Instructables

Pull a Car Dent Using a Telephone Pole

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I bought a car with a major dent on the driver side rear quarter panel and rear door. Instead of buying a door panel and quarter panel, I decided to pull the dent. Using a slide hammer and stud welder was not the best method for this dent removal (Spent a couple days pulling it this way). Seeing no progress from the slide hammer, I decided to quit for a couple days. While taking out the trash, I saw the telephone pole outside of my garage and thought that it would be a good way to pull my dent using the method described in this Instructable.

Warning-
This instructable can be dangerous. If you are not confident in your welding ability or equipment, then don't try this at home.

I had a weld snap once on this instructable and the strap went flying towards the pole. The ratchet handle broke on the tie down strap (releasing tension) after pulling four different parts of the dent.  Luckily I was out of the way when both incidents happened.


Required Tools and Materials-
MIG Welder
Angle Grinder
Cutoff Tool
Wire Brush
Pliers
Ratcheting Tie Down Strap
A Solid Object (Telephone Pole, Brick Wall, Tree, ETC.)
Metal Coat Hanger
Body Filler
Spray Paint (Two Colors)
Automotive Paint (Color Matched to Car)
Spray gun and Compressor

Cleaning the Area
In order to pull a dent using this method, you will have take the paint off the car.  I used the angle grinder with a flap disc attached because it took the paint off quickly. I then used a drill with a wire brush to clean up the area where I will be welding.

Creating the Anchor
Take half of the metal coat hanger and bend it into a U shape using the pliers. 

Welding and Pulling
Have someone hold the two points of the coat hanger in the position that is needed and tack weld one of the sides. Then the other point. Put a couple of tacks around the points in order to have a more secure anchor point.  Attach one end of the tie down strap to the solid object (telephone pole, brick wall, etc.) and attach the hook to the hanger on the car. Slowly ratchet the tie down strap. Keep ratcheting until the area is at the position needed. It is best to start from the shallowest part of dent and work towards the deeper part. Cut off the coat hanger, position it onto the next shallowest part of the dent, and repeat the welding and pulling until the dent looks close to original.

Body Work
After getting the metal as close to the original shape as possible, grind down the nubs left by the coat hanger using the grinding wheel. Then use body filler and spray it with a light color spray paint. After each thin coat of body filler, sand the filler with progressively lighter grades of sandpaper until the finish is smooth. Spraying a different color spray paint and sanding would show the low spots on the area and show where to focus more body filler or less sanding.  After getting it smooth and to the shape desired,  spray the whole thing with the light colored spray paint in order to protect it from the weather.

When the weather is not as cold or as wet as it is here, the whole area will be sprayed with the original color bought from an automotive paint shop and color sanded to blend into the paint that surrounds it.

Conclusion
This method is not something I would do to a classic or collector car. Replacing the panel is the best way. This is the poor man's way to fix a dent on a daily driver that will probably end up being crushed when its done serving it's purpose. I could  not open the door before pulling the dent and now it can open/close without any problem. It is never going to be close to how it came from the factory and you can tell there was damage, but at least it looks better than it did. 
freemacin1 year ago
Not bad, but there are definitely much better and easier ways to pull out a dent.

[coming from a collision repair man]
Right, and that's why you named so many... =D
davebijoux1 year ago
Thank you for that, hackmattr. That sort of DIY stuff is embraced here in New Zealand. I really have to agree with Lazy Glen - running around with our hands flapping in front of us, being Safety Superintendants For The World - kind of like helicopter parenting. "And NEVER forget your crash helmet when walking to the grocery store. You there, WHERE is your safety whistle?!"
I'm not sure if it would have worked in this case, but for minor dents, you can take a hairdryer and heat up the dent and the area around it, then turn a bottle of "canned air" (the stuff you get in hardware stores for cleaning computers) and turn it upside down then spray the fluid that comes out all over the dent until the can is empty. wait a few minutes till you hear a pop, then wipe off the residue left by the canned air. dent fixed!
Thank you for pointing that out. I am not a mechanic and would never try this but was curious to see how this was done. This is NOT for the DIYer. While a warning is there regarding the weld and equipment it should be more emphasized how dangerous this could be. Too often I have seen similar situations backfire using tension like this to lift or move objects, no one hurt, but I love your simple remedy to help avoid it.
Really?

Have we come so far that we need to be warned that putting things under tension could be dangerous? Anyone with the equipment to PULL (HA!) this off should already be smart enough to do it safely, or at least take responsibility for their own mistakes if they don't.

This may not be for a ROOKIE DIY'er, or ROOKIE welder, but for goodness sake, with this attitude no-one would ever do anything that they had not done before.

OP, Great job, I'd have used a come-along rather than the nylon cargo strap, but we use what we gots.

LazyGlen
*s* Given that fast food joints feel it necessary to put a "warning! contents may be hot" n their drinks containers, and makers of car sunshields put "do not drive the car with this in place" on their products, the limit of human stupidity cannot be underestimated. There's bound to be a few people who think they can handle this kind of job with no regard for safety.

Hve you seen the Dawin Awards website?
HelenaTroy1 year ago
Whatver you use, make sure it's very firmly anchored!

