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Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2004 / 12 Shevat, 5764

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Consumer Reports

DIY dent-repair kits that do a bang-up job | You may have seen them on TV infomercials or on the Internet and wondered if those do-it-yourself car-dent-repair kits really work.

We tested a couple and found that they do. To a point.

Advertising for these paintless-dent-repair kits claims that you may be able to restore certain types of dents to perfect or near-perfect condition. The kits are intended to be used on relatively small dents (less than about 6 or 8 inches long) that have no paint damage, are not creased and are not located near body lines. The products are not meant to be used on repainted or aluminum panels because they could damage the finish.

To test the Ding King basic kit ($20, and the DentOut DF-B100 (since replaced by the similar B100, $35,, we invited 19 members of our staff to try the products on their cars, which often had more than one dent. The panelists made 112 attempts to repair 39 dents. They rated each result on a five-point scale, ranging from "looks worse" to "looks like new."

Here's how the products work: Each kit has a glue stud or pulling tab, which has a threaded rod protruding from the back. To begin, you glue the stud or tab to the dent. Then you position a crossbar, or "pulling bridge," over the rod and screw a wing nut onto the end of it. As you turn the nut, the dent is drawn outward. The adhesive is designed to break loose before you damage the finish, but if it looks like you're pulling the metal too far, you can apply an agent to release the glue.

Ideally, you should raise the metal enough to remove the dent but not leave a bump. One company says it could take up to 10 tries to get it right.

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Although both of the kits worked about the same in our tests, neither totally satisfied any of our panelists. Eighty percent of them said the kits provided some or much improvement. Eighteen percent rated the results as unsatisfactory, but not worse than before attempting repair.

Repairs on dents less than 1 square inch received the lowest marks. We think that's because panelists did not perceive a big change. Efforts to repair dents of about 4 inches long or more got the highest grades.

Each kit comes with a glue gun, pulling bridge, two glue tabs of different sizes, enough adhesive for scores of pulls, release agent and instructions. Our testers thought those instructions did not clearly explain how much adhesive to use, when to stop pulling (we intervened if we thought a panelist was about to pull the metal out too far) and when to try again. Many thought the Ding King kit did not adequately explain how to use the glue gun and where to place the pulling bridge. The DentOut instructions were also confusing because they described tools that are provided only in other kits.

Experience is important for getting professional results, we found, and our amateur testers had trouble achieving them. Still, if you're willing to settle for a less-than-perfect repair, you might try one of these kits. The investment is relatively small, and if you don't like the results, you can still go to a professional. When we brought a car with dents similar to those we tested to a local Dent Wizard paintless-dent-repair franchise shop, the repair cost $130 for one dent - and left it looking like new. A local body shop, using traditional techniques that include filling the dent with body filler and repainting the door, estimated the same repair would cost $150 to $200.

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© 2002, Consumers Union, Inc. Distributed by NEA.