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Paintless Dent Removal: Top Best Tools, Methods, and Techniques

Updated on February 20, 2015

Your Paintless Dent Removal Experience?

Have you ever had to remove or repair a dent in your lifetime?

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Rarely will you find someone bragging about their car or truck receiving a dent.

Unless fixed/repaired/removed, It really can be a perpetual visual reminder that most people would be extremely anxious to just be rid of.

You may have felt this way before.

Whether they received the dent because of their own doing, because of the weather/elements (think, hail), or because some "jerk" backed up into their car and drove away, usually it is an occurrence that is greeted with quite a bit of frustration and irritation....not to mention, the bill to repair a dent can become quite staggering, very quickly.

In this article, I will share with you a variety of PDR methods, techniques, and tools that I personally observed my father using. During that time, my father taught me many things about PDR, related to everything from methods, techniques and tools used, to scientific principles used and leveraged. On occasion, beyond my refined skill of observation, I also assisted him quite a few times.

The Paintless Dent Removal Process

How would you, personally, describe the paintless dent removal process?

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Your FIRST Paintless Dent Removal Experience Ever?

How old were you when you had your FIRST experience with paintless dent removal (PDR)? (assisting someone else or doing-it-yourself)

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My PDR Experience: Starting at an Early Age

My experience with, and exposure to, paintless dent removal began at a very young age.

Almost as soon as I was able to walk, I found myself working alongside my father on his latest and greatest project. While growing up, I was fortunate enough to be his side-kick while he took on seemingly even the most challenging and complex of projects and tasks. Beginning with simple dents, I actually found joy in watching him gradually progress towards tackling very complex dents that required nothing short of a smorgasbord of time, patience, certain tools and refined skill.

An all around handyman, who successfully built his own contracting business that has weathered several economic down turns, I thoroughly enjoyed spending that time with my father.

Though my friends around me chose more "lady-like" endeavors and pursuits, I naturally gravitated towards (and flourished in) environments where a little elbow grease met the meticulous desire for perfection in everything I/we laid our hands on.

The Cost Associated with Paintless Dent Removal?

If your car or truck currently has a dent that you are hoping to remove/repair/fix, you have likely already considered the cost(s) involved.

The two major costs involved in any PDR project are really:

  • Time -- While certain dents may only require a few minutes to fix, some dents (dependent on the nature and severity of the damage) can take upwards of days or even weeks to fix. When considering the cost of time, be sure to also consider not only the direct time it will take you to fix a dent, but also the opportunity cost you will incur by missing out on other projects that you could be doing had you not been working on a PDR project.
  • Money -- Sure, time is money, but money will also be required whether you decide to tackle your PDR project yourself, or you hire a 'professional' to do it for you. Of course, cost will also vary dependent upon which tools, methods, or techniques you decide to use.

(Of course, there can also be additional 'costs' such as acute or chronic wear and tear on your tools, either immediately or gradually over time. Also, applying a method or technique incorrectly can also lead to damages to your car's paint or metal.)

Approaches and Options

Really, there are two main ways that you can tackle your dent repair, and each has its own fair share of pros and cons.

  • Do-it-yourself (DIY) -- Dependent upon the nature and severity of your dent, this may be the most feasible and cost-effective course-of-action. NOTE: The rest of this article will talk more about well-known, and lesser known, DIY methods, techniques, and tools--each with different considerations, and likelihood for success, dent dependent. A major benefit of doing PDR yourself is the fact that you could save some serious money.
  • Have a 'professional' do it -- For very complex dents, in unfavorable locations, having a 'professional' tackle your dent may be the best course-of-action. Ultimately, your considerations should include a variety of factors, to include the location of the dent, the severity of the damage, as well as, whether or not the dent is actually accessible from the inside. Some PDR companies, I have noticed, have PDR Estimation Calculators available on their website. These calculators are meant to be used in order to give a 'rough estimate' of how much work done, by that company, COULD actually cost.

The truth is, many 'professionals' will have you believe that you can't possibly achieve the high quality results, as they say they are capable of producing, had you attempted to remove/repair/fix your dent yourself. Granted, there is a bit of a learning curve involved, and if you aren't careful, you can actually do more harm (than good) attempting to "fix" a dent.

This is truly the nature of business.

Many individuals have created thriving paintless dent removal businesses and, of course, in order to ensure a continual inflow of clientele, it is in their best interest to ensure the world knows that only 'professionals' can get quality results. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly circumstances where you would want to engage a 'professional', however, I do feel that it is very important to know and understand that it is entirely possible for an inexperienced layman to get quality results, as well, if they are willing to sacrifice some time and energy on the front end.

PDR Success?

What do you think/feel is the MOST IMPORTANT element to a successful paintless dent repair project?

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A Plethora of Considerations: Choosing the Best Tools, Methods, and Techniques

Go to a body shop and ask anyone who is even reasonably skilled at PDR, and you will likely hear them say that their approach to removing/repairing/fixing a dent--to include all the tools, methods, and techniques they use--vary dependent upon a variety of considerations.

In a nutshell: "it all depends".

Here are a list of the some of the things you should be looking at and considering.

These things will help you to determine which tools/methods/techniques you should be using, as well as, if it is really even worth your time to try to remove/repair/fix the dent yourself.

