If your car has been dented in an accident and you would like to restore it to its former condition without spending a fortune in the process, there are two options open to you: taking it to a professional panel beater who specialises in such repairs or attempting to repair the damage yourself. Unless you have many years of experience in panel beating, we would advise against the latter course of action. While it may look like a relatively simple task, repairing dented body panels is a job for specialists that have served a lengthy apprenticeship and learned all the tricks of the trade. To give you a better idea of what is involved in even a small dent repair, we have put together a step-by-step guide below.
A Step-by-Step Guide to How the Professionals Fix Dents
An experienced panel beater will have a full set of tools – dollies and hammers – enabling him or her to tackle pretty much any kind of dent or crease in a car’s bodywork. For the sake of this guide, we are going to assume that what we are dealing with is a simple crease in an easily accessible part of a body panel rather than multiple dents or a panel that is severely crumpled. With this in mind, let us proceed to the steps that are involved in a simple panel beating repair job.
- Selecting a Dolly That Matches the Profile of the Damaged Panel – The dollies that a panel beater has in his tool kit will all be shaped differently, to match the profile of different types of body panel. The first task is to select the one that is closest in shape to the profile of the panel that has been dented. If it is an odd-shaped panel and none of the dollies fit perfectly, professionals may sometimes use lumps of scrap steel or a piece of hardwood that can be fashioned into a suitable shape, in place of a dolly.
- Selecting a Hammer – It may be necessary to use more than one type of hammer when repairing a dent or crease and trial and error plays a big part in the selection process for less experienced panel beaters. However, a highly-experienced professional will be able to select the most appropriate hammer for each job almost by instinct and in the event they make the wrong choice initially, they will quickly be able to correct their mistake. In general, they will use a larger hammer for larger dents/creases and a smaller one for smaller dents but they will always pay careful attention to how the metal panel is reacting to the hammer blows so that a new one can be selected if appropriate.
- Positioning the Dolly – If, as we are assuming for the purpose of this guide, the panel beater is attempting to beat out a small crease in an easy-to-reach part of a body panel, they will probably start out by placing their choice of dolly directly behind the crease. As the panel is beaten, it will begin to form around the shape of the dolly so it is very important for them to choose the right shape dolly.
- Beating the Panel – With the dolly in position and a hammer in hand, the panel beater is ready to start the repair process in earnest. The most important thing to bear in mind at this stage is that each hammer blow should be light and it is likely that many blows will be needed to achieve the desired results, not just a dozen or so. A highly-trained professional will, of course, be well aware of this fact and will proceed accordingly. As the panel is struck by the hammer, they will listen carefully to the sound it makes: if they stray away from the dolly that is behind the crease, they will hear a change in the sound the hammer is making and can rectify the problem immediately.
- Moving the Dolly – If it is a long or wide crease, the panel beater will have to move the dolly along the line of the crease in order to complete the repair work. As they do so, they will continue to listen carefully to the sound the hammer makes with each blow, to ensure the dolly is directly behind the hammer at all times. There may be occasions when they wish to strike an area of a panel slightly to the side of where a dolly is positioned but this is a more advanced technique that is generally only used on larger dents so we can ignore it for our purposes. Something that a professional panel beater must pay close attention to on any repair job they undertake is the amount of pressure they use to hold the dolly against the back of the crease: if they use a lot of pressure, the panel will move toward the hammer as it is being beaten; if they use very little pressure, the panel will move in the direction of the dolly, i.e. away from the hammer.
- Finishing the Job with Body Filler and Paint – The final stage in repairing a dent often consists of applying a small amount of body filler to ensure the panel is completely smooth once again and repainting it afterwards. While it may sometimes be possible to beat the panel completely level, this is often not the case and it is better to stop a little short than to try to do too much and end up damaging the panel in the process. Before applying the filler, the panel beater will sand the paint off the affected area so the filler will adhere properly, and once they have finished filling, they will repaint the area in question.
If your car has been damaged in an accident and you would like to have it repaired at a reasonable cost by a team of fully experienced and qualified professionals, please feel free to get in touch with us whenever convenient.