Remove Car Dents Quickly and Cheaply

By Paul Michael on 20 April 2007 (Updated 8 June 2011) 275 comments

Dents suck. And so does the cost to repair them. My wife's car has a ding in the door that's really been bugging me, and as a frugal shopper I wondered if smarter folks than myself have ever figured out a cheap way to repair dents. Good news...they have. (See also: 6 Slick Tools to Save Money on Car Repairs)

After doing a lot of web browsing I found many ways. But I don't have the cash for my own electromagnet, or the skills to do paintless dent repair (look either of these up, they take time and money...and a lot of skill). No, I wanted a quick, cheap "10 minutes or less" solution. And I found two. Ladies and gentlemen...welcome to the two minute body-shop. The tips below are for dents. I have another post if you want to repair scratches.

1. Remove a dent with dry ice

You can find dry ice in many places these days, even your local grocery store. It's cheap too, around $2 or less for a pound (you can buy it in bulk online for even cheaper). All you do is touch the dry ice to the dent for a few seconds and repeat the process until the dent is gone. Wear dry ice gloves though.

2. Remove a dent with a hairdryer and an air duster

I like this one even more, namely because an air duster and a hairdryer is readily accessible in most homes these days. A slightly different process, but still very quick, cheap and easy.

3. Remove a dent with a lighter, aluminum foil and an air duster

Thanks to several WB readers for pointing this new addition out. It's very similar to method #2, and please take note of the use of aluminum foil. I wouldn't want any of you to burn your paintwork. As you can see, and hear, this one works a treat.

Use any one of these and you'll have an almost invisible fix in no time. Plus, you won't have to be without your car while it's in the shop and best of all, you won't have to spend a ton of cash on a repair. A frugal fix indeed.

UPDATE (4/23/2010): Two videos that appear to offer contrary opinions

We like to give a complete picture here at Wise Bread. Well, since this article was posted several videos have come out that claim to debunk the methods, or give new ways to use them. You decide.

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Guest's picture
andrea

Okay this looks pretty good.....anybody try it?
Also where would you get the liquid carbon dioxide?
Would like to try it.

Guest's picture
Guest

It's NOT carbon dioxide. It's other, cheaper, inert gases. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerosol_spray

Guest's picture
still trying

I tried the method above and it didn't do a thing except cost me $4. My 2000 dodge mini van has a small 2"x2" dent on top of the front wheel quarter panel (right next to the antenna). Got out the hair dryer, heated up the area for about 1 minute, immediately sprayed the can air and nothing happened. Was really disappointed, from watching the video I really thought it would work. I also tried it on a smaller dent about the size of a golf ball, again NOTHING. I would try the hot ice but I'm pretty sure I'll have the same results. Guess I'll have to do it the old fashion way.

Guest's picture
Guest

the liquid ice... is actually can of air which u just turn around and ice comes out lol

Guest's picture
Guest

i have a small dent on my car..would these methods work for that?

Guest's picture
Guest

weell yu fuckin suck it dont work bitch??

Guest's picture
Guest geek 5678

you mean frozen carbon dioxide? :P

Paul Michael's picture

is simply an air duster turned upside down. You can get these from any store that sells computer hardware, including OfficeMax and Office Depot. They're less than $5 for a can, and are good to have around anyway to clean your keyboard and other components.

Guest's picture
Guest

CO2 doesn't come in a liquid state. It's either solid (dry ice) or a gas. The transition from solid to gas is called sublimation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublimation_%28chemistry%29

Guest's picture
Guest

unless it's at high enough pressure, as it is in a pressurised container

Guest's picture
Guest

Check out the wikipedia page. It's a molecular property that Carbon Dioxide can't exist as a liquid. Straight from solid to gas - weird huh..

Guest's picture
Guest

At high enough pressures, carbon dioxide CAN exist in a liquid state. Everything can exist in a liquid state, it just takes the right combination of pressure and temperature. It's only at normal pressures (like sea level) where sublimation takes place.

Try reading a book sometime instead of taking wikipedia at face value.

"molecular property"

Guest's picture
Guest

Yep I agree. Ever heard of the Z-machine. It can liquify a diamond at intense pressures!

Guest's picture
Guest

it is the propane propellant in the co2 can the causes the freeze.

Guest's picture
Guest

duchebag lurn physics ;-)

Guest's picture
Guest

Actually, it can, just not at atmospheric pressure. So if it's pressurized in a can, it can be liquid.

Guest's picture
Guest

wikepedia is not a reliable sourc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

WHO CARES!

Guest's picture
Guest

from the wikipedia page...

