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!
If you follow these steps, you can patch a car dent yourself in just an afternoon and save a few hundred bucks over body shop prices.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
DIY dent repair
We’ve patched quite a few car dents in our day. We used to do it the same way we tape drywall, by applying 5 lbs. of body filler and then sanding off 4.9 lbs. Then we went to “boot camp” at 3M and learned there’s an easier way (as in, the correct way) to do car dent repair.
We asked 3M expert Jenn Cook to walk you through the same car dent repair process. Once the car dent repair is patched, you just spray on a primer coat and matching paint from the dealer or an auto parts store. The repair won’t look like a professional job, but at least it won’t stand out like a sore thumb. Here’s the process.
Meet the expert
Jenn Cook is a Senior Technical Service Engineer at 3M. She spends her days helping body shops solve problems to get the best results for their customers.
Photo of Jenn Cook, 3M Senior Technical Service Engineer
Pick up supplies
Stop at any auto parts store and buy a 24-grit sanding wheel and sheets of 80-, 180- and 320-grit sandpaper. Also buy a bottle of wax remover, a tack cloth, a mixing board, several plastic spreaders and a tube of finishing glaze.
Finally, you’ll need body filler. Professional-grade filler is creamier and easier to spread and sand than bargain-priced products, so it’s worth the extra cost. One choice is Bondo Professional Gold Filler.
Prep and clean before filling
Fix Car Dents Yourself
Remove the paint
Chuck the 24-grit disc into your drill and spin it deep into the dent, getting all the way down to the metal. Then work your way out to the edges.
Start by removing the paint inside and around the dent with 24-grit paper. Switch to 80-grit sandpaper and hand-sand the entire dent. Use the same sandpaper to rough up and feather the paint around the edges of the dent. Clean the entire area with wax remover and a clean rag. Then wipe with a tack cloth.
Mix the filler
Fix Car Dents Yourself
Spread, scoop and fold
Spread the filler down the mixing board in an S-shaped curve. Then scoop it up and fold it over. Repeat until the filler has a consistent color.
Don’t mix body filler on a scrap piece of cardboard. Instead, use a mixing board or an old, clean cookie sheet you’re willing to toss.
Scoop filler onto the mixing board and apply the hardener according to the directions. Then mix it using a spread-and-fold motion. The spreading and folding technique fully mixes the hardener into the filler and prevents air bubbles from forming. Never stir the mixture.
Apply the filler
Fix Car Dents Yourself
Apply a “tight” first coat
Scoop up some filler and press it hard into the rough metal.
Spread the filler to form a “tight” coat. That will burp air out of the scratches and wet the bare metal. Then apply a fill coat.
Sand to shape and glaze
Fix Car Dents Yourself
Sand the glaze
Hand-sand the glaze with 180-grit and then 320-grit sandpaper to get a smooth finish. Then prime and paint.
Sand the filler to match the contours of the car body using 80- and 180-grit sandpaper. Then feather the edges of the filler right up to the painted edge.
Next, apply finishing glaze to the entire patch and then sand with 180- grit and then 320-grit sandpaper. Spray the patch with primer, and then paint it.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY car dents repair project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.