Dent repair can be extremely expensive, especially if you have to have the vehicle repainted after. If you have minor dents and dings in your vehicle, you may be able to remove them on your own using common hand tools or chemicals that can be purchased at many local retail stores. Remember, choosing to repair dents yourself may lead to damaged paint that can prove even most costly to repair in the long run. Assess whether or not you are able to repair a dent based on your comfort with the process and your ability with the tools required.
Repairing Dents with a Plunger
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Assess the size and location of the dent. Using a plunger to remove a dent works best on large, shallow dents in flat components of the body like the door or hood. Whether you use a toilet plunger or an automotive one designed for dent pulling, no plunger can remove creases from steel, they can only pop dents back out.
If the dent is smaller than a quarter, a plunger likely will not resolve it.
The flatter the body panel, the better the plunger method will work.
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Purchase a clean plunger. You can actually use a toilet plunger with a similar level of effectiveness for this method as you can a dent removing plunger purchased from an auto parts store. Plungers designed for dent removal may have a higher success rate with more difficult dents.
Use a clean plunger to avoid getting any kind of debris on the paint of your vehicle.
Automotive plungers are often quite a bit more expensive than toilet plungers.
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Moisten the rubber edge on the plunger. Use a bit of water and a rag to moisten the suction surface of the plunger. This will allow it to create a seal against the vehicle, which will enable you to pull up on the plunger to suck the metal back into shape.
Make sure to use clean, plain water to avoid damaging the paint.
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Position the plunger over the dent and press into the vehicle. If the dent is larger than the circumference of the plunger, start on the edges of the dent. If it is smaller than the plunger, place the plunger directly over the dent. Press the plunger into the vehicle.
You may need to repeat the process from multiple angles on larger dents.
When placing the plunger along the side of the dent, ensure the plunger is over both the dented and undented area.
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Pull out on the plunger repeatedly. Pull backward on the plunger in short, jerking motions just as you might when plunging a toilet. The plunger may pop off before the dent is removed, so prepare yourself to re-moisten the plunger and start again.
It may take multiple tries to suck a dent back out of the metal.
Short, quick motions will yield the best results when sucking dents out of steel.
Popping Out Dents with Dry Ice
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Assess the angle of the dent. Dry ice needs to be applied to the dent for a short time in order to effectively remove it, so it may work best on horizontal surfaces such as the hood, roof or trunk lid of the vehicle. If the dent is on the side, you will need to hold the dry ice in place with tongs.
You can purchase dry ice at many large retail stores or at office supply stores.
Dry ice works best on medium sized dents and may be less effective on large ones.
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Put on safety glasses and gloves. Always wear safety glasses and heavy duty gloves when handling dry ice. Because of the extreme temperatures involved, coming into contact with dry ice on bare skin could seriously hurt you.
Large rubber gloves and goggle style glasses are required for this project.
Do not open the dry ice package until you have adequate safety gear in place.
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Use tongs to place a bit of dry ice on the dent. Use a pair of long metal tongs to remove a chunk of dry ice and apply it directly to the dent. If the dent is on a horizontal surface, you may place the dry ice on it, otherwise you will need to hold it there. Allow the dry ice to contact the metal for thirty seconds to a minute before removing it again.
Be sure that if you are going to hold the dry ice in place that you use tongs and wear gloves to prevent ice burns.
Do not leave the dry ice on the paint for longer than a minute or it may damage it.
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Allow the dent to interact with the ambient air. After you remove the dry ice from the metal, the warmth from the ambient air will interact with the extreme cold created by the ice. This interaction will cause the metal to shift and pop out the dent.
The intense cold will cause the metal to retract then expand again as it warms.
This shift in temperature may pop the dent out.
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Repeat the process as necessary. Depending on the size and severity of the dent, you may need to apply the dry ice and allow it to warm again multiple times to remove the dent entirely. Repeat the process until the dent is gone.
Allow the metal to reach normal temperature again before re-applying dry ice.
Pay attention to the clear coat on the metal. If it begins to crack, stop applying dry ice immediately.
Pressing Out Dents from Behind
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Assess the location of the dent. Some dents are best accessed from behind. This is especially true for dents with very small diameters that are difficult to remove with other methods. Determine if the dent you intend to remove is located somewhere you can access by removing components of the body.
You will likely need to remove body components to access a dent from behind.
Determine if you can gain access to the dent based on the tools you have on hand and your level of expertise in removing and replacing body panels.