Liquid carbon dioxide forms only at pressures above 5.1 atm; the triple point of carbon dioxide is about 518 kPa at −56.6 °C (See phase diagram, above). The critical point is 7.38 MPa at 31.1 °C.[5]

Guest's picture
ryan

yeah because anyone can change the information on wikipedia
any time they want.

weird...huh

Guest's picture
Guest

anything can be a liquid if the pressure and/or temperature is right. at normal temp and pressure, solid co2 (dry ice) will turn directly into gas, but if you are at a low enough temperature or high enough pressure, it will condense to a liquid.

Guest's picture
Guest

"Sublimation" - that is a very technical term! Lets try another - "phase diagram". Look it up with CO2. You will find that CO2 is a liquid at certain temperatures above 5.11 atm.

Guest's picture
Guest

Turn the air duster can up-side down...it will spray liquid.

Has anyone tried this on really small dings? I can see how it would work on large dings because of the large surface area, but small dings would take a lot more force to fix.

Guest's picture
Guest

yea it does all elements come in either gas, liquid or solid, sublimation is just when it goes straight from a solid to a gas, but doesn't mean it doesn't come in a liquid,

Guest's picture
Zackz

CO2 can exist as a liquid at pressure higher than atmospheric. The easiest way to get this is at a sporting goods store that deals in paintball equipment. Cromoly tanks designed to handle this pressure can be filled with liquid CO2, and emptied by depressing a pin valve!

Guest's picture
quanticle

Its true that at normal atmospheric pressure carbon dioxide cannot be found in a liquid state (it'll go directly from gas to solid). However, if you pressurize carbon dioxide, you can get liquid. The carbon dioxide in those dusting canisters is pressurized, and therefore is liquid.

Guest's picture
Guest

For a simple experiment, shake a co2 fire extinguisher and report back what you hear.

Guest's picture
at

Try a plunger i had a dent about as big is my hand spreaded 3/4 wide. I tried a plunger and the first three time no suction but when i got good sucction out came the dent you can bareley tell it's even there. i know everybody got a plunger so it don't cost you a dime.Takes less than one minute!

Guest's picture
Guest

People who get mad at other people because they do not know or understand the molecular properties of CO2 are tools. You can correct people's understandable ignorance without sounding like an inconsiderate prick. I mean, besides F=mA, people generally do not need to know about physics or the ideal gas law.

Andrea Karim's picture

These are great, Paul. Next time I run into something, I'll check these out!

Guest's picture
Guest

I tried the second method and it did not work for me. I tried it too separate times but big intervals between tries, but it didn't help.

Guest's picture
Guest

I tried using the air duster & dryer method. It didn't work I used the entire bottle. tried four times and nothing! Wasted my money & made me angry. p.s. whever came up with it should mention that if you live in a warm state it may work but if you live where it's cold...forget it.

Guest's picture
Guest

Its would only work on metal car and trucks not fiber glass.

Paul Michael's picture

...and the second one worked for me just fine.

But as I would always say with these kind of tips, the results will vary depending on the make and model of car, and the type of dent you're dealing with. 

Guest's picture
Guest

Any restaurant or snack bar has co2 tanks for soda machines. The liquid is available by upending the tank and opening the valve. The tanks will be 500 to 1000 psi,so safety is an issue here. The liquid can be captured in a chamois or a leather glove, which traps the crystals of "dry" ice and allows the gas to escape.
The ice will seriously burn you and sticks to flesh easily, so take precautions!
{this info not found in wikipedia yet}

Guest's picture
Joe

Would this work with the smaller dents ?

My car seems to picked up a number of smaller dings (like people being careless on opening their door)

cheers Joe

Andrea Karim's picture

As awesome as wikipedia can be, we can't count on everything on there being entirely accurate.

Reminds me of a great Onion article.

And this Onion article hurts me deeply.

Guest's picture
Guest

Sweet. So with the right combination of temperature and pressure, I could have liquid wood? I have something to meditate on tonight.

Guest's picture
Guest

you are a retard. wood is not an element, it is made of several different elements and mostly carbon.

Guest's picture
Guest

Ah, yes...wood. Isn't that WD on the periodic table?

Guest's picture
Guest

Look whos talking, when you combine elements you get compound! GET IT, COMPOUND.......SILLY!!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

"you are a retard. wood is not an element, it is made of several different elements and mostly carbon."

This was really bugging me, water is not an element either yet it has a liquid form, so your logic is flawed. FYI, Water is hydrogen and oxygen.

Guest's picture
Guest

He was joking, duh.

