How To – Paintless Dent Repair on Plastic Bumper Covers

Tags: Paintless Dent Removal

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http://www.howtopaintcars.com/wp-content/gallery/example-repairs/rear-bumper-dent-01.jpg?i=1623402129Paintless Dent Removal is one of the fastest growing areas of auto body repair. The main benefit is not that paint is not involved but that you can get the car back to the customer often within a half a day. Now that is dependent on your shop and schedule but for the most part you will spend fewer hours repairing the dent and there are very few materials required.

Some shops have a dedicated technician that only handles paintless dent work. Other shops will contract this work out and schedule an independent contractor to perform the work on their premises. This still means that the customer needs to come to the shop and drop off  the car so an industry of its own has taken off where independent contractors will visit the owner at their home or business and perform the work on the customers premises just like glass repair companies do.

Now the fact that no paint is required is a benefit to the technician. This allows them to perform their work without even thinking about EPA regulations. However in many States it is possible to do a touch up repair at a customer’s location without the need for a booth. This means you can provide complete service to the customer and there is no overhead for renting a shop.

You are limited though when it comes to what you can perform and even a job that may look easy for a body shop to pull and fill may be impossible with paintless dent tools.

Here we see a couple bumper covers that received moderate damage. If the customer could have pushed the dent out themselves they probably would have because dents like this are more of an embarrassment on a new car then structural.

Inspecting the Damage

http://www.howtopaintcars.com/wp-content/gallery/example-repairs/rear-bumper-dent-02.jpg?i=1095849660As a technician the first thing you need to do is closely inspect the damage. Since the dents are on the bumpers you want to make sure that no structural damage has occurred.

After structural damage you must closely inspect the paint. If the paint is cracked then any work you perform will cause more damage. You will pull the dent and then in a couple weeks the paint will fail and start chipping. Even if the paint seems to be in tact you want to inform the customer that you can not guarantee the life of the paint after the damage is repaired.

You also want to make note of any small chips and tell the customer that touch up is not included unless you have a way to mix paint on site or have a supply of touch up paints you can use.

You want to make sure that the lights work and that there are no broken tabs or cracked lenses.

Finally you want to look for secondary damage such as an air bag that might have deployed.

You don’t want to miss quote a job and have someone think that anything you are not fixing will be fixed. You also don’t want a call back for something like a damaged light housing that might not show up for a few weeks after rain fills it with water.

Making the repair to the bumper cover

http://www.howtopaintcars.com/wp-content/gallery/example-repairs/front-bumper-dent-01.jpg?i=1426990100Now that you have inspected the vehicle and told the customer you can perform the work you actually have to perform the work.

Access is the key thing when performing paintless dent removal.

You need to be able to get behind the dent with your tools to push the dent out and this means you may need to remove a light housing or you may need to partially detach the bumper to get behind it.

The problem with detaching the bumper is that it won’t be secured in place to resist your pushing.

Since we are working on plastic not metal the best thing to do is heat the part until the plastic is flexible.

http://www.howtopaintcars.com/wp-content/gallery/shop-tools/heat-gun.jpg?i=2118850756There are a few thoughts about heating bumpers. First is that you only heat the damaged area  and second is that you heat a large area including the area that is not damaged so the repair will flow into the non damaged area.

Personally I think the best method is to heat the entire damaged area and leave the undamaged area as it is.

When heating the damaged area this means not just the area that you are working on but the entire area of damage.

Some Technicians will use both a inferred lamp and a heat gun. Lamps are nice because it will warm the area and keep it warm while you direct more heat with the heat gun to the area you are working on.

http://www.howtopaintcars.com/wp-content/gallery/example-repairs/front-bumper-dent-02.jpg?i=1619863016If you have both then use both but a lamp alone probably won’t be enough to get the job done so you will need a decent heat gun that is adjustable.  And no a Hair Dryer won’t work unless the repair is so flexible that you can do it without heat.

Before you start heating the plastic you want to get your tool in position.

Keep your distance while heating the area evenly moving in circles and do not stop in one place.

Like normal dent removal you do not want to start at the deepest part of the dent you want to work your way around the outside and into the center.

Cold water or an ice bag can be useful in ordinary dent removal where you will apply filler over the bumper but you will risk shocking and cracking the paint so think carefully before you attempt to freeze your work in place with something cold.

Final Note

Dents happen fast but they are removed slowly.

Take your time and massage the part back into shape or perform the work as a paint required repair.

Special tools are helpful but for this job normal body tools are sufficient. Never use sharp or pointed tools in the center of a flat area but they are useful for pushing out manufacture details / creases.

And remember always inform the customer that you can not guarantee your work especially the life of the paint. Simply explain that the damaged area got hit pretty hard and you are not putting new paint on the bumper so there is a high likelihood that it will delaminate faster then the undamaged paint around it.

Harbor Freight Tools has some good deals on 12 setting heat guns


12 Interval Heat Gun with LED Temperature Settings

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