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The finer points of metal finishing

Consider this your refresher course on the art of dent repair
Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - 09:00
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Figure 1

Dent repair is a highly skilled task that, when done correctly, may exceed the cost of replacing a part. Unfortunately, this means that precise and efficient metal repair may not be the most economical repair procedure. Metal finishing — restoring damaged metal to its pre-accident condition with little or no filler — has become a less-practiced art, and some would argue that it may soon become a lost art.

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Figure 2

Some say that the thinner, stronger metals do not metal finish as easily as the older, softer and thicker ones do… and they would be correct. Try to bump a high-strength steel compared to, say, an older 1960s fender. The way the older metal moves is much different than the newer, but it does not mean that the repair can’t be done on high-strength surfaces. In fact, in many areas outside of North America, repair is the method preferred over replacement.

One critical decision when restoring a vehicle to its pre-accident condition is determining what method best fits the cycle time and the needs of the customer, which may mean that replacement is the best choice. Metal finishing, though, is a valuable skill that new and old technicians alike should be capable of performing efficiently. Keeping a few tips in mind will help you to be confident and successful when you choose metal finishing.

Figure  3

Assess the damage

If both sides of the damage are accessible, methods such as hammer and dolly repair can be used (Fig 1), or the use of a pick bar can help raise the low spots (Fig 2). If both sides cannot be accessed, stud welds (Fig 3), wiggle wire, and progressive pulling are other methods that can be used. In fact, there are numerous single-side repair methods such as glue-on pulling, suction cups, and heat shrinking, just to name a few. What a technician must do is evaluate the repair to come up with the plan that will be the most efficient and profitable.

Make a repair plan

Like most repair processes, metal finishing should start with a plan. First, inspect the damaged area. Determine what part is direct damage — the damage caused by

Figure 4

the impact — and which part of the damage is indirect damage. Indirect damage is caused not by the object that struck the vehicle, but by the deforming of the panel from the impact.

In Fig. 4, the impact in front of the vehicle shortened the vehicle, causing the indirect (sometimes called secondary) damage in the roof.

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