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Remove body components as necessary. Once you have identified what components of the body you will need to remove to gain access to the dent, lay down blankets on the ground for any painted pieces you will need to remove. You may also need to replace mud guards from the bottom of the vehicle, tail or headlights or the wheels.
Be careful not to lose any of the hardware used to fasten the body components to the vehicle that you remove.
Never lay painted components down on blacktop without a blanket or something to protect the paint.
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Locate the backside of the dent. Once you are able to access the back side of the dent, jack up the car if need be and find the dent from the inside. You may need a flashlight in order to see the inside of the dent.
Locate the dent and position yourself so you can reach it.
You may need to try multiple positions in order to apply the leverage you need to the dent.
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Apply pressure to the back of the dent. For larger dents, you may be able to apply pressure to the inside with your hands to pop the dent back out. Dents with smaller diameters may require that you press into them with a harder surface such as the handle to a hammer.
Attempt to press the dent back out before resorting to using a mallet.
There is less chance of damaging the metal by applying pressure than there is in striking at it with a mallet.
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Use a wooden mallet covered in a cloth to bang on the dent. Wrap a cloth around the head of a wood mallet to soften the striking surface, then hit the inside of the dent with the mallet. You may need to hit the dent repeatedly in order to knock it back out.
Be careful not to bang on the interior metal from an angle or the side of the mallet may create small creases in the metal.
Do not continue to hammer on the metal after the dent pops out or you could cause the metal to bow outward slightly.
Using Glue Dent Pullers
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Plug the glue gun in. Glue based dent pullers use traditional glue guns to heat the glue before applying it to the vehicle. You will need to plug the gun in a few minutes before you start in order to heat the gun up enough to melt the glue.
Be sure to use an extension cord that can reach the vehicle for the glue gun.
You will need to re-wax the vehicle after using this method.
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Choose the pulling tab best suited for the dent. Using a glue based dent remover kit purchased from an auto parts store, choose the tab that best fits the dent you are trying to pull. Usually, you want to use a tab that fits entirely within the dent so it pulls directly from the center point.
Follow the directions in your dent pulling kit so help you determine which tab is right for your application.
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Apply glue to the tab, then place the tab in the center of the dent. Apply a dab of hot glue to the tab of your choice, then quickly place the tab, glue side down, in the center of the dent. Hold the tab in place for a moment to allow the glue to set.
It’s okay if some of the glue squeezes out the sides of the tab when you apply it.
Hold the tab in place until the glue dries enough to hold itself up.
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Attach the pulling mechanism to the tab. Slide the pulling mechanism bracket over the tab with the two posts on either side of the dent. If the kit came with multiple brackets, ensure you use one that is longer than the diameter of the dent so the posts are at least a half inch from the start of the dent on either side.
The posts need to be outside the dent in order to pull the dent out.
If the bracket is not wider than the dent, this method will not work for you.
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Turn the knob until the dent pops out. Place the knob on the end of the tab that’s glued to the center of the dent. Turn the knob clockwise to tighten it, drawing the glued tab toward the bracket and pulling the metal with it. Continue to turn the knob until the dent pops out.
The glue may give way as you turn the knob. If this occurs, remove the old glue and begin the process again.
You may need to repeat this method on more than one spot to remove the entire dent.
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Remove the glue with isopropyl alcohol. Peel any loose glue off with your fingers, then use rubbing alcohol to help remove any glue or residue remaining. This will likely remove the wax, and possibly even the clear coat from your paint, so be sure to apply a fresh coat of wax as soon as possible.
The glue and the alcohol are both harsh on paint, so be sure to wash and wax the vehicle after using them.
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Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and getting a dent in your car or truck. Even if you're as careful as possible, you can't always account for runaway shopping carts, wrongly thrown footballs, out-of-nowhere light posts, and other real-life annoyances.
However you got your dent or ding, the next thing on your mind is, undoubtedly, how to get it out. Sure, you can take it to a body shop or friendly neighborhood mechanic for repair, but their price quotes can be unbelievable, especially if they want to remove the paint first or use body filler. $200 for that tiny dent?! I don't think so.
Instead, save yourself some of that hard-earned money and do it yourself. There are plenty of ways to get a small dent or ding out of a vehicle at home without ruining your paint, and you don't need to be a gearhead to do it.
However, not all of these tricks will work on your particular automobile; your mileage may vary depending on where the dent is and what your body panel, hood, or bumper is made of (aluminum, carbon fiber, plastic, fiberglass, steel, etc.). For instance, aluminum has little memory properties, so paintless dent removal is much more difficult.