There's a couple of stories over here about people doing this and coming unstuck: one featured a tree and the other a concrete lamp-post - end result same in both cases: when the card backed off the strain pulled the item on to the car and flattened it. The tree killed the driver. 

In each case, the driver had caused the dent by hitting the post and the tree, which may have been a contributory factor. You may not have hit a pole you use to pull out a dent, but for all you know someone else might have.damaged it previously.
I don't think they actually back up the car while it's anchored - I think they are using the ratchet on the tie-down to pull the dent.
ah, ok. The way I heard it, these people hit the object, put a chain or tow-rope round it and the bumber, and backed it - instant fix, done at the time of the accident. Of course, hitting the object might have shaken them and caused them not to think clearly ...
The easy way to resolve this problem is to get the permanent marker out, then write "HERS" on the dent. Hey presto, done, no welding needed and puts a smile on passers by's faces...
What's wrong with you, gotta bring that sexist garbage in here?
Please don't take it so seriously! Even my wife (a good driver) would laugh at this... it was a joke - and a funny one at that. I am sure the laughs would be the same if someone wrote "Husband used my car."

Green Silver - thanks for the laugh.

Agreed. Not cool.
hackmattr (author)  Green Silver1 year ago
+1 that Idea. I bought this car from a woman and it was like it was in a demolition derby. I had to also replace the front bumper due to damage she did also.
instead of just pulling you can aid the process by rapping around the area you are attempting to repair with a dead blow hammer , the shock will move the metal with less pulling tension required therefore less chance of an accident from you apparatus breaking loose
so you apply some tension, and then use a hammer to bang around the outside of the dent?
Thats right , rap around the area you are pulling and increase the tension as needed when the metal has moved !

Use a soft dead blow hammer or you will creat more problems than you are fixing !!
syco1231 year ago
Fold a blanket and put it across the strap to absorb the energy should the welds fail.
Brilliant!
Alienjones1 year ago
I've got some of these dents from tight car parks at work. I identified the culprit with photos but she still denies her car did the damage. $3000 was my quote. Even with the excess of $500 I'll still be out of pocket a fair amount. This idea looks to me as if it will leave thin sheet metal skin even thinner after the welds are ground off and smoothed down. Do you know if this sort of repair on a a structural member is legal? Mine is on the structure (like yours) behind the read door. I'd give it a go if I could be sure it wouldn't weaken the vehicle in any future accident. Thanks for the idea BTW.
mr fat1 year ago
very very cool! I used a tree to do the same thing before!
Dezri1 year ago
Better be careful and not get caught by the local power and telco companies, they frown quite heavily on someone using their property for anything like this! (Please don't ask how I know.)
rncbme1 year ago
Matt, you might also want to consider using a steel welding rod to pull on instead of a coat hanger as it is better metal with less internal contamination, thereby stronger under tension. Great Instructable.
artemff1 year ago
The method is exactly what the author calls it - a cost effective way of fixing a daily driver. The only problem I see here is that the car may slide. I would cut a piece of wood and put it between the pole and the nearest wheel.

For those who don't have a MIG welder - one may try using deep threaded metal screws. Make a number of holes (it will be even better for applying putty later) and mount several hooks. The rest is as described in this instructable.
Another option would be to pass a thin steel wire rope through the holes but it's easier to overstretch metal in this case.
maxman1 year ago
+1 on the blanket over the cable. Thanks for the instructable.
rimar20001 year ago
Clever Idea!

About 10 years ago I used "my" telephone pole to push a bit the front grille of my house, that was side deviated 1 cm, and the door did not close. The procedure was successful.
Nice job! The cargo strap is pretty elastic, and the risk is created when it works like a big rubber band on anything that breaks loose. The way to avoid that is to use a length of chain instead at the car end and cut way down on the loaded length of the strap. This reduces the amount of spring back and the chain links tend to drag on flying objects (I learned this in my Punkin Chunkin days).
rikkiesix1 year ago
Thats a nice way to fix your car
Thanks for making this instructable
Great stuff
Greetings from Belgium
Erik
It seemed like this is more work than required. but I can see how not everything can be a paint less dent removal. you better make dam sure your confident of your welding ability cause it doesn't take long to make 10 times more work for yourself.
syates31 year ago
You did a fairly nice job on the repair it looks worlds better then the original, and while I can see the idea of using a dead blow hammer to shape it from the inside having grown up with someone who used to do body work I can tell you that having some of the tools makes that a bit easier then pulling. They even make a tool you can get that takes a weld with a signal rod and lets you use them to pull a dent out one rod at a time.
hackmattr (author)  syates31 year ago
The Stud Welder and slide hammer is great for small dents, but in this case I was not seeing any process and this took all of about 10 minutes instead of the 2-3 days I spent using the Stud Welder and Slide Hammer.
clazman1 year ago
Novel idea. Might i suggest draping a light sheet over the wires to help absorb energy when and if a wire breaks.

I experienced the breakage of a 1 inch cable and it wasn't pleasant.
you could use a gopro suction cap mount and pull using that uf you dont want to stuff up your paint
(removed by author or community request)
hackmattr (author)  awesomecreations1 year ago
I couldn't stand not being able to open the door and seeing how it looked. This car is my daily driver until I'm finished restoring a 65 mustang.
OK bro. You should post some parts of that restoration as an instructable for anybody else who needs to do similar fixes to their classic.