Hail damage is an absolute nightmare and most of the time, there’s very little we can do to prevent it from happening.
Sure, if you have a garage, you can leave your car inside, but if you’re caught in the middle of a storm, there’s nothing you can do other than seek shelter. Even then, it could be too late.
Most of the time, Hail damage will be minor dents that appear on your car as a result of a hail storm. These are ugly to look at, but don’t affect anything other than your cars aesthetic.
Yet, sometimes, in extreme cases, hail damage can be so severe that it brings the integrity of a panel into question.
Fortunately, every dent and ding can be fixed. That is if you are willing to pay the costs to repair hail damage.
In this article you’ll learn how to asses hail damage, how body shops fix hail damage and will briefly learn about other possible methods of repair.
How Body Shops Asses & Estimate Hail Damage
When assessing hail damage, body shops will consider a number of factors before coming to a price.
Luckily, because hail isn’t likely to cause anything more than surface damage, the price that is estimated should be close to the final price.
The main factor that will determine the price of repair is whether the panel is repaired or replaced. In some cases, replacing a panel will make more sense, other times, repairing a panel will be better.
Bodyshops will tell you in the estimate whether they are going use a dent-pulling system or replace the panel. The cost of both will be clearly stated.
Shops operate on a labor system. If they can make a simple repair more complicated, they are able to charge a higher price without being questioned.
The best thing you can do is to create a list of body shops and ask them all for estimates.
While it’s better to ask local body shops, you can also take photos and send them to companies online. This will give you a better idea of what you should be paying.
How Body Shops Fix Hail Damage
Because hail damage is mostly minor dents, fixing hail damage is considered a routine repair at most body shops.
The steps for a traditional repair are:
- Decide how to tackle the dent – Every car and every dent is different. Deciding the best way to repair a dent is crucial, it could be the difference between selling 40 hours for the week.
Two of the most common ways of removing dents is to push them out from behind using a hammer or to pull them out using a dent pulling system.
- Use tools to remove the dent – Every traditional repair that goes through a body shop will be repainted in some way.
The damaged area will be taken back to the bare metal before either being repaired and dressed up with a hammer and dolly or pulled out by a dent puller.
- Achieve a metal finish or apply body filler – Once the dent is close to perfect, it’s up to the panel beater to decide on a metal finish or to apply body filler. Most of the time they’ll opt for body filler as it’s easier and requires less time to perfect.
- Prepare the car for painting – After the car has been through the panel shop, it’s now ready to go to the paint shop.
During the preparation stage, they’ll mask up any surrounding panels that are not to be painted and scuff the panel so that it’s ready to receive paint.
- Paint the car – During my time in the body shop, I’ve found that the painters will get favorable labor times. This means they’re often given more time to repair than they need.
Unfortunately for you as a customer, if the job is completed before the allotted time, it is paid to the tradesman as a bonus.
- Polish the repaired and/or blended panels – Once the car and its panels have been repainted, they’ll be polished by the painters.
- Refit/Rebuild – After the car and its parts have been painted and polished, the car will go back to the panel beaters so that it can be re-built. This could be as simple as refitting a door handle, or refitting and rebuilding panels.
- Valet & QA – Finally, the car will go to the valeters which clean the car inside and out. If necessary, make and model badges will also be re-applied at this time.
Finally, it will be signed off by someone that is responsible for the quality of the cars. They’re putting their ass on the line here, any cars that are sent back will trace straight back to them.
Bodyshop Repairs vs Paintless Dent Repair
When it comes to dent repair, there are 2 main ways to do it. These are “Traditional Repairs” & “Paintless Dent Repair“
In most cases, if not all, body shops will perform traditional repairs whereas Paintless Dent Repair technicians will perform “PDR”.
Both services have their pros and cons.
Most of the time body shops will take longer and cost more. Paintless Dent Repair is better for the customer but has its limitations.
I’ve listed the pros and cons below to help you decide which service is most suited to your needs.
Pros & Cons Of Body Shop Repairs
- Everything can be fixed – No matter what state your car is in, everything can be fixed at a body shop. Whether a panel needs welded, replaced or resprayed, a body shop can do it all.
- Replacement Parts – A Body shop works with various parts groups that grant them access to manufacturer parts at a moments notice. This means they’ll have no problem replacing panels that are damaged beyond repair.
- Courtesy Cars – Depending on the size of the body shop that you let repair your car they may offer courtesy cars.
This will add on to the cost of repairs but allow you to travel around while you don’t have a car.
- More Expensive – Because there’s a lot more involved in a traditional repair, getting your car fixed in a body shop will cost you more money than PDR.
Not only that, but going to a reputable shop will cost you a lot more money than using an independent shop. It’s just how it goes.
- Longer Repair Times – As previously touched on, the repairs in a body shop will take much more time than hiring a PDR tech to fix your car.
This is because the process in a reputable body shop is much more than accessing the back of a dent and then pushing it out.
Depending on the damage, repairing your hail dents in a body shop could require 30 hours+ of labor.
- Requires Paint Refinishing – The general idea is that you should avoid having to repair the paintwork of a car whenever possible.
If you can keep the original paint you don’t run the risk of botched blends or having visibly different levels of orange peel in your cars’ paint.
Pros & Cons Of Paintless Dent Repair
- Cheaper – Because there’s much less material and potentially less labor required, PDR can work out to be much cheaper than a body shop.
- Faster Repair Times – Paintless Dent Repair means a lot less downtime. Depending on the size of the damage, you could effectively drive your car away the same day.
Not only that, many independent PDR techs will come to your work or home to repair the car within an allotted time. This is much more convenient than sending your car to a body shop for it to sit in their yard for weeks on end.
- Maintain Authenticity – Since paintless dent repair is the act of removing dents without filler and refinishing techniques, your car is still 100% authentic (providing there are no previous repairs).
This isn’t necessarily a huge deal, but it’s always best to avoid filler and repainting panels whenever possible.
- Limited Repairs – Paintless Dent Repair is perfect for minor dents & hail damage.
In cases where the paint is cracked or the metal is stretched beyond repair, you’ll need to use a body shop to make your car look brand new again.
Most good PDR technicians will be up-front and honest with you about what to expect and whether they can successfully complete the job.
But some will not.
- “Anyone” can do it – Expanding on my previous point. “Anyone” can perform PDR.
As a business there are very few barriers to entry. I’ve seen Paintless Dent Repair listed on many side hustle sites.
Just make sure to do your research on the company or person before you trust them with one of your most prized possessions.
Trusting the wrong person to repair your car will probably result in your car needing traditional repairs anyway.
As you can see both services have their pros and cons.
It’s really up to you which one you choose. Unless you’re making an insurance claim, then they’ll make you use one of their trusted body shops.
I’d personally avoid making a claim as much as possible. As long as the paint is not cracked, minor hail damage doesn’t really “need” to be repaired.
You definitely shouldn’t spend money that you can’t afford on making your car look good again.
If you’re on a budget and want to repair hail damage yourself, the best place to start is with a DIY Dent Repair Kit. Though I must admit, it’s not for the faint-hearted.