Car Dent Repair: Tips on How to Remove Dents from Your Car

We’ve all been there, annoyed at being the recipient of either our own or someone else’s carelessness, looking at a dent that’s marring our car. An autobody shop might charge you hundreds of dollars to fix a couple small dents, so why not give it a shot yourself? Read on for some dent-removal tips so that you can learn how to take out dents in cars and tackle your own cosmetic issues, without paying the immense cost a shop will charge. 

Getting Started 

The first step in any car dent repairing process is a thorough wash and dry of the car. You want to be able to clearly see the dented area that you will be repairing. 

Start by rinsing the area that you’ll be working on, before applying lots of soapy, warm water and washing with a clean microfiber cloth. Start from the highest point of the vehicle and work your way down, going from the cleanest area to the dirtiest, and make sure to rinse the cloth a lot, to avoid scratching the paint with grit caught up in the fibers. Rinse the vehicle thoroughly and dry it with another clean microfiber cloth. 

Prepare all your tools and get started on the dent-removal process. 

What tools you will need 

SureBilt Aluminum Dent Puller

A quick YouTube search will show lots of folks doing interesting and sometimes questionable car dent repair, but the best dent removal craftsmen seem to have a fairly consistent set of tools. Here are some of the highlights for paintless dent removal (PDR): 

  • A heat source. You can use a heat gun, propane torch, or even a hairdryer, but be careful if you use a torch or heat gun. Overheating the area can damage the paint and leave you worse off. 
  • Good lighting, and possibly reflective LED line boards. You’ll need to have great lighting in your work area, with the ability to shift the position of the light source across the dented area. This is necessary to check the contour of the dent and compare it with the undented surrounding area. An LED line board has embedded LED lights, along with black and usually yellow lines that can really help to highlight the smallest details of the dented area. 
  • Dent removal rods. Dent removal experts use these tools to access the back of the dent, though access holes in the body or doors of the vehicle.  
  • A plastic-tipped hammer, for smoothing out some of the smaller creases or bumps that will appear throughout the process. 
  • Knock-down punches are small punches with removable tips that you can use in conjunction with your hammer to knock down high spots. 
  • Slide hammer. You can use a slide hammer for some dent removal, using either glue-on tabs, welded studs, or by drilling a hole in the center of the dent and screwing the slide hammer into the hole.  
  • Glue gun and glue tabs. A glue-on tab, whether purchased or homemade, can provide effective, constant pressure to release dents from the outside. Be aware that using hot glue on your body work can actually pull the paint right off, so proceed with caution. 

If you prefer to go the putty-and-paint route you can use Bondo and do a traditional dent removal. Check out this article on fixing dents with Bondo

How to repair a small dent 

Person using a dent puller to remove a dent
Removing dent

Once your dented area is thoroughly washed and dried you can get started on your small dent removal.  

1. Get a Clear Angle

Start by setting up your lights at an oblique angle so that you can clearly see the dent and the surrounding area.

2. Apply Heat

Use a heat source to warm up the dented area and relax the metal before you start to work on it, but be careful not to get too hot, or you could permanently damage the paint. You’ll probably need to apply heat at intervals throughout the repair, so keep the heat source handy.

3. If Dent is Accessible from the Rear

If the dent is easily accessible from the rear, you can try using your hammer to tap it out. Start with light taps and make sure to contact the metal with the flat part of the hammer head, to avoid created any unintended creases.

4. If the Dent is Inside a Body Panel or Door

If the dent is inside a body panel or door, you can use a dent removal rod to work the back of the dent. Start with bigger tips on the rods and work your way down to the finer tips.

5. Use a Slide Hammer

Depending on the shape of the dent, you might be able to use a slide hammer with glue tabs to pull out a section. Don’t get too aggressive with the slide hammer to start with, but instead, begin with smaller attacks so that you can gauge how much force to use.

6. Use Knock-Down Punches

Throughout the process, you will want to use your knock-down punches to back off any areas that have come up past the normal body contour. Be patient!

7. Wet Sand the Area

Once you’ve brought the dent completely in line with the surrounding bodywork, you can wet sand the area with 1500 to 3000 grit sandpaper in order to remove any marks in the paint from the original damage and the dent removal process.

How to repair a large dent 

Start by assessing the direction of the denting. If a dent has pulled the sides of the bodywork towards the center of the dent, you can’t just pull out the center of the dent without creating additional creases. You’ll need to pull the sides outward either at the same time, or in stages before and during the pulling of the center. Some PDR experts recommend using multiple glue tabs, and even homemade glue tabs, to pull in different directions at the same time. 

Expect to spend a lot of time in the process of pulling your dent and be patient. A thousand tiny movements will produce a finer final product than a few large movements. If you try to work too fast you can even aggravate the dented area, causing additional dents or creases in the metal. 

Take your time and enjoy the process of working on your own vehicle. Get your dent removal kit at AutoZone and start today! 

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

FREE Loan-A-Tool® program requires returnable deposit. Please note that the tool that you receive after placing an online order may be in a used but operable condition due to the nature of the Loan-A-Tool® program.

Related Posts