PDR (Paintless Dent Repair) ExplainedPDR is like getting your vehicle massaged back into shape without damaging the paint. It’s an entirely different technique than traditional, sand-putty-and-paint methods. It costs less, takes less time to complete, and lasts longer. And furthermore, it’s a bit of an art. If your vehicle has minor body damage, read on to find out what PDR is, what it can and cannot do, and whether your vehicle damage can likely be repaired with this method.
How PDR worksPaintless dent repair tools allow technicians to gently push body damage back into shape. They may remove door panels and other parts to access pressure points, but some dents can be repaired from the outside. It’s not unlike when you push a dent out of an aluminum can by pressing on the sides. A skilled PDR technician with good tools can return dented areas to like-new condition, with the original vehicle paint still intact. Why is this important? When you sand and paint part of a vehicle, even the most perfectly matched color may fade differently than the original paint, over time. This is not a risk with PDR.
What PDR can and cannot doPDR is a cheap, fast, permanent cure for a lot of vehicle damage, but not all damage. It works great for most door dings, hail damage, minor creases, and even some larger dents. In all cases, the paint has to be intact for PDR to work.
Much faster than traditional body workBefore PDR, all body work consisted of the time consuming process of sanding and cutting away damaged parts, filling the damage with putty, then applying multiple coats of paint. For dings and dents with no paint damage, none of this is necessary. A skilled PDR technician can often do in an hour what it takes many hours to accomplish with sand-and-putty methods. No drying period is necessary because no paint has been applied. PDR is faster because it’s, quite simply, a significantly smaller job than traditional methods.
Can you do PDR yourself?Yes, absolutely. You can also play the harmonica. You may not be good at it, but you can do it. Like the harmonica, PDR is a skill that requires training and practice. It’s not something most people get right on the first few tries, so you may want to think twice about “practicing” on your own vehicle. Depending on where the damage is, you may also need to dismantle parts of the vehicle to reach the right pressure points, so there are other skill sets involved beyond dent-pushing. The clincher is this: A good and usable PDR tool kit costs upward of $1,000, and for that kind of money, you might as well pay for a shop to do the work.
What do PDR tools do?
With a few notable exceptions, most PDR tools look like thin, bent metal rods with angled handles. Each shape and size has a specific advantage, in terms of the types of areas it can access and apply pressure to. PDR technicians may also use temporary glues, vacuum tools, rubber mallets with dent taps, and special lights that expose near-microscopic flaws in paint finish smoothness. In the hands of a skilled technician, these simple, specialized tools can do amazing things.
But really, how do PDR technicians do it?
You’ll find them in dark places, out of direct sunlight, because PDR technicians prefer to view their work with a special lamp that accents flaws in paint surfaces. PDR techs are agile, reaching into difficult spots with delicate tools, then correcting dents with a sculptor’s precision. But the story begins with an inspection of the dent, an assessment of what types of pressure need to be applied, and precisely where. The intrepid technician then decides how to reach behind the metal to access a pressure point, which sometimes requires the removal of door panels or other components. But often, the spindly PDR tools can be used to reach through holes and small gaps in interior panels to manipulate the metal body. Then the real work begins: push, push, push. With many applications of strategic pressure, the technician “massages” the dent back into its original shape without damaging the paint. In cases where the paint is extremely stressed and in danger of cracking, the technician may use a heat gun to soften it slightly. After applying pressure from below, there may be a slightly raised ring in the area of the dent, in which case the technician uses a dent tap tool to press the ring flush with the rest of the surface. If any inconsistencies are visible in the clear coat, the technician polishes them out with a high RPM buffer and polishing compound.