‘Stick’ with paintless dent repair for conventional repairs, profitability
Oklahoma City — Among paintless dent repair (PDR) technicians, glue-type PDR is a proven method, especially in areas inaccessible to rod-type tools. But with recent advances in equipment, pull-tab design, and adhesives, collision repairers employing those methods as part of their “conventional” repairs can retain the vehicle’s as-manufactured corrosion protection and repair more panels instead of replacing them — at what can often be greater profit.
With glue-type PDR, the e-coat remains intact and there are no burn marks on the backside of the panel, said Tim Fischer, sales and marketing manager for Keco Professional Paintless Dent Repair. Even a novice technician can quickly learn to get the dent 90-percent removed, apply a skim coat of body filler or glaze, and prepped quickly for the paint booth, he said.
“Or if he does have some skill and the dent permits, then he can go in with some traditional paintless techniques,” he said.
The company’s initial offerings were small hail tabs, Fischer said.
“At that time, we had great glue tabs, but the adhesives part of the equation was inconsistent, and we didn’t have a mechanism for pulling large dents, except for a slide hammer,” he said.
After surveying what tools were used in the market, including some cobbled together by technicians, Fischer said the company engineered a bridge system similar to those used in traditional resistance-weld-on nail/pin systems, but with plastic conformable feet to reduce weight and damage to the adjacent area.
The similarity in the tools and techniques used mean an easy transition, said Jonathan Vandenfontyne, who practices PDR in his home country, Belgium, and demonstrates repair techniques for Keco at trade shows around the world.
“There are a lot of capable panel-beaters out there, and it’s not difficult to get them into glue-pulling, because they already know what metal does and what they need to do to get the dent out,” he said.
Glue-pulling techniques are similar to stud-welding and pulling, he said, but technicians should use more finesse and a polished hammer on the high spots to repair the surface to a higher level, which will require less body filler.
“Every move they make should be an improvement, instead of allowing themselves to make more damage to repair,” Vandenfontyne said. “That’s a common mistake.”
Using only glue-type PDR, aluminum and high-strength steels are more difficult than mild steel to repair, he said.
“We’re not going to say you can repair everything with glue; there are limits,” he said. “But we’re taking away 50 percent of the damage, and that’s a lot. There are still creases that are too sharp for a tab that we need a push rod for.”
After watching some YouTube videos and test-driving his boss’ glue and rod PDR tools, Dennis LaBlue, body technician at Nob Hill Body Shop in Colorado Springs, Colo., learned the skill on his own time, discovering the nuances of pull tabs of various flexibility and shapes. He’s been a glue-type PDR convert for about a year, using his 120-volt Snap-on dent puller with a slide hammer only when necessary. It’s been a smooth transition.
“If you’re going to weld a nail, what’s the difference in welding a nail on and gluing a tab on? You use the same concept as using your nail gun, except now you put a light on it and can see if the dent’s coming out, versus having to rely on feel.”
LaBlue said he calls the work he does “PDR prep,” which means most of the dents are removed with minimal or no body filler.
“I strive for a ‘mudless dent repair’,” he said. “We may have to glaze here and there, we may have one or two spots we’re going to have to work, but it’s three, not 50.”
Repairs are less invasive, so fewer weld-on panels need to be replaced, and for hybrid vehicles, LaBlue said PDR is particularly attractive because additional precautions, such as disconnecting the high-voltage battery and rolling the vehicle around on dollies, are not needed.
Brad Buck, owner of Brad Buck Paint and Body in Kirksville, Mo., said he bought a Keco kit about nine months ago after viewing the company’s tutorial videos. The technique wasn’t as easy as it looked, he said, but after some practice, he’s had good success in using it to remove dents on blend panels and to avoid replacing, say, a quarter panel because it would otherwise be impossible to restore corrosion protection after using a “nail” gun on a dented “dogleg” filled with foam.
When using the technique to save on the amount of filler work, Buck calls it “hybrid repair technology.” He said he’s able to charge more for it versus conventional repair.
“We’re saving a panel, and because we’re not burning the backside of the panel, we don’t have to R&I the trim inside there to access it for corrosion protection. So this is a better and more valuable repair.”
He’s also noticed that his body technician, who’s started using the technique, is able to check his work more easily by sight and minimize filler application and sanding.
“He’d spend three hours putting body filler and sanding it off, and now he’s spending 45 minutes,” he said. “It’s just a lot cleaner work.”