Repairing Small Dents and Dings


Repair small dents and "dings" can be a relatively easy job. Save time and money by repairing them yourself. You will learn something and not have to depend on body shops for these small but necessary repairs. Doing these repairs yourself can give you a lot of satisfaction; plus your car, truck, van or SUV will always look great.

Caution: do not drink alcohol, smoke, or wear clothing like a necktie that could become entangled in moving parts. Beware of hot surfaces, sharp objects, and potentially harmful or poisonous materials in the work area. Always wear a dust mask, safety glasses, and latex gloves when working.

Make sure you have all of the supplies and tools you will need before beginning work.

Remove any parts from your vehicle that might inhibit access, including door trim panels, mirrors, inner fender shields, etc.

Use a dual-action sander with coarse-grit paper, or grinding disc, or a drill with a wire wheel drill bit to remove any surface rust.

For dents less than one-eighth of an inch deep, strip and sand the paint surrounding the dent. After removing the paint, apply body filler or spot putty to the area. Following the contour of your vehicle, apply body filler in thin even coats.

After the filler hardens, rough-sand the area use a sanding block with 80-grit sandpaper, again following the contours of the vehicle. If more body filler is needed, repeat the previous step, if necessary. Finish-sand with 180-grit sandpaper.

Access bigger dents from the backside. Using a hammer and dolly, reshape them to original contour. (Note: Body hammers vary in size and shape. Dollies are hand-held pieces of hardened steel that are also available in many sizes and shapes. The contour of the body panel and the nature of the dent will determine which tool you will use.)

Hold the dolly flush against the exterior side of the dent. Tap the interior side of the dent with the hammer until achieving the desired contour. Be sure you allow the dolly to "bounce" so that the metal panel does not stretch.

For dents that are not accessible from the backside, use a slide-hammer dent puller. With the slide hammer, attach the screw onto the center of the dent and softly tap the dent out. (For a large or odd-shaped dent, you may have to do this in a couple of areas.) Remove the screw. Grind off any raised metal around the resultant hole(s).

Fill the hole with spot putty and allow to dry. Sand to flush. Finish-sand with very fine sandpaper (minimum 400 grit).

Now paint over the sanded area with touch-up paint. It is not necessary to prime unless you can see bare metal. Touch-up paint for most vehicles is available in aerosol cans. For larger painting tasks, consult with a professional before you start.