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We had a very big hail storm last night and the hailstones were between golf ball and tennis ball sizes. Fortunately, there weren't a ton of them, they were just huge. I'm in a position of not knowing the best course of action on how to get some large dents repaired.

While I expect a specialist will find more dents than I can see at first glance, there are only two major dents that concern me and I don't see any paint damage. The roof of the car has a 2-3 inch dent as does the hood. No luck that they'd be on the same panel, of course.

I understand that there are several ways of fixing dents but I'm not sure where a specific type of fix is possible vs where replacing the panel becomes necessary - based on the size of a dent, specifically. Best case scenario I'd want to go with a solution that restores the car to where it was (like paintless dent repair) rather than options that would take more work/time or even replacing the panels entirely.

My goal is to get info that will help me determine the best course of action without getting answers that say "You should do X" - I'm happy to decide, I just want some more information.


Note - I wasn't planning to include images because I thought this would be better used as a resource for people in similar situations rather than trying to get an assessment for my specific hail damage.

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  • I would say the best course of action is to take the car to any local body shops where they can see the dents, and discuss with them what remedy is best for different sized dents. Some may be removeable with a suction kit from the outside of the panel. It's all related to the age of the vehicle, its current appearance and value, and what you decide you can live with. Sep 25, 2023 at 18:55
  • ... and, for example, if you buy a new car every couple of years and want the best trade in value for the not-very-old one, balanced against the repair cost. Sep 25, 2023 at 19:00
  • I know the Q asks "without going to a shop" but ... very little information. Ask the people who do the fixing, even if it is yourself who will do it. Sep 25, 2023 at 19:13
  • @WeatherVane That is a sort of answer. It's fair to answer a question to say something to the effect of "Without being an expert, it's going to be very difficult for someone to judge this for themselves as there are many different solutions. If you aren't planning to fix it yourself, getting an expert to assess it, whether it's a dent repair shop or your insurance provider is the best option. They'll be able to tell you what needs to be done." Someone may post a competing answer at some point but it is an answer and should be one, rather than comments. ;)
    – Catija
    Sep 25, 2023 at 20:06
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    While you are a known entity around these parts ... welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! I appreciate you stopping by to ask your question. :o) Sep 25, 2023 at 20:09

1 Answer 1

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I'm not sure I can give you a definitive answer, but I can give you information which might help.

First, maybe a little understanding of how paintless dent repair (PDR) works. Basically, the repair person finds small holes in the vehicle where they can access the panel they are working on with long, thin tools, which have a variety of ends on them. They insert the tool into the holes and find the place where the dent is at in the panel they are working on. Then the put lights/mirrors in the area of the dent so they can see the extent of the dent through reflective means. They will then use the the inserted tool to press the dent out. They'll force it a bit past "flat" so that the dent will form back and stay where they want it.

Most dents which are hail dents can be fixed through PDR, but with that comes caveats. It usually isn't the size of the dent which makes the difference, but rather the type of dent and where the dent is located.

  • If a dent occurs on a corner or edge (ie: a fender crease), it isn't a candidate for PDR. The PDR repair person cannot recreate the crease. This has to either be fixed by hammer/dolly and repaint (probably with a touch of Bondo) or replacement of the panel.
  • If the dents occur in the roof of the car, PRD becomes problematic because this area of the car is hard to get to without a lot of dismantling of the inside of the car. This is also probably the worst hit portion of the car (in most cases), so it's a double whammy, I guess.
  • Any place where the dent occurs on a seam or where there is bracing becomes problematic, because the tools which the PDR repair person uses to fix the dent cannot get to those areas.
  • Is the dent you're looking at just a dent or is there other shapes in there, too. Any crinkles or other than the dent itself? Crinkles of any kind cannot be fixed through PDR.
  • Obviously, as you stated, if any dent comes with paint issues, it cannot be fixed by PDR, either (I think it kind of implies it in the name, but thought I'd add it, lol).

Something else to consider when looking at PDR is, many of the dents will pop themselves back out under the right conditions. The big "if" on that is whether the vehicle can be left to sit in the sun for a period of time (like all day). Metal has memory. When it is dented it becomes stressed. When the sun heats it, a lot of those dents will come out because they want to get back to where the memory tells them to be (the destress and pop back to normal). Consider this before getting PDR. Why do I say this? Because PDR is not cheap. When I was working around it, it cost about $50/dent ... that can add up quickly.

One more thing to consider ... you can always take it to a PDR person (or have them come to you) and ask for a quote and whether they can fix the dents. If you take it to a body shop, they may have a PDR person and can give you a quote. Just because you ask for an estimate does not mean you are obligated to have them repair it. If you go to a dealership, they might be willing to give you the name of their PDR person, but probably not. And, if take to a dealership to have them fix it, you can bet they'll just call their PDR person and then they'll tack on to the top of whatever bill the PDR person comes at you with. (If you cannot tell, I don't have a high opinion of dealerships. Having worked as a car salesman before, I can give you plenty of reasons not to trust them.)

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  • This answer has been really helpful to me in understanding the process much better. Your list reminded me of so many things I half remembered, such as the location of dents being so important. We had a car totaled out before due to hail dent volume when it was determined that replacing a panel would impact the airbag system and the cost of that unrelated work (airbags were generally fine) more expensive than the car's value. The heat of two full-sun Texas days doesn't seem to have righted the dents, so I'll find a shop and get a quote.
    – Catija
    Sep 27, 2023 at 20:46
  • @Catija - Well, the sun trick works sometimes ... sorry it didn't this time. I've talked to people who have started hearing that metallic "poing" at odd intervals and track it down to realize it is the sun baking the dents right out of their hail stricken vehicle. Was hoping doing this might give you a little relief in the pocketbook. Sep 27, 2023 at 20:58

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