Method 1Use a Plunger
Not only can you unclog a drain with a plunger, but you can also get out small- to medium-sized dents out of your car too. Just splash some water on both the plunger and the dent and start pushing and pulling until it pops out. Make sure to use a cup plunger (for sinks), not a flange one (for toilets).
How to Get a Dent Out of a Car Using Just a Plunger
Method 2Use Boiling Water
Reversing into an object is one of the easiest ways to get a dent. So for plastic bumpers, even if you attempt to take off the bumper, it might still be difficult to push out the dent because of how stiff the plastic is. Solve this issue by boiling some water in a pot and throwing it on the dent.
How to Remove Dents from a Car Bumper with Boiled Water
As soon as you've poured the water, reach behind the bumper and try to pop the dent back in. Thanks to the heat of the water, the plastic should be a bit more flexible, making it easier to put back into place.
Since the heat won't last very long, you'll have to work quickly. If the dent doesn't completely go out, keep dumping boiling water on it until you've popped it all the way back out.
Method 3Use a Hair Dryer & Compressed Air
Another popular method for removing car dents out of plastic material involves using two popular household products: a hair dryer and compressed air.
Start off by heating the car dent with the hair dryer at its highest temperature, which will expand the plastic of the car. As soon as it's hot enough, grab the can of compressed air, turn it upside down, and begin spraying that same area. Since the cold air will cause the plastic to contract, the dent will pop out.
How to Remove a Vehicle Dent with a Hair Dryer & Compressed Air
How to Fix Your Car Dent with a Hair Dryer & Canned Air
How to Fix a Car Dent with a Hair Dryer & Freezing Agent
(1) A heat gun, hair dyer, or lighter will work. (2) Then just use canned air.
Images by Yagelski/YouTube
Method 4Use Dry Ice
Primarily used as a cooling agent, dry ice can be used to get out small dents from your car. As long as you're wearing protective gloves, hold down a piece of dry ice on the dent and rub it around until you hear your dent pop back into place.
How to Fix a Car Dent with Dry Ice
Apply the dry ice as many times as you need to, but it should pop out eventually if the dent isn't too deep. You can also try heating up the dent first, with something like a hair dryer (similar to the hairdryer and compressed air tip above), and then apply the dry ice to it.
Method 5Use a Vacuum Cleaner & Pot
Suction is one way to get out a dent, but the problem is finding a dent puller with the right amount of power. Well, why not just create your own? All you need is a pot (or bucket), a vacuum cleaner and some tape and you can get that dent out of your car in no time.
How to Get a Car Dent Out with a Pot & Vacuum Cleaner
Simply make a small hole underneath the pot, tape the pot around the dent, place the vacuum cleaner hose over the hole under the pot, and turn on your vacuum. If the dent isn't too shallow, the suction created should pop out your dent.
Method 6Use Hot Glue, Wooden Dowels, & Screws
When you attempt to take out dents yourself, you always put the risk that you might further damage your car, whether you make the dent worse or chip the paint. A safe way of trying to take out big dents on your car is by using several wooden dowels, a few screws, and a hot glue gun.
How to Fix a Huge Dent in Your Car Without Ruining the Paint Job
Simply place two nails into each side of the dowel and put the hot glue on the bottom. Place the dowels glue-side down in areas around the dent, repeat as many times as needed to cover the area, let them dry, and pull each one out until the dent is gone.
Place and pull the same dowels in several different places across the dent until most of it comes out. If you're going to try this method, make sure that you have enough glue and some patience. Use rubbing alcohol or heat to detach the glue from the car.
Method 7Use a Long Metal Rod & Knockdown
When a dent happens on your car, the metal not only goes inward, the surrounding edges of the dent also go upward, creating something like a small volcano. That means that popping the dent out from underneath is not the way to go.
How to Get Out Car Dents & Dings Without Damaging Your Paint Job
George Gjokaj, a master Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) technician, fixes dents by going to work on both sides of the dent. By using a combination of a long metal rod underneath it and a knockdown or tap down tool (wooden or rubber) on the top side, he can completely get the dent out of the car. And boy, does it work.
Method 8Use a Specialty Tool
If you're not having any success with any of the above methods, you could also try a Pops-a-Dent, or a suction cup dent remover tool.
Which Way Worked Best for You?
If you're willing to try anything and don't have a ton of tools at home, grab a dent removal kit, which contains tools specially created to remove car dents using many of the methods detailed above.
Did you give any of these methods a try, or did you end up biting the bullet and hiring an auto body shop to do the work for you? If you used a different DIY method for removing dents and dings from your vehicle, make sure to let us know below!