What’s New in Paintless Dent Repair?
New, better tools enable techs to repair more complex dents and more dents per panel than ever before.
The PDR industry has changed in many ways in the last few years. Several trends in paintless dent repair (PDR) make it easier for technicians to complete the necessary repairs that customers need for their vehicle’s restoration. Because of changes in lighting, tools and training, PDR technicians are doing more business than ever before. “PDR technicians are writing a greater number of repairs than ever before,” said Tommy Clayton, president of the National Alliance of Paintless Dent Repair Technicians (NAPDRT) and owner of Tommy’s Dent Service in Gibsonville, N.C. “[They] are now able to repair more complex dents and are able to repair more dents per panel than ever before.”
Troy Tarpley, an NAPDRT board member and owner of Dent Tricks in Macon, Ga., agrees with Clayton. “PDR technicians are now able to do more in terms of size and complexity of repairs,” he said. “They are able to repair much larger dents for a number of reasons, including the creation of tools with adjustable tips and a softer type of tips that allow more movement and lessens the possibility of cracking paint.”
Clayton explained that today’s PDR tools are more convenient and help speed along the repair process for technicians. “In the last few years, tool manufacturers have made interchangeable tips for PDR tools,” he said. “Many of these tools are called ‘flip tip’ or ‘hail rod’ tools. They allow the technician to easily change from sharp tip to blunt tip and vice versa, without the technician having to stop the repair, reach down into the tool box, find just the right tool, and return to his work.”
“Lighting is an area in which there have been many changes in the last few years,” explained Tarpley. “Lighting systems for PDR mostly use LED light bulbs instead of fluorescent. These lights are lighter, brighter and have many options like different colors.”
Given the different shops, driveways or parking lots in which a paintless dent repair technician might find himself working, these changes in lighting make it easier to “read the dent.” Because the lighting in different areas is always changing, and because cars have such different tints and colors, the change in type of lighting and in its coloring is helpful to PDR technicians.
Clayton commented, “the truth is that these LED lights relieve the eye strain that many technicians once experienced when trying to see the repair area. They can see so much better.”
Tarpley explained, “When a repair is needed on something that is double-paneled, or in areas which are hard to get behind (like roof rails), PDR technicians would once have to drill holes, but now many insurance reps have a no-hole policy. With glue PDR, we can get a lot of those dings and dents out without drilling holes.”
Steve Shaughnessy, owner of Dentworks in Albuquerque, N.M., said, “Someone who is desiring to learn about paintless dent repair and its techniques really needs to apprentice with someone who knows what they’re doing.” Shaughnessy, who is a member of the ASA Collision Subcommittee on paintless dent repair, encouraged body shop owners and private individuals who are looking for a technician to perform quality paintless dent repair work to look for certified techs.
Based on his personal experiences, he has been particularly impressed with the certification process from Vale Training Solutions.
Shaughnessy explained that while Vale does not train technicians in paintless dent repair techniques, they do provide certification on three different levels. Vale gives each PDR technician a hands-on test, judging their quality and finished repair with scanners, rather than by an instructor or judge. “The results of the test have no human error, no bias and no objectivity.” The three levels of certification Vale offers are journeyman, craftsman and master craftsman (Tarpley, Shaughnessy and Clayton are all master craftsmen certified by Vale).
Opportunities for PDR Growth
Darrell Amberson, AAM, a consultant for Lehman’s Garage, a six-shop collision repair business in Minneapolis, explained that Lehman’s was able to purchase a PDR business and incorporate it into the collision business. “The challenge for us is to manage the wild cycles in workload,” said Amberson. “We have learned to upsell our customers on PDR work, and we kept the name of the PDR business since [its] former owner came to work for us.”
He explained there were benefits to his business in keeping up the contacts and the business relationships in the PDR industry. “For example, each summer when there is a major weather event, our PDR director (the former owner of the independent PDR business) knows quality PDR technicians he can bring in who will help with the increased workload,” Amberson said.
Amberson also explained that Lehman’s is able to offer a warranty on the PDR work, which helps in marketing PDR at Lehman’s to customers. Customers know they do not have to track down a fly-by-night company, and that Lehman’s will stand behind the work. Amberson said that while warranty issues are practically nonexistent, this marketing advantage still benefits Lehman’s when customers select a business to perform the PDR they need.While wacky weather can often lead to an “event” that causes widespread and significant vehicle body damage, quality paintless dent repair benefits the consumer and insurers by keeping costs lower than having traditional collision repairs performed on the vehicles. PDR companies and technicians benefit when their quality work earns them referrals or the opportunity to work with respected collision repair centers as partners in the repair process. The key to successful PDR, no matter what type of tools, glue tabs or lighting is used, comes from expertise and repeated success in repairing vehicle panels to pre-event conditions. Without the finesse and proficiency gained from repeated practice, no collection of tools will allow a technician to fully restore a vehicle to pre-event condition.
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