Technical Session 2014

Dents Unlimited

November 26, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night, but then the shop is in Port Moody, and it was late November, so what do you expect. Still we had 10 keen souls turn up to what turned out to be a very interesting and informative demonstration. For those of you who have not heard of Dents Unlimited, they remove dents from vehicles using a variety of prying tools and when they are finished the dent is gone and the paint is undamaged and the repair is very economical compared to traditional body shop methods of dollies, filler and paint. I will give you more detail on how they accomplish this feat, but first I will tell you the interesting story of the business.

Dents Unlimited is owned and operated by two very nice brothers, Brian and Randy Manzardo. In 1990 they were in the restaurant business together and decided they needed a change. They had cousins in Springfield, Missouri who ran a Dents Unlimited business just north of the Ozarks. Springfield is in “tornado alley” and that means lots of business from hail damaged cars. The cousins invited Randy to come south and learn the trade, which he did. He spent 6 weeks with them working 10 to 15 hours a day practicing on “dummy doors” and working on cars. After his initiation was complete, he returned to Vancouver and started Dents Unlimited here in 1992 which he and Brian still run it today.

When they first started in Vancouver 22 years ago they were the only ones doing this type of repair in BC and maybe in Canada. They literally had to make their own tools using the spring steel from torsion rod style trunk springs.

Here is how they perform their magic. It looks deceptively simple but it takes specific tools, lots of skill and even more practice. Done wrong, it will make more dents than it removes. For their demonstration Brian put a golf ball in a sock and swung it to make 3 small dents in the door of his nice shiny Chevy Avalanche pickup truck. The dents were typical of what you get when some heathen opens his door into the side of your car. Brian set up a vertical light array that shone along the side of the truck illuminating the door and showing the dents in slight shadow. Brian and tools

Next he put the window down, slid a sheet of Lexan down against the window and gently inserted a plastic wedge between the window and the outside skin of the door to open up a little space to insert the prying tools. See the photos for a selection of their tools.Brian at work

With the business end of the prying tool positioned inside the door, the light allows him to place the end of the tool exactly in the center of the dent and twists the handle to gently push out the dent. All the time he can see exactly what the tool is doing by watching the dented area. He pries the dent a little past flat, then uses a punch to dent it in a little bit then pries it back out and after a few of these iterations the dent has totally disappeared. We asked what he was prying against and it is the window protected by the sheet of Lexan to spread the load and avoid breaking the window. He said in some cases they can pry against reinforcing members in the door.

They do not remove door panels because it is too easy to do damage and once removed there is often a rattle left behind. If the customer wants to remove it himself, he is welcome to do so. That is particularly common with classic cars. There is often not enough flexibility to get a tool between the window and the door so the owner will bring the car to the shop with the door panel removed and they can do their work.

While he removed all three dents he kept up a continuous dialog about the process and its strengths and limitations. What can’t they do? If a dent is too deep and has stretched the metal a lot and has produced a distinct crease and broken the paint, they cannot do the work. However, if the paint is not broken they can take out sizeable dents. He likened a deep round dent to a pebble thrown into a lake. You see the indentation in the water and higher rings around it. It is the same with a dent. It looks to be all dented “in” but there is actually a ring around the dent that is proud of the door surface. They must pry the dent out and in, out and in, in many steps and knock the outer ring in and out until the dent is gone. This can take some time, but nothing compared to a body shops stripping, banging, filling and painting.

If a dent is in a really awkward position, such as near the rear edge of a door, he may ask the owner’s permission to drill a tiny hole in the end of the door to insert a small tool. Once the dent is removed the hole is plugged with a tiny plastic plug in latex sealant. They can even repair dents in roofs, under headliners and when there is nothing to pry on they have little rigs they hang from part of the vehicle as near as possible to the dent and pry against that.

They can work on steel and aluminum. Steel is more resilient and I was surprised to hear that the thick steel found in Classic cars is their favorite. Aluminum is fine too, but it cannot be manipulated as much before it work hardens. They also mentioned the latest safety measure in automotive glass, laminated glass. Unlike tempered glass that breaks into a zillion roundish bits, laminated glass cracks but stays together in a plastic cocoon. The problem from their point of view is you cannot pry on laminated glass or it will break.

Hail damage is a big part of this kind of business in hail prone areas. The typical damage made by hail stones is perfect for their techniques and saves the insurance companies lots of money compared to repair by traditional body shop methods. Even in Vancouver, where we don’t get damaging hail, they still see a dozen or so cars a year that had the misfortune of running into a hail storm on a trip. The most memorable was a brand new Lamborghini that was visiting Calgary for the 2010 stampede and suffered from a very famous hail storm. The car was trailered home and they spent quite a while massaging out the multitude of dents. Apparently that particular storm, right at Stampede time, damaged so many cars that it led to the largest car damage insurance claim in Canadian history. They have a cousin in the Dallas Texas area who is a roving Dents Unlimited guy and goes all over the world following the hail seasons and working for shops and insurance companies.

Brian and Randy are proud of their work and are very accommodating fellows. Dents Unlimited services are economical and most importantly, very effective. He says the repair costs depend on the size and number of dents. The first dent may be $100 but if there are five dents the remainder may be $20 or $30 apiece. It is most economical to have them do the work in their shop, but they are mobile and will come to your car if requested. He says he will give Volvo Club of BC members a 15% discount just by showing a current membership card.

Give Brian a call at 604-469-9545 at their Port Moody shop, 87 Williams St. V3H 3L1. They are right by the West Coast Express station. They also have a franchise shop in Abbotsford.