Aluminum body panels need special care and attention to repair dents after an accident. Unlike steel, which has a memory and always seeks to return to its original shape, aluminum needs extra effort, including heat, to get back to its original shape. Here are a few tips to help you successfully remove a dent in an aluminum body panel.
Apply Direct Heat
Clean the surface of the body panel, then dry it completely. Use a heat gun and direct the heat onto the body panel, targeting the dent. As you warm the dent, you'll see the dent slowly start to relax. The heat is an important part of relieving the stress that's binding the metal so that you can work the dent out without damaging the metal.
Cool the Metal Down
As soon as the metal is warm, you'll want to prep the surface. Start by cooling it either with compressed air or a cold, damp cloth. The initial heating and cooling process starts to relax the metal and encourages it to become more pliable later in the repair. Once cooled, sand the surface down to remove any surface paint. Use a vacuum to clear away any dust, then wipe the area down with a tack cloth. This is important, because you don't want any paint chips or debris in the repair.
Pull the Dent with Metal Studs
Place metal studs around the perimeter and into the center of the dent. Thread the pulling loops onto the studs, then warm the metal again so that it becomes pliable. When the metal is warm enough to respond to a little bit of pull from the loops, grasp them and pull outward. You may need to have a bar for leverage to help you pull evenly and with enough strength. Once the dent is pulled out, cut the studs off at the surface of the body panel with a cutting wheel. Sand everything smooth with a grinding wheel and heavy grit paper.
Finish the Surface
After you've leveled out the dent and cleaned the surface, fill in any cracks with an auto body bonding agent. Smooth the bonding material by sanding. Gradually work from heavy grit sandpaper to fine grit paper to smooth the surface. Wipe it down with a tack cloth, then repaint the whole area to suit your needs.
Auto body dents can be a source of frustration, especially when they're the result of an accident. If you're looking for a way to get rid of residual dents from an accident, these tips will help. If you're not comfortable doing the work yourself, an auto body repair shop like Blue Ribbon Auto Body can help.