Tools for DIY Auto Repair

Car repairs are expensive. Any car repair. Auto body repairs after an accident or a careless moment in the parking lot are especially painful because the repairs are not only expensive, they can take a lot of time and they need special tools and materials to effect. Certainly you want to let the body shop repair major structural damage, but to repair some minor fender-benders or dents you can do a lot of it yourself, if you have the tools and have some knowledge, you can save a lot of money. So what’s the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get rid of dents and superficial body damage?

hammering a dentThe first thing to assess is the size and shape of the dent. Is it an entire car door? Or is it a small golf ball size dent somewhere? Most dents can be dealt with in a variety of ways, some of which are childishly easy to fix and some, well, some require a fair amount of work. Depending on the dent, and if it has a crease in it, you use a suction device like a plunger or a Bondo dent puller, sometimes in conjunction with boiling hot water. You can also use a heat gun, then, after it’s warm, use compressed air or cold spray to rapidly cool the heated area. If you’re lucky and the dent is an easy one, it will pop back out due to the quick change in temperature. The last way to get a dent out, and this is where it starts getting really involved, is by using a lever bar to pry off the panel and access the other side of the dent then using a mallet, hammer and other assisting tools to push the dent back out and restore the shape. It’s recommended you use the smallest possible hammer with the best possible shape. This method can be painstaking and require a lot of time and work, but it’s arguably worth the effort. There are of course, many different tools that can help you out with this project.

auto body sandingTo help you with this project, we carry some of the best auto body tools made by Gedore, Hazet and Stahlwille. Stahlwille makes several high quality dinging mallets and Gedore has some excellent smoothing, round face and planishing hammers. Another helpful tool for dent removal are hand anvils which go on the inside of the metal piece while you hit the top with the hammer. They come in several shapes to make it easier to restore the dent properly. To make it possible to get at the underside of a dent, Stahlwille makes lever bars for door trim and other areas so you pry off the panel and get at the dent. These tools will help you get your auto body work done, of course once you do you’ll want to take some additional steps to make things back to new.

what different sanding grit looks likeEven once the dent has been beaten into submission (gently of course) you may still have some really small dings and maybe even some paint damage. If you want a full repair and restore any chipped paint, you’ll need some good sandpaper (both hand sanding and power sanding) as well as some Bondo (or other body filler) with an applicator. With sandpaper, you’ll need different grit at different stages and you can see how each one does here. The most common sand paper for auto body are: 80, 150, 240, 320, 400, and 2000 grit. The first thing you’ll need to do is sand away the paint so you can apply the body filler. You can do your sanding by hand, 3M has some great auto body sand paper for that, although some sources recommend using a powered sanding tool for best results which makes a lot of sense if you want a smooth surface. Once you’ve sanded down to the metal you can apply the body filler and once it’s dry, sand it again, then prime it and paint it which is a special process all by itself requiring special safety and paint application equipment.

Repairing dents and doing auto body work can be a time consuming process, but if you can do it, it can save you a lot of money. Whether it’s a hobby of yours or you just want to do it yourself, you can invest in a few good tools and save yourself hundreds and even thousands of dollars in car repair and increased insurance costs. Give it a shot, the initial investment may be worth it, especially if you can start charging friends and family for it.

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