.

I might even suggest approaching a collision shop for their opinion. A good shop will not only tell you if your dent is a good candidate for PDR, but should be able to suggest someone to do it for you.

Have you ever had PDR work done before?

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Would you opt for PDR repairs again if it was an option?

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    • davzkny profile image

      davzkny 4 years ago from Western New York

      Any quality PDR person will not drill. If they can't find an access hole they'll use glue sticks or something

    • davzkny profile image

      davzkny 6 years ago from Western New York

      Excellent point, and I hadn't seen any that would weaken a panel before. We just won't let them drill, that's our rule. I absolutely makes sense that it could weaken a panel, and I will certainly share your information with all my co-workers!

    • profile image

      Patti Hammonds 6 years ago

      I used to work in the body collison industry and also as a quality assuarance inspector on PDR repairs. Most recently I was a condition report writer and estimator of damages on lease turn ins and reposessions at an auto auction. The holes that are "drilled" that you are speaking of, can be determined as "frame damage" in the auction world. We deem these cars frames, damaged, depending on the location of where the holes are drilled. Locations would be in pillars, which are your door openings. The holes have to be 1/4 inch or so and larger when we deem them as frame damaged. Your car can actually become more "crushable" in a crash, if you allow someone to drill holes in the pillars, it weakens the structure by doing so. PDR is a great means of repair when done as you said above, when a "good" company takes their time and removes parts to gain access rather than quickly going at it and drilling holes.