Aluminum Auto Body Panels And Dents: Tips For Smoothing Things Out

Unlike the old steel body panels, aluminum auto body panels lack shape memory. That means the aluminum doesn't want to return to its original shape after it suffers damage like steel does. It means often using heat treatment to remove dents from aluminum. With small dents, heat treatment often allows you to smooth out the body panels without causing damage to the paint. If the dent is larger, you may find that you need to do more extensive repairs. Here are a few tips to help you tackle the job.

Warm The Area

Use a heat gun to target the heat application directly to the dent. As you warm the aluminum, you'll see it start to loosen up and shift a little. The heat actually relieves the stress that binds the metal so that it loses its shape. For small dents, it should restore the original surface finish of the aluminum.

Cool The Surface Down

After removing the dent from the surface, you need to cool the metal down. Use compressed air to cool things rapidly, or apply a wet, cold rag to cool it a bit more slowly. This should be all you need to do for small dent repairs. If the dent is larger or heat treatment alone isn't restoring the metal's shape, you may need to take further steps.

Prepare The Metal For Stud Pulling

If the dent isn't coming out on its own, you'll need to use metal studs to draw the dent out. To do this, you need to sand all of the paint away from the area. Use a small vacuum to pull all of the sanding dust away, then use a tack cloth to clean the whole area.

Pull The Dent Out

Place the metal studs on the surface of the metal and apply a couple of small tack welds to hold them in place. You'll want to arrange them around the perimeter of the dent and then place one in the center. Once secured, thread pulling loops on the studs.

Warm the metal again with the heat gun. This will relax the tension on the metal again to make it easier for you to pull the dent out. Once the metal becomes a little bit pliable, you can grasp the pulling loops and draw the dent out. You may need to use a small leverage bar threaded through those loops to be able to pull the dent out.

Once the dent is pulled out, use a cutting wheel to remove the studs from the panel. Use heavy grit sandpaper to remove any residual weld material and sand the surface smooth.

Finish The Surface Repair

Once you remove the dent, you need to apply fresh paint to the metal. Clean the whole space with a tack cloth, then apply an even layer of primer. When the primer dries, apply fresh paint until you've restored the finish. It may take several coats to do this. Once the paint is dry, protect it with a thorough coat of clearcoat to protect it.

As you can see, there are ways to repair dents in your aluminum body panels both with and without having to repaint the work area. If you are dealing with a larger dent and you want a better chance of not needing to repaint the area, talk with a local paintless dent repair contractor from a company like Ming Auto Beauty Center to see what your options are.