Minor accidents happen all the time and are sometimes unavoidable. While damage to the car is minimal, these accidents often leave unsightly dents in your car’s frame. Since the functionality of the car is rarely impacted by these minor accidents, many car owners forego a pricey trip to a mechanic to repair the damage.
Fortunately, smaller dents that happen from minor accidents can be removed without making a trip to a mechanic. Here are a few DIY car dent removal methods to help remove stubborn dents at home, saving you both time and money.
The Plunger Method
The first DIY dent remover method uses materials that can be found in almost every home: a sink plunger. A sink plunger, also known as a cup plunger, has a wooden handle attached to a domed, rubber cup. They also are designed to work well on flat surfaces, like sinks. It is very important that you use a sink plunger and not a flange/toilet plunger.
For a plunger to successfully remove a dent from a car, it needs to be able to create a tight and complete seal over the dented area, which is why you cannot use a flange plunger. This method works best for shallow, small to medium size dents that are located on flat, metal surfaces such as the hood, doors, and roof of the car – where the plunger can work as a car dent suction cup.
Plungers should not be used on dents located on plastic areas of the car, because they may work too aggressively as a car dent puller and can possibly crack the frame. Additionally, this method may not remove dents that are on surfaces adjacent to the wheel wells, windows, or fender of the car.
The materials needed for this method are simple: (1) water or petroleum jelly to lubricate the rim of the cup, and (2) a cup plunger. The steps are as follows:
- Measure the size of the dent using the plunger, making sure the cup completely covers the dent.
- If the plunger can completely cover the dent, you need to lubricate the rim of the plunger using petroleum jelly or water.
- Slowly apply the plunger over the dent, pushing the plunger in to create a tight seal with the car, just as you would when plunging a sink or toilet.
- Pull the plunger back gently to break the seal between the cup and the car. The suction created by the seal should pop the dent out.
- Repeat if the dent was not completely removed the first time.
Using Boiling Water
A common area for car dents is bumpers, usually a consequence of backing into something. Unlike dents in metal areas of the car, dents that occur in the plastic made bumper can not be fixed with a plunger.
Fortunately, removing dents from a plastic exterior is not rocket science – all you need is boiling water and heat protective gloves like oven mitts. The steps for this method are straightforward: bring a pot of water to a boil and pour the boiling water directly onto the dent. Remember to wear heat protectant gloves to protect your hands from burns.
The boiling water will cause the plastic to expand and become pliable. After pouring the boiling water on the dent, pop it out by pushing behind the dent. You need to work quickly during this process, as the plastic will become less flexible as it cools down. If the dent is not completely removed the first try, continue to pour the boiling water on the area until the dent can be popped out.
With a Hair Dryer and Compressed Air
This method, like many others, should be used on shallow, medium to small sized dents on flat surfaces. One perk of using the hair dryer and compressed air combination is that you can direct your efforts on a focused area.
To use this method, you will need the following materials:
- A clean and soft cloth
- A hair dryer
- A can of compressed air.
- Insulated heavy duty work gloves.
To remove a dent using a hair dryer and compressed air, you need to have accessibility to both sides of the dent. Meaning, you may need to get under the car or pop the hood to reach the interior side of the dent along with the exterior. Fortunately, this method can still work if you are not able to reach both sides of the dent.
With the hair dryer about 5-7 inches away from the dent, heat the area on the medium setting until it becomes malleable. To check the dent’s malleability, gently press on the lower edges of the dent (with gloves on), if you feel movement then you can move onto the next step. If the area is still too hard to move, continue heating the area.
Once the dent is flexible, spray the compressed air on the dent with the container upside down. Do not take off your gloves during this process, as the cannister will be extremely cold. Continue spraying the area with the air until the dent is popped out, which is usually 30-50 seconds. Wipe the area with the clean cloth to remove any left-over residue.
The Dry Ice Method
Removing a dent with dry ice is incredibly like the hair dryer and compressed air method. The materials needed are dry ice, heat which can come from the sun or a hair dryer, and protective gloves. It works best on dents that are shallow and on flat surfaces.
For this method, you need to heat the area surrounding the dent by leaving it in the sun for several hours, or through artificial heating methods such as a hair dryer. Once the dented area is flexible from the heat, apply the dry ice directly onto the dent. Make sure to use protective gloves during this process so you do not damage your hands. Hold the ice on the dent until it pops into its original shape.
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Using Dent Suction Tools
If you are not into DIY methods, like the ones above, then you can always turn to dent removal tools such as dent pullers. There are a large variety of dent repair kits that are dedicated to removing car dents and they are often inexpensive and easy to use.
In many cases, dent suction tools work by creating a tight seal around the dent, allowing suction to manipulate the dent back to its original shape. Unsurprisingly, these tools are best used on shallow dents on flat surfaces on the car.
If you have a dent that is deeper, cracked, or the paint is damaged, your best bet is to take the car to a mechanic. The mechanic has a wide arsenal of tools that will remove the dent without further damaging the area and paint.
While car dent removal tactics, such as dent repair kits or car dent pullers, may appear as added inconveniences, they are worth the effort. Dents and scratches can significantly decrease the trade-in and sell value of the car, giving you less money to work with in your new car budget.
You may feel ridiculous using a tool that is essentially a car dent suction cup but that feeling will pass when your car’s value increases. Who knows, maybe that extra effort you put into your car will help make your dream car a potential reality.