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Crunch. Uh-oh. Patrick backed into my best friend’s car.

I rang up Eddie Martin, owner and master technician at the Dent Devils (619-726-6767, thedentdevils.com), a paintless dent-removal shop. “People think of us as ‘the body-shop alternative,’” said Martin, “but in reality, the body shop is the alternative to us. Depending on the damage, I bring the car back to factory specs without using paint or Bondo. If a body shop uses Bondo or breaks the paint, then it’s not factory original anymore. On top of that, we’re usually cheaper, faster, and more environmentally friendly.”

It sounded good, so I asked how he managed it. “Paintless dent repair is done with special tools — stainless steel rods and hammers. You go in from the backside of the dent and gently massage or sculpt the metal back into its pre-existing shape. Sometimes, if you can’t access the space behind a dent, there are little pads you can adhere to the outside that will help you pull the metal back into shape — but it all depends. There are so many variables” that determine time required (and therefore cost). Prices start at $85 and go up according to the variables.

Type and severity of dent is the first of those variables. Access is the second. “Some people drill holes to get access — they might put one in a door jamb where it won’t be seen. But I think that’s sloppy, and the car is no longer factory [condition] at that point, so I don’t do that. I’ll pull stuff off the car in order to get to a dent. A roof dent can have a difficult access point, but it depends on the car. If you have a Mercedes with a sunroof, getting the headliner out properly may take hours. A BMW might take only a few minutes.” It takes skill and time to work on a dented door with airbags inside, but a dented Hyundai fender “might take only a few minutes.” Getting an estimate means bringing your car to the shop or emailing photos — one from straight on and one from a sharp side-view.

Sometimes, of course, access is impossible or the metal is overly stretched or kinked. When paintless removal is not an option, that’s when you call the alternative. Martin works in conjunction with Eurotek Auto Collision, downtown (619-239-7843). “And if you bring a car to them and it can be done paintless, they’ll send you to me.”

Martin left me with a warning. “There are scam artists out there doing dent repairs. Make sure anyone doing your repair is registered with the Bureau of Automotive Repair. There’s a link on my site where you can check that. If they don’t take the time to make sure they’re legal, what’s going to stop them from doing a bad repair?” And even a registered repairer might not be completely thorough. “Other shops that offer paintless dent repair subcontract it out; they don’t have a full-time guy like me. But you need experience to see if a problem is just cosmetic or something more serious. One time a Mercedes came in, looking like it just needed cosmetic repair on the bumper. But once the bumper was off, we saw that the crash bar was folded. If the car had been hit again, it would not have withstood the impact.”

Once, Martin did mobile repair. He stopped because “What I can do in my shop to make something 100 percent restored in five minutes might take me two hours and only end up 95 percent if I did it out of the shop.”

But if mobile repair is what you need, you might call Jason Maguire, owner of Dent Medics (858-337-5299, fixthedent.com). “I’ve been doing this for over eight years,” said Maguire. “We can’t replace a body shop, but we can fix a variety of dents — from the size of a dime to the size of a large dinner plate — as long as the metal isn’t stretched and there’s no paint damage. It’s a matter of manipulating the metal by pushing it thousands of times.”

Consider a dime-sized dent in a car door. “I’ll roll down the window, then put an air wedge between the glass and the outer door skin. That creates a quarter-inch gap for access. I use a stainless steel protector to keep the glass safe and then a variety of tools to work the dent away. A small dent with good access may cost $75, though it might go up to $125. A bigger dent with good access might start at $300 and go from there. It’s all a matter of size, depth, and access. A little dent with bad access may cost the same as a bigger dent with good access.” Maguire works from Oceanside to Chula Vista to El Cajon. Call or email pictures to get an estimate.

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Comments

thedentdevils June 6, 2010 @ 1:33 p.m.

Hello everyone, my name is Eddie Martin the owner of The Dent Devils Paintless Dent Repair Shop. As of March 9th 2010 I relocated The Dent Devils PDR Shop. Please visit us at our new improved location 5644 Kearny Mesa Rd Suite J, 92111. Please take note after drastic changes in the business practices of Euro-Tech Auto Collision. It saddens me greatly I no longer feel comfortable referring my customers and friends to this body shop. take care Eddie Martin http://thedentdevils.com/

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SurfPuppy619 June 6, 2010 @ 3:15 p.m.

DentDevil, I am going to email you some pics of a 1 inch dent in my Lincoln quarterpanel right abpve the rear whell well, happened in a store parking lot by a grocery cart..I need it fixed and I think you might be the guy....

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MsGrant June 6, 2010 @ 6:21 p.m.

Relieved that it's a coupe and not a four door ;)

And agreed that the suicide door Continental was THE BOMB.

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Grasca June 6, 2010 @ 7:43 p.m.

Why are the doors called suicide doors ?

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MsGrant June 6, 2010 @ 7:46 p.m.

'cause they were dangerous. Like suicide blondes.

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David Dodd June 6, 2010 @ 10:50 p.m.

Suicide doors open from the front to the back. Picture where the handle is on the door of your current car, and now picture the hinges on the rear side (and the handle near the front side).

http://www.215.org/NECO/shows/CCCJ03/images/Focus%20Suicide%20doors.jpg

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MsGrant June 7, 2010 @ 10:35 a.m.

They were cool while they lasted - love the Lincoln they drive on Entourage. Thanks for the explanations!!

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SurfPuppy619 June 7, 2010 @ 10:56 a.m.

Why are the doors called suicide doors ?

LOL....try opening one on the freeway and you'll find out :)

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Grasca June 7, 2010 @ 11:09 a.m.

Did the JFK presidential limo have these doors ?

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MsGrant June 7, 2010 @ 11:44 a.m.

I believe it did, Grasca. I remember seeing the movie "Executive Action" when I was a kid, and I am sure they were driving that car when he was assassinated.

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SurfPuppy619 June 7, 2010 @ 12:46 p.m.

Yes, Duby confirms it- suicide doors.

Here is another 1963 Lincoln Continental, the same year as JFK's limo;

http://www.tjsamericanhotrods.com/images/1963LincolnConvertible/Front-Right.jpg

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Grasca June 7, 2010 @ 1:50 p.m.

I didn't mean to start a controversy but the Lincoln Continental for some of a certain age will always be connected with JFK and the events in Dallas.

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SurfPuppy619 June 7, 2010 @ 4:04 p.m.

I have no idea what year the Lincoln was in the JFK photo, I just assumed it was a 63 b/c that was the year of the pic.....

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Duhbya June 8, 2010 @ 5:16 a.m.

An excerpt from the page linked in #16:

"The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas November 22, 1963 was a complex event. Virtually all of the issues stemming from this event are still being debated. One way or another, at the center of the crime of the century sits the Presidential Limousine SS-100-X, a custom-built 1961 Lincoln Continental stretch limousine designed by the Ford Motor company, customized and upholstered at Hess and Eisenhardt of Cincinnati, Ohio (more data in the "Origins" section at the bottom of the page), (now O'Gara H&E) and developed based on requirements and protocols of the Secret Service, who are responsible for the President's safety and for the fleet of White House automobiles at the President's disposal."

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