You spent significant time over the past winter working on your classic car to get it ready for the first drive of spring. Now you’ve noticed a minor ding on the door! Can you fix it without leaving it at your reliable auto body shop? Well, that all depends on the size of the dent(s) and how hard you want to work.

Surveying the Damage

Body damage will fall into three basic categories:

  • Major Damage: The sheet metal has deep creases and crinkles. You likely hit a large object and there may also be damage to the frame. Bring your collector car to your certified repair shop. Unless you have a completely equipped garage and paint booth, let the pros handle this repair.
  • Large Surface Damage: Your door may have been hit by another vehicle or you dropped something on your hood. The dent is large but shallow and there is no visible damage to the paint. Repairing the dent yourself is possible, but may take more tools than you have on hand. Executing a flawless fix may be beyond your abilities. Think twice before tackling the job.
  • Dents and Dings: These blemishes are caused by a rolling shopping cart, a pebble bouncing off the hood or some other kind of incidental contact. You can feel the ripple in the sheet metal, but it isn’t always visible at the right angle. You can probably erase the ding in an hour or two with a dent kit from your local auto parts shop.

Fixing a Ding with a Suction Cup Dent Puller

Small dings can give your classic car a mottled appearance even though the paint is devoid of any faults. A suction cup dent puller kit costs about $30 at your auto parts store. Look for a kit that includes a variety of cup sizes from ones as small as your thumb up to 5 cm across. Skip the box that features a single cup. You may also need to buy a hot glue gun and glue sticks designed for repairing dents. Your kit should also contain a plastic glue scraper.

  • Clean the area around the ding and make sure it is dry.
  • Match the suction cup to the size of the ding and install it on the puller.
  • Cover the bottom of the cup with glue–be generous.
  • Apply the suction cup to the ding and let the glue dry for a minute or two.
  • Install the puller to the cup and unscrew or pull the lever–whichever type you have.
  • The dent may be gone or is reduced in size. If it is only reduced, remove the glue and repeat the steps using a smaller suction cup.
  • Remove the glue using the plastic scrape tool.

The ding is gone! And you did not harm the finish of your baby.

A Hammer and Dolly Requires Patience and Practice

Another method used to erase dents is to hammer them out. This requires that you have access to both sides of the sheet metal, which can be a challenge for door panels. This is not using brute strength, but finesse to encourage the painted sheet metal to return to its factory shape. You use a polished chasing hammer and a moulded metal dolly. If it is done right, you will get a paintless repair.

  • Position the dolly on the backside of the dent.
  • The crown–or highest part of the dolly–is pushed against the lowest point of the dent.
  • Use the flatter side of the hammer on the painted side to work out the high points of the ding and work your way toward the low point.
  • It takes many small blows to smooth out the ripples associated with a dent.
  • Check your work and adjust the position of the dolly to support the changing low point as you go.

Do not use a rusted or pitted hammer from your old toolbox. The hammer should have a polished finish. Any pitting will transfer to your car’s finish and net a disappointing result.

Pulling a Stud Weld

If your friend says they have a welder and can get rid of your dent, it will not be a paintless repair. This approach requires exposing the bare metal under the paint, welding a stud to the car and then pulling out the dent. The stud is then cut off and the part repainted. It is recommended that you only use a certified body shop for this type of repair.

The classic silhouette of your collector car was created by some of the best designers in the world. Returning your fender to its original shape takes craftsmanship and patience. If you are hesitant about fixing your own dent, don’t wait to turn to a professional. Your ride will thank you at the next meet.

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