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Repairing dents without denting your wallet

Dents are a pain but don’t despair – many can be fixed without an expensive visit to a bodyshop. The amount it’ll cost you (around £50 to £100 for up to four dents on a panel) is money well spent compared to the amount of money a buyer may try to haggle you down by if they’re left untreated. Removing dents will also help improve the offers you receive for your car on Tootle.

Incredibly, removing a dent doesn’t require sheets of sandpaper, pots of body filler and a paint brush. It can be done with a few metal rods by a trained professional. That’s why it’s called ‘Paintless Dent Removal’, or PDR. Best of all, it can be done at your home or place of work, so you aren’t inconvenienced.

There are many companies and independent experts providing paintless dent removal but we asked Stuart Stevens of Axy-Dent, founder of one of the UK’s leading independent dent removal companies, who has taken dents out of cars on the hit TV show Wheeler Dealers to tell us more about the process.

How is it done?

I use special rods and levers inserted behind the affected panel to massage the dent out. Metal stretches when it is dented so the operation is a delicate one that requires great patience and care so that the metal can be coaxed back to its original shape.

Some dents are hard to lever out so I might glue a ‘plug’ to the dent and pull it out. Job done, I remove the plug and just gently tap the panel into shape if it has been pulled out too far.

Dents can be tricky to see, so to help me achieve a smooth finish and restore the panel’s original profile, I attach special lighting and sighting aids to the car.

What dents can be repaired?

It depends where on the car they are. As long as I can get behind a dent I can probably fix it. Dents on doors, wings and bonnets are repairable. To treat a roof dent I’ll remove the headlining to get behind it. I can even fix big, dinnerplate-sized dents on bonnets and roofs where vandals have walked over them.

What dents can’t be repaired?

Dents on box sections such as sills and on the roof rails (the strengthened area above the windscreen and door pillars) are often not possible to repair. Some rear wheelarches are difficult to work on because they’re double-skinned. Deep, sharp-edged dents are hard to eradicate, too.

Can deeper dents be repaired?

Where the metal has been seriously stretched by a severe dent, I may have to work on both sides of the panel in order to ‘de-stress’ it. I’ll use soft plastic or polished steel tools to move areas of metal towards the low or dented area. It can, at times, look quite a brutal process but it’s about managing the metal’s elasticity so that the original profile can be restored.

Can anyone do it?

It takes three years to become an expert PDR technician and then you’re only just beginning. It’s an incredibly skilled job and there’s no harsher critic of your work than the customer.

How do you find a good paintless dent repair technician?

There are many big companies to choose from but you can’t always be sure what training their technicians have had. Instead, I’d use a good independent who stands or falls by the quality of his work. You can find them by asking your local car dealer which PDR technician they use. Recommendation is the key.

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