Guest's picture
Guest

good example

Guest's picture
Guest

heh heh heh -- good one, Bevis!

BH

Guest's picture
thewraith

Yes you can have liquid wood and when it dries you can have paper!

Guest's picture
thewraith

Yes you can have liquid wood and when it dries you can have paper!

Guest's picture
Guest

"Sweet. So with the right combination of temperature and pressure, I could have liquid wood? I have something to meditate on tonight."

Yes wood is chemical compound. Read a book

Guest's picture
Guest

"Sweet. So with the right combination of temperature and pressure, I could have liquid wood? I have something to meditate on tonight."

Yes wood is chemical compound. Read a book

Guest's picture
Guest

That's hilarious. Oh man. I had to laugh like crazy. I think I will think of that response and laugh again tomorrow. I have to keep reading down the page and see if he responded to that or didn't ever read here again like I'm going to do.

Guest's picture
Guest

It takes a bit of 'cooking' but ever heard of 'oil'? OK strictly speaking its 'cooked' algae but with processing you can get oil from coal.

Guest's picture
Guest

co2 isnt an element either.

Paul Michael's picture

I always bow to others. Those people who excelled in Chemistry while I was off writing stories. Still...here are some links...

http://www.vmempire.com/liquidco2.htm

http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/chem03/chem03269.htm

http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/garment/lcds/micell.htm 

Guest's picture
Anon

You can't have liquid wood, wood is made of the element carbon.

Guest's picture
Guest

That is an outrageous comment. That is as outrageous as claiming "liquid car." When liquefied, it would no longer be considered to be wood.

Guest's picture
Guest

you are just "super dumb" and I apologize if it sounds offensive, coz the phrase is used only to point towards the irrational arguments you are making and towards your even greater lack of absolute basic knowledge! Now coming to the point, wood CAN NOT be liquefied because liquefaction under pressure and below a certain temperature is only applicable to gases and like we all know wood is solid! Now why don't you stop commenting here and concentrate on learning a little bit of Chemistry! Also, as far as meditation is concerned, I am sure if someone put in enough effort they might be able to liquefy wood...as for your abilities even at meditation, I am still doubtful.

Guest's picture
Guest

You can have liquid wood! Inside a vacuum, and applying heat wood will not burn because there is no Oxygen, it will melt. And I learned that in high school chem class!

Guest's picture
abdul aziz

This dry Ice temperature is -72 degree Celsius, Does any effect on car paint?

Guest's picture
MechE

the stuff in the dusters isnt usually CO2 due to the danger of high pressure force. They use a substance like tetraflouroethane (sp?) that can be stored as a liquid at lower pressures and still provide high velocity gas. As a result in phase change from liquid to gas the temperature drops. Look up ideal gas laws, PV=MRT. This is how your fridge works.

Guest's picture
Guest

The ideal gas law is actually PV=nRT, where n= amount of gas (mol).

Guest's picture
Guest

pv-nrt...not mrt

Guest's picture
Guest

wow bitch

Guest's picture
Anon

The second method didn't work for me, either. (I have a late model Honda, fwiw.)

Guest's picture
Guest

the 2 trick work very good for me .The second tips was the best.i tried on my old dodge.3 dent dissapear like in this video . really amazing and useful

Guest's picture

These methods wont work if the metal is creased.

The dry ice method is used in the paintless dent repair places after hailstorms.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm a pdr tech and I'm always looking for an easier way of getting dents out. Just thought I'd let you know that we don't use dry ice. You can search and see what our tool look like. It maybe true that dry ice may take out some dents. I have never seen it or actually talked with anyone in person that has had luck with this method

Guest's picture
AJ

We have a paintless dent removal business & have never used dry ice! There are a lot of special tools & training to fix things right. If dry ice works for you .... great!

Guest's picture
Guest

you couldnt be more wrong buddy.

Guest's picture
Guest

actually, that is not how hail is removed

Guest's picture
t-man

I used dry ice on my hail damage when it was 108° F outside, with no luck. I tried it on big dents, small dents. I made sure to get the metal frozen too. If it doesn't work when it's record-setting heat outside, I don't see this as a viable option. Please remove this option from this page.

Guest's picture
Woody

An important thing to consider as well is what the temperature is outside. These tips both rely on the surrounding metal being significantly warmer than the center area. If you try it on a cold day, your results probably won't be as good. My grandpa used to do this trick all the time (thanks mainly to my grandmas driving). I recall there were always dents in the car until the first hot day in spring, when they suddenly all vanished. :)

Guest's picture
Guest

lolololol

Paul Michael's picture

Seems like some old methods just keep on truckin'

Guest's picture
Eli

It might be a good idea, if this worked for you, to tell what brand of canned air you used. From the video it looks like the can says Memorex. Correct me if I am wrong. You can also say what didn't work for you so other people don't buy that brand.