  • Location of the Dent. Some dent locations are more favorable than others.
  • Accessibility of the dent. This goes hand-in-hand with the location of the dent. In one YouTube video I watched, the individual spoke specifically about how the dent on his hybrid vehicle couldn't be accessed simply because there was A/C equipment for battery cooling that was located between the sheet metal and the interior finish of his car. (Basically, the area behind the dent houses the battery A/C unit, making the dent very difficult to access from the inside.)
  • Shape of the Dent.
  • Size of the Dent.

Paintless Dent Removal with a Hair Dryer and Compressed Air?

Heat Gun and a Can of Compressed Air

This PDR method/technique involves leveraging some scientific principles related to contraction and expansion of the metal. When a heat source is applied, the properties of metal naturally expand, and the subsequent application of a cold source causes the properties of the metal to naturally contract. Some refer to the application of heat and cold sources as "shock treatment" to the metal.

In this method, you first want to use a source of heat on your dent.

I have personally seen some use a hair dryer, however, others say that it is best to ONLY use a heat gun. While watching YouTube videos about PDR, I can't tell you how many videos I came across where the individual was using a hair dryer for PDR, however, comments left on the video essentially scolded the individual while telling them they should have used a heat gun. In my experience with my father, I only recall him ever using a heat gun.

If this method/technique is done correctly, you should first CAREFULLY apply heat to the entire dent. I capitalized the word "carefully" because this is just so critically important that you pay deliberate attention to what you are doing. While meant to help remove the dent, I have seen some damage their paint coat simply because they held the heat gun too close to the dent/metal surface, for too long. In this case, there is truly a fine line between where the heat causes the paint/metal to be flexible and where the paint will blister and become damaged.

Once heat is applied, you will want to apply cold through a computer compressed air cleaner. Again, once the heat has expanded the metal, the idea behind this method/technique is for the cold to simultaneously shrink and pop out the dent. The power behind compressed air is that it contains difluoroethane, which is used as refrigerant for air conditioners. One thing my father taught me about this method is to only spray the PERIMETER of the dent with the compressed cold air. I have seen so many people spray the entire surface area of the dent (inside and perimeter), but, unfortunately, this doesn't really leverage the scientific principles of expansion and contraction in the way required to actually pop the dent out.

Here are some types/brands of dual temperature heat guns that are currently available on the market today:

  • Genesis
  • Porter-Cable
  • Wagner Power Products
  • Capri Tools
  • Black and Decker
  • Dewalt
  • Pit Bull
  • Kawasaki
  • ETL
  • Grizzly
  • All Power America
  • Vaper
  • Steinel
  • CMT
  • Master Appliance
  • Anytime Tools
  • HF Tools
  • Nicole
  • NTE Electronics

As you can see, there is quite the market for heat guns.

The ones I listed may or may not be ALL the brands on the market.

Please feel free to answer my poll below.

After my poll, I have included a link where you can read more about the yellow Wagner brand heat gun. Through that link, though, you can find all the other brands, as well.

I included the Wagner brand heat gun there simply because, at the time of this writing, it was listed as the #1 Best Selling Heat Gun on Amazon.

Your Favorite Brand of Heat Gun?

What is your favorite brand of heat gun?

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Heat Gun and a Bucket of Cold Water (Heat and Quench Method)

As soon as you mention using a can of compressed air for the application of cold to your dent, you can rest assured that you will hear someone say something like "don't waste your money on compressed air....just use a bucket of cold water!"

The scientific principles in this method are essentially the same, except, here, you will be using a bucket of cold water, instead of the cold from a compressed air can. The idea behind this method/technique is that it will ultimately restrengthen the metal. Also, in a sequence and progression of methods used, you really shouldn't use the heat and quench method until after you have attempted to use other methods/techniques like: hot glue pulling, suction, and pull pins.

The main reason for this approach is because, unlike the other approaches mentioned, with this method you are really deliberately altering and changing the actual physical properties of the metal.

Propane Torch

As an alternative to heat application, other than a dual temperature heat gun, I have seen some people use a propane torch. Though possible to be regulated, propane torches have the ability to be heated up to a few hundred degrees. I will leave it up to your imagination as to what could happen to your car/truck's metal and paint finish should you not exercise extreme care.

After use of a propane torch, be sure to apply a cold source to the perimeter of your dent, as mentioned above, with either cold canned compressed air or a bucket of cold water.

Here are some types/brands of propane torches currently available on the market today:

  • Bernzomatic
  • Harbor Freight Tools
  • BonJour
  • Mag-Torch
  • Red Dragon
  • Worthington
  • Hot Max
  • Blazer
  •  HFT
  • Eastwood
  • ACE
  • Harris
  • Mr. Heater

Your Favorite Brand of Propane Torch?

What is your favorite brand of propane torch?

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PDR Training Options

While writing this article, I was surprised to learn just how prevalent PDR training was becoming. In fact, from what I can tell, these training programs are drastically increasing in popularity all around the world.

Indeed, there appears to be so many people who have been able to turn/translate their passion into a very lucrative business simply training others in how to do PDR.

I have found that there are several 'types' of people who gravitate towards this type of training:

  • The casual PDR enthusiast, who has alot of disposable income, and just simply wants to learn a new skill/trade.
  • The individual who just wants to be better armed with methods, techniques, tools, and solutions in order to address their OWN dents when they occur.
  • The individual who is fascinated by PDR, wants to hone/refine their craft, and, ultimately, turn it into a lucrative business. I have personally read stories where a skilled PDR technician has been able to charge $50-$100 or more, for just a few minutes work, with little or no product cost.

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