Hail Damage Repair – What Works
You may have heard many urban legends about repairing hail damage to your car yourself. You can find countless videos on YouTube, for example, touting the benefits of everything from dry ice to hair dryers when it comes to repairing the small but significant dents that pieces of hail can cause to your car. And since enough hail slamming into your new car can really destroy its value, it’s no wonder that there are so many DIY methods for home repair.
DIY Legends of Hail Repair
Unfortunately, the fact is that they just don’t work. Let’s break them down one by one, with the proviso that there is no evidence that any method beyond actual dent repair works.
Some sources will tell you that simply parking your car in sunny areas will cause the heat of the sun to remove the dents. Common sense probably tells you that this will not solve your hail damage problem, and it won’t. Nevertheless, wikihow insists that one week of parking in warm sunlight will resolve 90% of hail damage. (Of course if this were the case there would be much less call for dry ice, hair dryers, and of course, professional dent repar.)
This brings us to the hair dryer method. The idea is to apply additional heat the simple sun exposure cannot provide. Realize that as you apply heat you must watch to ensure you do not damage your car’s paint any further; if you see any discoloration, stop immediately.
You’ll read that dry ice can bang out the small yet significant dents caused by hail. Most sources will tell you to warm the area first with a hair dryer and then cool it rapidly with the dry ice. It is this rapid temperature change and the succeeding constriction of the metal which supposedly “bangs” the dent out of the metal. Here is one example. However, if you get this result at all, it will not be complete; you will almost certainly be left with partial hail damage.
Dent Repair Kit
Now, presumably for the remaining damage which has not succumbed to the sun, your hair dryer, or solid carbon dioxide, you can take your chances with a dent repair kit. These include a tool for knocking in metal a a glue gun; unfortunately they cannot impart any professional skill or expertise to whoever might be wielding them. Therefore you should use these with caution and never try them with any larger dents or damage. You should also realize that whenever you use a dent repair kit yourself you risk making the problem worse.
Leave It To The Pros
So, if nothing else works and you’re stuck, must you go to a body shop? Maybe; ultimately it’s your call, but at least you know the damage will be repaired correctly if you go to a professional. Will it cost you an arm and a leg? Not necessarily. A lot depends on the methods used. So how do body shops repair dents then? There are several methods.
Remove and Replace
If the damage is severe and the parts that have been damaged are bolted on and can be easily removed, the remove and replace method may be the best way to go. In this case the parts in question are simply replaced.
Paintless Dent Repair
Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) is frequently used to repair hail damage. In this process the technician goes behind the dent with tools to massage out the dent out leaving the paint surface intact. This technique demands a lot of practice and specific tools, so it is not recommended for the do-it-yourselfer. It is especially effective for parts not easily replaced, like roofs and quarter panels. Of all the professional methods, it is the most cost effective. In fact, in locales where damaging hail is a regular occurrence, it is the repair method most preferred by insurance companies.
This technique is good for small hail damage and is an alternative to PDR. Some people try this at home, outside the professional body shop; make sure you know what you’re doing before you do.
The primary advantage of this technique is that you don’t have to sand the paint all the way down to the metal; instead, you just sand it coarsely so the glaze putty adheres properly. A related advantage is that the protective anti-corrosion coat from the factory is not removed during the repair since the paint isn’t sanded all the way down to the metal. Although of course this method is used to make repairs, other than the hail damage in question your paint surface should be in good condition for this technique to work well.
Here’s how this process works. First, whoever is repairing the damage will need to clean the damaged areas well in order to locate all of the hail damage. The next step is to sand the damaged areas, usually using 180 grit paper on a dual-action sander. This step ensures that the glaze adheres well to the car’s surface. After the sanding, it is best to use compressed air to blow all debris from the repair areas. Next, the surface should be cleaned again, this time with degreaser and wax. At this point it is time to apply a thin coat of the finish glaze to repair the small points of damage. Next comes a second sanding session, with 150 or 180 grit paper on the dual-action sander. Finally, the repair is done, and it is time to prime, block, and paint the freshly-repaired areas. Obviously, this isn’t a simple fix, but it looks good.
Traditional Repair with Body Filler
This method is really very similar to the finish glazing technique with a few exceptions. The main difference is that you do need to remove the paint down to the metal, and that your grind should be very coarse. Obviously anti-corrosion coating is a concern under these conditions. Very large dents cannot be repaired this way.
Traditional Heat Repair
For cars with larger dents and older cars made of thicker metal this is the method your shop will need to go with. This technique uses heat, usually an oxyacetylene torch, to raise the metal. The technician heats the metal surrounding the dent in a spiral motion working from the outside moving inwards; this will raise the metal. Then, to relax the metal, the technician taps with a hammer. Finally, he or she tests the metal to see if it is level to determine if the dent is gone. After the metal cools, it is time to feather edge the paint, prime, block, and paint the metal again.
The main advantages here are that this method is the only one that works for thicker metals and larger dents, and that for skilled technicians it is quick and fast. It also eliminates the filler and sanding filler steps. However, as most professional shops will warn you, newer vehicles are not always able to take this technique because they are made of thin metals that can warp.
The Bottom Line
Unless you really know what you’re doing, repairing hail damage is no easy feat. The good news is that hail damage repair is probably covered by your insurance. Because average hail damage repairs range between $2,500 and $3,500, and can often go much higher, it is well worth making a claim for the repair.
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