Andrea Karim's picture

Or connaisseur. But isn't all canned air the same?

Guest's picture
Kaleb

I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I am a chemical engineer, and we deal with that sort of thing... I also worked in cryogenics for about a year. CO2 is very fickle, but it does stay liquid at a certain temperature and pressure. As someone stated, check out phase diagrams.

Just as a little bit of trivia, many compounds can exist as solid, liquid, and gas all at once, where the 3 regions meet on a phase diagram. This is called a 'triple point.' Any variation will cause one phase to disappear.

All canned air is not made the same; as stated before, the presence of tetrafluoroethane, etc. (CFCs) allow it to be propelled at a lower temperature & pressure.

As for liquid wood, that's cute. Liquid wood is not necessarily MADE of carbon, but it has carbon in it. It is a composite of many different compounds. Some of those compounds may go liquid at a certain temperature, but it may cause other components to ignite at that particular temperature and pressure, so it doesn't work.

Guest's picture
Guest

get on them for chemical properties, but dents don't get out this way!

Guest's picture
Guest

Man after my own heart! I heart nerds.
xoxo
--a fellow engineer

Guest's picture
Kaleb

Also, if you re-read the Wikipedia article, it is correct... it says that CO2 sublimes "at atmospheric pressure." This is correct, but if you change the pressure, you can have a liquid.

Sorry about the multiple posts.

Andrea Karim's picture

A chemical engineer? I'd say you're probably the only one on this entire thread that can claim "expert" status. Don't be shy.

Guest's picture
Charles

I checked out this page a few days ago... and today a friend dented her car... so I was rereading the comments to see if anybody would have any comments regarding using the hairdryer before using the can air for #2 (apparently not).

(and after reading the comments, i felt like i had to add the following)

Compressed gas in the can.. when you shake it you can obviously tell its liquid in there, so when your shooting it upside down, you'll be shooting out the liquid.

Since the liquid gas is higher pressure in there, the liquid will upon leaving the can, expand due to the lower pressure outside. From phase diagrams you can tell, dropping pressure in a liquid state would change the liquid to a gas (which btw is a process that absorbes energy. Hence the liquid turning into gas would now be at a lower temperature. And also the expanding gas absorbs more energy, which bring the gas to an even lower temperature. Upon hitting your nice dent in the car, the really cold gas helps to cool the metal. Hence the layer of ice on the car panel. As a side note the "stuff" you see shooting out of the can is condensed water from the air, due to the cold gas. Also note that liquid to gas phase change occurs relatively close to the valve inside the can. And final note, the expanding liquid also absorbs energy from the can, so the can gets colder and colder as you use it more and more. And also nozzle velocity is a function of the difference in temperature between the inside stuff and outside temp (along with pressure, etc.). Hence over continuous usage, the air that comes out.. comes out slower and slower, until you heat the can back up to room temp again (say with your hand) then it'll get back to its original performance.

p.s. Sorry for any bad grammar, grammatically correct sentences isn't exactly my specialty

Guest's picture
Guest

so, some people have said that the #2 method did not work, but can anyone say that #1 works, i am a clinical pharmacologist, i do understand the scientific reasoning, but can anyone else validate this method, and whats the largest size of dent that this method(s) is viable.

Guest's picture
Rich

Sure you can have liquid wood. It's called oil! Just add temperature and pressure and wait a few million years . . .

Guest's picture
Blake

I tried the compressed can of air method to no avail. Possibly the ambient temperature is not high enough (65F), or the dent is to big, or possibly there is a crease that I do not see. I'll wait until the dog days of summer to try again maybe.

Guest's picture
Guest

I found if the diameter of the dent is small but the depth of the dent is deep this method will not work as the metal has been too badly misshapen.

This method works fine on a simple depression dent or the types of dents you could normally push out by hand if you had access to the other side of the dented panel.

I've been told the dry ice method would work better than method #2 on the more stubborn or deeper and smaller diameter type dents, but even the dry ice has it's limits.

Guest's picture
jonnyboy

method 2 work beautiful on my car .

Guest's picture
Guest

I see that you said the method worked good for you, I'm just wondering what model and make your car is?

Thanks.

