How to Straighten Auto Body Panels

Written by bryan schatz
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How to Straighten Auto Body Panels
Extensive bodywork on a vehicle can be beyond a novice's capabilities. (crashed red auto image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com)

Auto body panels are essentially what make up the visual representation of any given vehicle. They are the bonnet, the doors, quarter panels, fenders, to name the main panels. Over time, dents and dings are more or less inevitable, and being able to work on them yourself will save you money in the long run. With the proper tools and some basic mechanical skills, straightening auto body panels is a skill that you can develop over time and with sufficient practice.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Air File
  • Dual-action sander
  • Small grinder
  • Dead blow hammer
  • Body hammer
  • Sand paper
  • Pry bar
  • Stud gun
  • Metal rods
  • Diagonal cutters
  • Glazing putty

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Determine which damage on your vehicle's panel was derived from actual impact and which damage occurred from reaction forces. For example, a dent in the middle of a car door is likely caused by actual impact, whereas the door panel separating from its mounting points is the result of reactionary forces.

  2. 2

    Weld metal rods temporarily to the damaged metal panel using a stud gun to pull out the dent in the metal. Use metal rods that measure 1/8-inch wide by 2.5-inches long.

  3. 3

    Slip a slide hammer over the metal rods one at a time. Use the slide to hammer out the panels to their original shape. Begin at the outermost edge of the damaged portion of the metal and slowly work your way inward. If you hammer too hard and push the dent out too far, you may have to hammer it back in slightly.

  4. 4

    Move your slide hammer to the next metal rod and work out the dent that it corresponds to just as in step three. Check your work continually to ensure that you are working the panel back to its original form.

  5. 5

    Use a pair of diagonal cutters to cut off the metal rods as close to the panels as possible after you have hammered out all of the dents. Grind down the remaining rod studs using a sanding disc and grinder.

  6. 6

    Use a flexible spreader and body filler for any remaining indentations to smooth out the surface of your vehicle's panel. Once the filler hardens, sand and shape it, then add a coat of glazing putty.

Tips and warnings

  • After straightening your vehicle's body panels, a new paint job is needed to restore them to their original colour. Keep in mind that straightening auto body panels is a skill that requires patience and practice.
  • If the damage to your vehicle's panels is beyond your abilities, Autos.com suggests consulting a collision repair shop to ensure the work is done properly.

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