How To Fix Dings & Dents Without Paint - Painless Because It's Paint Less
Fix Dings And Dents Without Having To Repaint!
From the February, 2000 issue of Mopar Muscle
By Brad Ocock
For us, we have to admit to having a soft spot for original, unrestored survivor cars. They're never as perfect as their restored brethren, but that might be part of their allure. Original, low mileage cars have been given the name "Survivors," and with good reason. Not only have they survived the daily pitfalls, wear, tear and mishaps that befall a car during the course of its life, but they've also survived being restored to as-delivered (and often better-than delivered) condition. Sure, the engine may be dirty and grimy, the suspension parts are rusty, the paint has seen better days, and the interior may have a few loose threads, but think about this: you can restore a car over and over (and many people do), but a car can only be original once. There's a history there that can't be dupli-cated-it may be able to be preserved, it can certainly be lost, but never duplicated.
Jeff Johnson owns Classic Events, which puts on the Chrysler Classic shows in the Midwest. Jeff is also lucky enough to own an original, unrestored Formal Black '72 340 Road Runner with less than 30,000 miles on the clock. Like all original cars, this one has a couple of flaws, the most noticeable being several door dings on the sides, but is otherwise a beautiful car. With an original car, you just accept dings and such, and don't really give them much thought. And owners of survivors rightfully never consider bodywork. But what about the option of making minor repairs if no paint is harmed? It is possible.
We had heard of paintless dent removal, but had never found a good candidate for demonstration. Jeff's black car seemed like the ideal demo model, and he was definitely excited about the prospect of getting rid of the dings in his beautiful factory black paint. We found a Dent Wizard franchise in Columbus (they're a national chain), and set up this story with them.
There are several things to understand when dealing with paintless dent repair. The first is the physics behind what makes a dent in sheetmetal, and how to remove it. When a dent is made, the metal is pushed and stretched out of shape. The Dent Wizard process is unique, because rather than fix the metal in the traditional way of hammering it back into shape, they use specialized tools and push the metal back into shape from behind the dent, reversing the forces that created the dent. While it takes only one action to create a dent, the Dent Wizard process uses dozens of small pushes from behind, working the metal back into its original shape. Because the dent repair is slow, gentle, and gradual, the original paint isn't stressed and maintains its adhesion to the metal. If the paint wasn't broken by the forces that made the dent, Dent Wizard can save it during the repair.
Because the Dent Wizard process pushes the original metal back into shape, the process cannot be used on panels that have plastic body filler on them, as pushing the dent out from behind will separate the filler from the metal. With extremely careful evaluation of Jeff's car, they discovered that the driver's side door had a factory repair made to it, evidenced by nearly undetectable sanding marks below the paint. The car is known to never have had any body work done by the previous owners, and the paint is all perfectly matched. It wasn't uncommon for a car to go to the factory body shop right from the assembly line to fix imperfections, and we suspect this was the case with this car, especially since it's black and shows any flaws more easily. A new car dealer wouldn't have wanted to take delivery of a brand new black car with an imperfection in the driver's side door, where customers were sure to see it. Because of potential filler on the panel, Dent Wizard would not have made any repairs to the area were there any dents.
This is why black cars almost...
This is why black cars almost never get on the cover of a magazine-no other color is as mirror-like, so reflections are the major concern. And, as this photo shows, the dent stands out. That's what made Jeff's car so perfect for this story. There were nine or ten dings on the car (one a really nasty crease), and had the car been any other color, it wouldn't have been bad. But since it is black, they stood out. For reference of the location of this dent, note the location of the emblem at the edge of the photograph above (arrow).
Here you can see how deep...
Here you can see how deep the dent was. At its center, it was about 1/8-inch deep, and was crater shaped, almost like it had been hit with a punch. But the paint wasn't broken.
This is the part that really...
This is the part that really hurts-the owner, not the car. Because they are pushing on the back of the panel with a tool shaped like the pick end of a body man's hammer, small high spots are created on the outside of the panel, which have to be knocked down. This is accomplished with a small punch with a mirror-polished, rounded face. The punch is then whacked with a hammer, taking down the high spots on the panel. Because the face of the punch is mirror polished there are no imperfections to dig into the paint. Jeff Johnson, the car's owner, visibly flinched every time Master Technician Jason Cook hit the punch with his hammer. He finally had to turn away.