Guest's picture
Farzin the bumper

I desperately need to do this. What can air did you use? If you used CO2, where did you get it? I called Office depot, home depot, etc, and nobody has it. Please e-mail me so I can by the can ASAP

farzin_b2003@yahoo.com

Guest's picture
Guest

If the metal is stretched much at all then this won't work.
When a panel is dented it very often is also stretched so that even when you push the metal back to where it should be it will be to full (have to much area) and wont be straight.

To actually fix a damage in the metal (metal finishing) the metal often is shrunk, which is usually done by heating with a gas torch and then hammering excess metal back in to a small area and then quickly cooling with water, also it can be done with electricity.

Anyway both methods require the paint to be removed.

So I think that these methods will only work on very shallow dents that were made with very little force.

Guest's picture
Guest

Since the Dry Ice shops are limited and only open during my work hours, I went to my local grocery store to buy the dry ice. The grocery store only sells it in a 10lb bag so it costs me $12 for this experiment.

It did not work for me, tried it eight times. Even tried it on another car with a tiny ding from people's car door. Maybe the dent is too deep? Someone let the shopping cart roll and hit my car and caused the dent.

I swear if I ever see this happen to anyone else out there, I will take down the information and give it to the owner who has his/her car damaged.

Guest's picture
Guest

I am in the car appearance business,where I have to repair dents sometimes.I have a set of PDR (paintless dent removal)tools,but they are not that great to use.So I decided to look up better ways to remove dents ,and came across videos like the ones shown for dent removal.Let me tell you I think it's BS!!! I specifically used dry ice on the same kind of dents,sizes etc.. and had no luck.I have a heat gun also,which brought the paint temp. up to 257 degrees and I then applied dry ice and had no luck.I even tried on another day and different car and it still doesent work!! Don't get your hopes up of saving money on crap that don't work..

Guest's picture
Guest

i was at work and my wife was out shopping and I decided to stop and pick up a TON of car detailing stuff, including a headlight restoration kit, wax, wash, you name it. I got home to find a dent and paint from another car on the passenger door. Be it a shopping cart, another car, what have you, I am in the same boat. I was livid, if I ever see ANYONE let a cart or anything do that to anothers car, I will chase them down, get all the info i can, and report it, so the victim doesn't have to go through that same violated feeling that I did. Especially after you spent $50 on car detailing stuff

Paul Michael's picture

In my previous car, someone had rapidly and forcefully opened the door of their SUV onto my car, causing a huge dent and paint to chip away. There was even a bunch of white paint left from their SUV. And they just drove away. Why are some people such A-holes? As for the dent, I'm not sure why the methods work for some folks and not for others. I'm sorry you wasted your money on the dry ice. I hate anyone wasting money, which is why I write for WB.

Guest's picture
Laura

Does anyone know of an efficient way to remove these dents? The bigger dents are easier to remove than the smaller ones I think, especially shopping cart dents that are so small and deep. I call it a DING not a DENT and I think they are sometimes worse than dents because a dent can be pulled out. It really bothers me that the person who did this didn't even have respect enough to leave even a "Sorry" note, I could often care less if someone dings my car as long as they say they are sorry or at least leave me their number so I can call them and see if they care enough to apologize and accept responsibility for their actions. Why are people so lame?!

Paul Michael's picture

Now I own a 2007 Honda Civic (the other one conked out on me 8 months ago). But as you can see, different people are having varying degrees of luck. I would always try this on an unseen part of the car first, just to make sure. Same goes for the scratch repair tips I posted.

Guest's picture
Guest

On larger dents a plunger will work as well.

Guest's picture
kydentman

Hello to all.. I've been a paintless dent removal tech now for 10 years and I can say that all these methods will do is cause worse damage to your car. Dry ice will cause your paint to dislodge from the car and will eventually bubble up and flake off. If you use a plunger on big dents you will cause massive crowns that will lock up the dent and even make it hard for me to fix with the proper tools. www.doording.com is a good website for info on how to properly fix a dent or ding. Fixing a ding or dent without harming the paint is an artform and should only be done by true professionals in this craft. Check your yellow pages for a dent guy near you...

Guest's picture
Chris k.

I just wanted to say thank you for posting on this site. I just happened to come accross it and was reading all of the posts from really ill informed people out people out there. I am a PDR tech in Oklahoma. I was just about to post the same thing. But anyways, thanks

Guest's picture
Guest

I have a Vespa with a dent in the legshield. I also have a smaller dent in the door of my subaru. The gauge of sheet metal on the Vespa is much thicker than the subaru. I'll try dry ice on both and see what happens.

Guest's picture
Guest

did it work on your vespa legshield? my GF's scoot has the same problem.