PDR – Paintless Dent Removal

I thought I’d give the Net a couple of tips I have used for years on some cosmetic repair of your cars. One is an economical (and better!) means of removing small dings and dents, and the other is to repair cracks and repainting your color-coded bumpers. That too is far more cost-effective than letting the traditional body shop do the work.

I had heard of PDR from my nephew John, who decided to learn the trade some years ago. Before I got to learn more about the industry, I thought as a trade it would be pretty much a dead-end as far as the ability to make some decent money.

And that assumption was wrong.

John is from Minneapolis, and after awhile, I got used to his tales of working on various Ferraris, Lambos, and Ford GTs. He knows I’m a bit of a gearhead. Since there are so many Fortune 500 companies headquartered there, it stands to reason there are a lot of exotic cars. (which presumably slumber during the brutal winters).

But where his industry really works is during hail season across the Midwest and Southeast.

I’ve joked with him over the years telling him that he “prays for hail”.

Imagine that you are a car dealer with a multi-million dollar inventory on your lot and some golf-ball sized hail has done untold damage to the trunk, roof, and hood of your new cars. Imagine what that would do to the value of that inventory.

Anyway, there is a huge demand for good PDR technicians to fix this kind of damage. When the hail has done its damage, it is grueling work, generally 7 days a week, but the rewards are huge.

So anywho, about my own personal experience which did not involve hail. This is California after all, but I will say a few weeks ago we started getting hail (nowhere near golf-ball size), and while I was on the freeway, knowing John’s tales, slowed down.

On my SL, aka Gabriella, a coupla months ago I noticed that the thing had a terrible ride. Like an old buckboard ride. Even the hood was shaking! So I “assume” it is the tires – maybe a steel belt had worked loose? I took it to my tire shop, whose people are first rate, and they said that they rebalanced the tires.

Well, that did nothing and I was a bit perplexed until I took it home and opened the hood to discover …this. Normally who’d think of opening the hood to find the source of a rough ride?

The shock tower had broken, and the piston of the gas-pressured shock was pushing against the hood!

Once I realized this, I left the car in the garage with the hood up until I could fix it. There was no point in making it worse. And trying to find a good parts replacement was difficult with all of the coronavirus supply line problems.

To me this is not a good design, and Daimler-Benz had used this for years on millions of cars. Although with my late 300E I accrued 370,000 miles and not a hint of trouble from these mounts.

It is a rubber mount to absorb the shock and either it can tear, or the metal receptacle that actually holds the piston in check can finally break from the constant pressure. They do not use this design anymore.

And I have heard stories of over time the piston actually punching a hole through the hood!

I finally got a parts replacement, not exactly my first choice, but these days you have to sometimes settle for what you can get.

But it left an unsightly dimple on the top of the hood.

So I look for some PDR guys – John was telling me that like most things, not all are equal. He was telling me what some do as short cuts, like drilling holes in the doors, to gain access for their tools. I looked at various internet ratings and found Alex. As an aside (for which I am famous) after he did the work, Alex was showing me a picture of a $400,000 Rolls Royce, with unsightly blemishes on the fender. The owner had foolishly picked just the cheapest PDR man he could find ($100 supposedly) and now, after his “job” no other PDR guy wants to touch it, because it became unrepairable. Meaning it goes to a body shop with probably filler added and a respray, which severely diminished the value of the car.

Anyway for $200 Alex fixed the unsightly hood dimple and for an extra $70 fixed a small dimple on the right rear corner, caused I believe by a shopping cart. That blemish had been there since I got the car 8 years ago, and of course I noticed it every day in the garage.

Alex working his magic on Gabriella’s unsightly blemish.

One thing – for this to work, the paint has to be in good condition – no cracks. It will adjust with the change of the metal.

And not all dents are repairable in this manner. Although I have seen some surprising “before and after” pictures of some fairly large dents that disappeared. Just beware not every dent can be repaired in this way.

IIRC this industry was started in the 70s by 2 employees of BMW AG, although the last time I saw John he said that the origins might be even a bit earlier.

Last summer, I stupidly ran the other car into the garage wall. I suppose I could tell you how I did that for some comedy relief, but in the interest of brevity lets’s just say it was dumb.

Really dumb.

Although the car was only going maybe 1/4 mph (it was creeping along in Drive, Driverless), the plastic on the front bumper cracked. It was later explained to me that for this era of Mercedes they selected 3 types of plastic. And one they learned to their dismay over time, would grow brittle. Guess which one was on my bumper. So you can use the bumper, but then it will crack.

Anyway, I asked the used car manager at my local Mercedes-Benz Emporium who they used for detailing their incoming used cars, and he was happy to come out. For $300, the bumper looks like new. I would imagine that a body shop would have easily charged over $1000. Make it $2,000 or more if I wanted to get a new bumper plastic covering, although hopefully with that option it would not have been as brittle as mine exposed to the elements for 21 years.

He came out to my house, too!

Both options you should consider after you do a little Googling and asking around!

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