The short answer is yes, paintless dent repair (PDR) can work on aluminum. However, there are some important caveats. Often, fixing dents on aluminum surfaces is more difficult and expensive than popping out dented steel.
This is due to various properties that make aluminum more difficult to work with. If you’re looking to repair dents, it’s vital to keep this in mind.
Aluminum is increasingly widespread in the automobile industry. Right now, aluminum is most common in luxury vehicles, supercars, and high-end work trucks.
In the future, however, aluminum alloys may become more common. With that in mind, it’s important to understand the properties of aluminum and its impact on paintless dent repair (among other things.)
Aluminum Versus Steel: What’s the Difference Anyway?
Ford made waves back in 2015 when they switched the bodies of the immensely-popular Ford F-150 trucks from steel to aluminum.
But why did Ford bother making the change in the first place? Then as now, the Ford F150 was America’s best-selling vehicle. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Ultimately, aluminum offers some advantages compared to steel and other materials commonly used to build vehicles. Aluminum is lighter, which saves on gas and can increase towing capacity.
Indeed, Ford was able to shave several hundred pounds off the F-150. And the aluminum body itself also won’t rust like a traditional steel body.
The aluminum alloys used to manufacture vehicles are typically very strong and light. As such, many supercars, like the Acura NSX or Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, use aluminum extensively for bodywork and components.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to aluminum. Not only are aluminum alloys typically more expensive than steel, but popping out and otherwise repairing dents can be more difficult.
Repairing Aluminum Dents Can Be More Difficult
Unfortunately, there are a few significant challenges with aluminum bodies and other components. All-in-all, aluminum is more difficult to work with owing to its tensile strength and other factors.
Indeed, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted tests and found that low-speed repairs, like dents, were more expensive to repair when compared to steel counterparts. Does this mean you should avoid aluminum?
As with many things, there are trade-offs. Still, at least with the F-150, the money you’ll save on gas and the overall crash safety ratings make it a great choice.
As for other vehicles that use aluminum, you’ll need to research individual models. However, it’s safe to say that even though fixing dents is a bit more difficult, aluminum is a great material for vehicles.
Many Vehicles Have Aluminum Components
While the Ford F-150 and high-end sports cars are now well-known for their aluminum body, you can find aluminum components on many other vehicles. In fact, aluminum is the second most commonly used metal in the automotive industry.
Even if you don’t have a Ford F-150 or a hot and light supercar, your vehicle is still likely to have some aluminum components.
Aluminum is often used with wheels, suspension systems, transmission, and electrical wiring, among other things. Your vehicle may also have aluminum fenders and exhaust pipes or other components. Some engines are now manufactured primarily from aluminum as well.
Of course, you’re probably not going to have to pop out dents on an aluminum engine block. However, there’s a chance that body panels and other components are made with aluminum.
And with fuel efficiency becoming an increasing concern, aluminum is expected to become more common. It’s estimated that by 2028 aluminum will make up more than 15 percent of the average vehicle’s body weight.
Wondering why aluminum is more difficult to repair? Let’s dig in.
Steel Has “Memory,” Aluminum Does Not
No, steel alloys aren’t sentient or conscious. However, they do have a sort of “memory.” Once a steel piece (e.g. a door panel) is formed into its final shape, the steel will “want” to retain that shape.
If the steel becomes bent, its natural tendency will often be to go back to its natural shape. With paintless dent repair, automotive repair experts can lend the steel a helping hand and get it back to the right shape.
Aluminum, on the other hand, doesn’t really care. Bent this way, bent that way, it doesn’t really matter.
As such, when automotive technicians are working to repair aluminum alloys, they have to put in more time and effort. That said, while using paintless dent repair to fix aluminum is often more difficult, it’s still possible.
So Does Paintless Dent Repair Work on Aluminum?
It’s possible to fix dents in aluminum surfaces by using paintless dent repair. However, in some cases using PDR on aluminum may be impractical. For one, the costs may be hard to justify.
Two, the results may not always return the vehicle to like-new condition. While it’s ultimately possible to fix many dents with PDR, it’s important to remember the drawbacks and costs.
Is paintless dent repair safe for aluminum?
Yes, paintless dent repair is safe for aluminum. However, PDR is a tricky procedure and if improperly implemented, it could further damage your car.
Often, it’s best to let trained auto body repair technicians handle the work. Also, keep in mind that even if the surface has been repaired, there’s a risk that more serious structural damage has occurred and has gone unnoticed.
How do you fix dents in aluminum?
Paintless dent repair is one option for fixing aluminum dents. However, it’s not the only option. In some cases, if the paint has been damaged, that will need to be repaired, which may require painting.
If the damage is extensive, more intensive methods, like outright replacing panels, may be needed.
What’s important is figuring out the right approach for your specific situation.
Besides Aluminum, What Other Factors Could Impact PDR Costs?
Larger and deeper dents typically cost more than small, shallow dents. Further, dents in certain areas, say hard body lines or rounded curves, may be more difficult to replace with PDR. Also, remember that the more dents, the more you’ll have to pay to fix each.