This is the quarter panel...
This is the quarter panel after the paintless dent repair. Reference the spot above the Road Runner's head at the bottom of the first photo, and try to find the dent. Notice that there are absolutely no waves in any of the reflections. We searched from several angles, and could find no evidence of the dent. Jason initially wasn't sure he'd be able to get the dent out this perfectly, but he kept at it. Also, the thickness of the vintage metal is about twice that of the newer cars he's used to working on, so it took a bit more effort than he originally thought. The dent was gone in about 20 minutes.
Dent Wizard technicians have...
Dent Wizard technicians have a whole kit of specialized tools used for repairs, and the process is as non-intrusive as possible. They don't remove any panels, glass, or interior parts while repairing a dent. One tool is this hard foam wedge used to hold the window weatherstripping out of the way. The block is rigid, but its surface is soft, so as not to mark whatever component it is used on.The Dent Wizard process is based on a series of small pushes from the back side of the dent, using a leverage point elsewhere on the vehicle, in this instance using the back side of the window frame.
The dimple in the driver's...
The dimple in the driver's side quarterpanel was the only dent on that side of the car. Time wasn't as kind to the passenger side, as there were several small dings in the door, the worst of which was this crease around the door lock. Though it doesn't show well in this picture, the crease actually went through the lock and extended about half an inch on the front side of the lock. The paint, however, was not broken.
The process was much cheaper than we would have thought, too. We wouldn't begin to know what type of value to put on fixing a survivor, but $500 for all the dents seems more than fair. And there is really no telling how it increases the car's value-the car is still original, it's never been repainted, but now it doesn't have a single ding or dent, and its original black paint is perfect. After the repairs, Jeff circled the car and couldn't find where the dents were.
The folks at Dent Wizard don't do much work on original muscle cars because, frankly, there aren't that many left. They deal mainly with brand new sheetmetal, doing work for insurance companies and car dealerships. Recently, they removed dents from several hundred cars damaged by a huge hail storm. They'll also come right to your driveway to work on your new 300M. So, if you have a survivor, a new car, or some knuckle head in the parking lot just put a dent in your car where you know there was no filler, you might want to think about contacting Dent Wizard to make the fix.
We'd like to thank Dent Wizard of Columbus, Ohio, and Master Technician JasonCook for helping us with this story.
Jason was very confident in...
Jason was very confident in his abilities, but even after watching him take out the dimple from the driver's side, we didn't think he could make the crease disappear. Here you can see his progress after about 15 minutes. At this point, we couldn't see any evidence of the crease, but Jason was still fine tuning it. To his trained eye, the reflections indicated that the area needed a bit more work. Circled is a dent that, when made, actually chipped the color coat of paint. Jason has already removed the dent. The primer wasn't broken, and wasn't harmed during the repair, nor did the color coat chip further. Jeff may touch up the two small chips, but he hadn't given it much thought at this point.
This is the passenger door...
This is the passenger door after the crease was removed from in front of and behind the door lock, in addition to three other dings taken out of the door.
A minute dent in the deck...
A minute dent in the deck lid was accessed from behind through this hole in the brace. Fortunately, the dent was in the right spot and Jason was able to reach it. On new cars, these inner panels are swiss cheesed, so finding an access hole usually isn't a problem.
Here is a dent on the top...
Here is a dent on the top of the fender. We lined up the reflection of the radio antenna to illustrate it. After the repair, you can see that the top of the fender is smooth as glass.
Dent Wizard charges on a per-dent...
Dent Wizard charges on a per-dent basis, and they have standardized templates that they lay over a dent to judge its size, and then charge accordingly. The total to remove the dents from this 29,000 mile, original unrestored '72 Road Runner was $515.00. For that small investment, the exterior of the car is flawless, and every body panel is as straight as the day it left the factory.Unless you can be certain your car has no filler, this process might not be for your muscle car. But it's certain to come in handy on your newer vehicle.