How to fix major body damage on a car

How to fix major body damage on a car

Minor dings, dents, dimples to your car’s exterior can cost thousands to repair. Uninsured motorists and those with older vehicles where damage exceeds the value of the car are often unable to afford the repair job necessary. Leaving even minor surface damage not only decreases its value but also leads to rust and early wear on the vehicle.


Almost all body damage can be repaired, given the right tools are at hand. For simplicity reasons, we’ll deal with dents, dimples, and dings here.

SMALL DENTS, meaning those which measure less than 5-inches, can easily be repaired at home with a few tools, provided metal has not been folded or torn on the vehicle’s exterior.

MEDIUM-SIZED DENTS or those which are 5-7 inches in diameter can also usually be repaired without visiting your neighborhood body shop. You’ll undoubtedly need a dent-pulling plunger to handle this job and a few hours of your undivided attention.

LARGE DENTS, too, can be repaired at home, though it is often easier and more cost-efficient to replace an entire panel, rather than try to reshape it.


There are an assortment of dent pulling tools on the market today. Each work well, provided they’re used as they are intended.


If you have a super small dent or one that should pop out easily, common household plungers will work as a tool. The more suction the plunger creates, the easier your job will be. When using a household plunger, put a small amount of petroleum jelly around the rim of the rubber plunger to prevent paint marring and to help create a better seal.


Specialized dent-pulling plungers look nothing like common household plungers. In order for dent-pulling plungers to work properly, it’s often necessary that you drill a small hole into the center of the dent before inserting this tool. Dent-pulling plungers come in a variety of sizes and shapes and work well on small to medium-sized dents. Some dent-pulling plungers use forced air to pop the dent back into place. You can purchase specialized dent-pulling plungers at any automotive shop separately or as part of a dent removal kit.


Many dents show themselves on both the outside and underside of your vehicle. To prevent further damage (such as rust, corrosion, and etc.), it’s important to treat both sides of your automobile. Metalworking hammers are specifically designed to work on metal without marring or damaging their sometimes delicate surfaces. Metalworking hammers should only be used on the underside of a vehicle.


Rubber mallets can also be used to bang out a dent from the underside of a vehicle. The larger the surface area of the mallet, the better.


Pull a dent with a traditional plunger by following these instructions:

  1. Place your plunger directly over the damaged area.
  2. Slowly and carefully (so as not to make the damage worse), push in slowly.
  3. Quickly pull the plunger toward you. The dent should suck out.
  4. Repeat, if necessary.


Dent pulling tools that use forced air, specialized pumps, and similar means of pressure relief almost always require the user to drill a small hole in order for the tool to work effectively. If you’re using this method to repair a minor dent, follow these basic steps:

  1. Using the drill bit recommended (in your hardware’s specifications), drill a small hole in the center of the dent. ALWAYS drill from the outside in.
  2. Push the plunger-styled dent pulling tool through the small hole you’ve drilled.
  3. Pull on your dent pulling tool with even, firm pressure.


If you discover there still exists a dent on the interior metal of the car, you should also work to correct this flaw, as well. You’ll need to crawl under the car to complete this step and have with you a hammer specifically designed to work with metals or a rubber mallet.

  1. Using light strokes first, bang the back of the dent with your hammer.
  2. Continue banging the back of the dent with appropriate pressure until it is smooth.
  3. Use an appropriate body filler to fill the hole you made in the dent with your drill. Body filler should be added in small amounts to the exterior of the car and smoothed with a putty knife or similar tool. Allow to dry completely.
  4. Use wet sandpaper with a 1500 grit to smooth the area. Once you’re satisfied, use wet sandpaper with a 2000 grit to blend and smooth more.
  5. Use touch-up paint provided by your car’s manufacturer to cover the body filler and blend with your paint’s finish.
  6. Again, wet sandpaper with a 2000 grit sheet until car’s finish matches and you are satisfied with the overall appearance.


For small dings and dents, a process of heat and extreme cold may force the dent out on its own. Heat the dent with a specialized tool or blow dryer. Once its heated, apply dry ice directly on to the surface of the dent. The dent should pop out.
NOTE: Dry ice can cause damage to skin instantly. Always wear gloves when handling dry ice.


IF you’re repairing a fender dent with a dent pulling tool, drill slowly and carefully to avoid drilling directly into your tire.

WATER can be used around the rim of a plunger to help make a soled seal.

IN a pinch, a regular household hammer can be used to bang out damage from the underside of an automobile. Always cover the hammer’s head with a soft cotton rag before using.

IN a pinch

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