There’s nothing better than a shiny new car, and on the flip side, there’s nothing worse than an unsightly dent to spoil that clean look. Be it a parking lot door slam, errant shopping cart or all manner of flying road debris, there are numerous ways your car can take a hit. Learning how to get a dent out of a car is a skill that can help make your car look like new and help save you some serious money.
We’ll go over the process of removing dents from your car with a variety of proven techniques.
How to get a dent out of a car
To be clear, getting a dent out of a car is not an easy task for the uninitiated. It takes a good amount of force to cause a dent and will take just as much force to remove it. In addition, you’ll also need to worry about keeping your paint job in good condition during the dent removal process.
Bottom line, if you don’t feel comfortable up front, stop and call in the professionals. If you think you’re up for the challenge of removing a dent from a car, then let’s discuss how to get it done the right way. There are multiple methods you can try depending on the location and severity of the dent.
Dent removal tool
For novice dent removers, there are dozens of dent removal tools on the market that do a great job of popping out pesky dents. In general, these types of dent removal kits usually come with a variety of tools and implements that are designed for specific types of dents:
- Pulling style: This is the most common dent removal implement. It consists of a plastic tab that’s attached with a special glue, or a suction cup that attaches to the dent itself. Once attached, force is applied in the opposite direction and the dent is pulled out. These devices typically brace themselves with rubber feet against the body of the car as you pull the dent out from the panel.
- Hammer style: These kits take a more deft hand because you’ll be using a small punch and small hammer to tap on the body panel next to the dent to pop out the dent itself. This works great for small dents.
- Rod style: Some dents will pop easier if they’re pushed from inside of the panel and rod-style dent removers use long, steel rods to push on the inside of the panel to get the dents removed. This product takes some skill but it can be effective once you learn to use it.
When selecting the right tool, you’ll want to keep in mind that the size of the dent matters. If it’s tiny, try using a hammer-style kit. If it’s a big one, try using a pull kit or plunger.
Believe it or not, that plunger sitting in your bathroom is a great tool for removing dents in your car. Much like the pulling-style dent remover kits, all a plunger needs is a good solid connection to the surface of your car and a hearty pull from the user to pull out medium-sized dents. The trick here is to get both surfaces wet to get a solid connection and to use a cup-style plunger and not the flange style that many people use on their toilets.
Get the plunger and your car wet, stick it to the surface and start plunging. Once you hear that satisfying “pop,” you’ll know that the job is done.
The methods mentioned above work great for metal, but many parts on the exterior of your vehicle are not made of metal but are made of composite materials instead. Your bumper, for example, is most assuredly made of plastic or fiberglass. Repairing a dent on these materials, which are designed to collapse on impact, is often tackled by using boiling water. Hot water makes the stiff material malleable, allowing you to pop out that unsightly dent.
With this method, you pour boiling water over the dent and then reach behind or underneath the bumper to push it out. You’ll need to use great caution with boiling water as well as work quickly since the effect of the boiling water won’t last long. But even serious dents in composite or plastic materials can be remedied with this method.
Hair dryer/compressed air
This method sounds like it’s straight out of a science fair, but it works great on composite materials like your bumper.
Take a hairdryer and place the flow of hot air right on a medium-sized dent for several minutes, moving the airflow back and forth across the dent. Then, grab a can of compressed air, like the kind you clean that nasty keyboard with, flip it upside down and spray the dent. You’ll get supercooled air out of the can, and once this cold air hits the hot surface, it will instantly shrink and cause the dent to pop.
Wooden dowels and hot glue
Although applying hot glue to the surface of your car may seem like a terrible idea, this method isn’t too far off what they do in professional body shops.
You’ll need wooden dowels that are anywhere from 1 to 2 inches in diameter and 3 to 4 inches in length. You can pick these up, along with the glue and glue gun, at any craft or hardware store. Next, you’ll want to run a long wood screw through the middle of the dowel to give yourself something to grip when you pull. Glue on the dowels onto your car directly around the dent, not right on it. A good rule of thumb is to place a total of four dowels, above, below and to each side of the dent.
Next, let the glue cool for about 20 minutes. Once cool, you’ll have to start the process of yanking the dowels to pop the dent. Do this systematically, starting with two opposite dowels at the same time. It may take some force and some time, but eventually, the dent may let go, and then you can pop off the hot glue with a plastic spatula or melt it off with a hair dryer.
What not to do when removing dents
If you’re using a dent removal kit, you need to follow the instructions exactly. If you don’t, you could end up doing more damage to your car. At the very least, you’ll be left disgruntled and frustrated because you wasted your time and likely left yourself with a huge mess to clean up.
Never ever apply dry ice to the bare surface of your paint. If you do this, your paint and panel can be damaged and require an expensive replacement. If you do use a heat gun instead of a hairdryer, keep in mind that overheating an area can lead to paint damage. You want it hot, but not so hot that the paint can’t handle the heat.
Lastly, understand that not all dents will come out easily (or at all) and that you may need to make a few passes at the dent to try and remove them. Small, deep dents are some of the toughest to get out and often require multiple pull applications or lots of hammering to remove.
If you feel like these methods aren’t working or if you just feel out of your element, call the experts and get your car in for professional dent repair.
How much does it cost to fix a car dent?
Whether the above methods failed or you just aren’t comfortable repairing the dent yourself, the cost to repair a car dent depends on the size, location and severity of the dent. A small ding on a flat body panel like the hood can cost as little as $50 and require no paint or other repairs.
The more severe the dent and the less convenient the body panel, the higher the cost. A large, deep dent that requires sanding and painting could run as much as $1,000 for good quality bodywork. And if a panel can’t be saved, expect to pay several hundred dollars or more for a replacement.
Hail damage, which tends to create several minor to moderate dents, can cost as much as $2,500 to repair due to all the necessary labor. That’s why, depending on the value, hail damage can effectively total the car.
Performing DIY dent repair can save you some serious money vs bringing your car to a professional shop. Depending on the size and location of the dent, you may need to utilize more than one method to get the job done right, but your diligence can pay off by keeping more money in your pocket.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you push out a dent?
Yes, you can push out a dent from the inside of a bumper or other panel on your vehicle. Online retailers sell rod kits to get the job done the right way.
Will boiling water damage car paint?
No, boiling water will not damage car paint. The exterior of a car has coatings and finishes that can withstand high temperatures and debris.
How do you fix a big dent in a car door?
To fix a large dent in a car door, use a professional dent removal kit or a standard cup plunger. Either of these methods are used for removing large dents in metal car doors. If you happen to have a fiberglass door, consider using boiling water to soften up the panel or a blow dryer to make the panel more malleable before popping the dent with the plunger.