What’s the Best Way to Fix a Dent in Your Car?

We’ve all done it — pulled into a parking spot a little too fast and dinged the fender, or watched as a rogue shopping cart made its way across the parking lot to put a nice dent on the side of our car. Almost everyone’s been in some kind of “fender bender”, or minor traffic accident where there were no serious injuries or damage, just an unsightly dent on the body of our automobile.

What’s the best way to fix a dent in your car?

Most of the time, minor dents just aren’t worth the expense of taking the car to a body shop. Not only is the shop going to charge you for any parts used in repairing your car, but you’re going to pay hefty labor fees, and even if it only takes thirty minutes to fix the dent in your side panel, at $70 or $80 per hour, the labor costs can add up. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can repair minor dents in your car without having to hand your wallet over the body shop.

If you’re a bit handy, you can take care of the problem on your own at very little expense. Commercial dent and ding repair kits exist just for this purpose — they include everything you might need to fix a minor dent, except perhaps for a bit of paint or primer, depending on the kit.

Many of these kits use suction cups or similar devices, giving you the advantage of eliminating the need to drill holes in the finish of your car to remove a dent.

If your dent is a bit on the large side, or if you aren’t willing to put your faith in the commercial dent repair kit, you’ll need to follow a few steps, and pick up a few items you may not already have around the garage, in order to get the job done.

Repairing Your Car Dent

fix-dent-car

For instance, before getting started on repairing your car dent, you’ll need to borrow or purchase a dent pulling kit or dent pulling tool, along with an item known as a “dolly” — essentially a piece of equipment which is designed for flattening and reshaping metal. A metalworking hammer will be necessary as well. If you don’t have a handy friend you can borrow these items from, you can rent them from car part shops, or buy them outright for future dent repair.

Besides the dent pulling tool, dolly and the metalworking hammer, be sure you have the following tools and equipment on hand —

  • power drill
  • 1/8″ drill bit
  • medium grit disk attachment for power drill
  • body filler
  • 36-grit sandpaper
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • 600-grit sandpaper
  • spray primer
  • matching automotive paint

Home Car Dent Repair Steps

These are the steps needed to complete a home car dent repair :

  1. Measure the dent and locate the center.
  2. Drill a hole in the dent with a 1/8″ drill bit. If you’d rather not use a power drill, don’t have one on hand, or are afraid to drill into your car’s body, you can use a hot glue gun to glue a plastic dent pulling adapter to the center of the dent. These adapters and also the glue guns are included in many of the aforementioned dent removal kits. You’re likely to have more success using a drill, but if you’re not handy with tools or are looking for a quick fix, the plastic adaptor method will suffice.
  3. With your dent pulling tool, thread through the newly drilled hole. If you’re using the plastic adaptor method, attach the dent pulling tool to the plastic circle that you’ve hot glued on the dent.
  4. After the dent pulling tool is in place, apply pressure in order to flatten the dent or “pull it out”. What you’re left with will be an unsightly bulge in your car’s body, most likely with the paint chipped or rubbed completely off. But — the dent is out, and you’re on your way to fixing it.
  5. While holding the dolly firmly against the back of the dent, carefully hammer the front of the dent using the metalworking hammer. To get at the dent, you might have to crawl underneath the car, or open the trunk or hood to access the location of the dent. Either way, you want the hammer to be hitting the body of the car with the dolly on the other side. Think of it as a car body sandwich, with your hammer and the dolly as the bread.
  6. Once the dent has been hammered out, and the car body looks the way it did before it was dinged, use a medium grit disk mounted on a drill to grind the remaining paint down to bare metal.
  7. You should grind at least one inch of paint down around the dent and scratched paint itself. This will allow for a more natural look.
  8. Fill the entire ground down area with auto body filler. Allow the filler to dry completely before moving on.
  9. Starting with 36-grit sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood, sand the area you’ve just filled with body filler. After finishing up with the 36-grit paper, you can either work your way up to a 120-grit sandpaper, or go straight for the 120-grit — the idea is to smooth out the body filler so it looks like the dent was never there. The more time you take with this step, the better the repaired dent will look.
  10. Once you’ve sanded the body filler completely, use a spraypaint style primer to “prime” the area to be painted. Be sure to use a primer that is specially designed for automotive use, as the kind of primer you’d use on your home simply won’t work here. When priming your car’s body, use as many as seven coats of primer, though five or six will do in a pinch. Allow each coat of primer to dry completely before you apply the next coat.
  11. Back to the sandpaper. Sand the primer using a 600-grit wet and dry sandpaper. The idea here is to remove any scratches.
  12. You’re almost done. All that’s left is to match your primed and sanded area to the color of the rest of your car. Matching automotive paint can be difficult — ask for help at the local parts or paint store. If the paint is not smooth after you’ve applied it, resand and repaint the area until you have a smooth surface.

    It isn’t as easy as simply driving your car into the body shop for every dent and scratch you get — but if you invest in the proper tools and paint, you can save a ton of money over time doing your own minor body work at home. Besides, the sense of pride you get from repairing your car on your own is worth the sweat and the effort. The next time you find yourself with a minor dent in your car’s body, don’t fret. Between the commercial kits and the above steps, you won’t have to waste time and money at the body shop.