Coping: Prepping for a Wreck with Body Work

As you can see in the following picture, Ure’s truly has an old 2001 Dodge Ram Pick-em-up.

One winter day, about 2006, or so, this big hairy limb about 5-inches in diameter decides to fall on the hood of the truck, like so….


Now I’m in no particular hurry to spiff up the old farm truck. You know…not the vehicle I would drive to draw attention to myself. (we had a red ’86 whale tail 930 at the time for that…)

Since I believe in carrying good insurance, but with a $500 deductible, I took it into a couple of shops in town. 2006 Verdict: $550 to $650 which means that I would be out $500 and I would have a claim on my policy. Hmmm…

We were in the midst of house rebuilding at the time, too. So I did the next best thing: Hit it with some Rustoleum Primer and then some silver paint over that and called it good.

In the next few weeks, the truck will get a good workout. Panama and bride will use it to move stuff down to their new home in town.

Then, we’ll go through a frenzied clean-out of the storage room and get a new freezer out there. New shelving for the survival foods is a given…and a dozen, or so, other projects around here.

When it’s all done?

I’ve decided to have a go at fixing the dent in the hood myself. As usual, before I take on any new project, I do a “total immersion” in trade books to pick out what I call in “Recipe Method of Learning” 1) the ingredient list, 2) the recipes, and 3) cooking instructions.

Automotive Bodywork & Rust Repair was my starting point.

This is a marvelous book, indeed. It reveals the secret to getting out a decent dent like this is simple: Figure how the dent happened (think of this as a timeline of the denting process) and that becomes how you work the metal back into position.

In my instance, the 5-inch limb hit and it fairly well messed the left edge of the hood first. Then, it either bounced or there was a branch that made a secondary dent over a little wider area.

The magic in the book is that if you work the dents out in correct order, you will have a very good chance of making things right.

The author of this book alludes to an even earlier book Martin BFB The Key to Metal Bumping Manual Instruction Book, 126 Pages– in paperback for about $18 bucks called

which seemed like the source of this “order of cooking” stuff.

That left only two missing pieces of the recipe. One was the welding part. I can run a pretty good triple-pass bead (for butt joins of ¼-inch plate steel, for example). But the few times I have had occasion to weld on sheet goods, I need to take extreme care because I tend to be the King of Burn-Through.

As this bent up lid handle, soldered to our burn barrel demonstrates, my “finesse” at welding thin stuff is…oh…midway between piss-poor and gawd-awful. Enter  Weld Like a Pro: Beginning to Advanced Techniques and that solved the problem.

Two notes to city slickers: 1) I have revised my shop practice to include backing the O2 regulator all the way out before turning on the tank. I knew that regulator explosions were possible, but not as common as they apparently are.

Second “in passing” is to report that we can get a year or two out of a burn barrel now, instead of 6-9 months by simply keeping the lid on (and the rain out). Definitely worth the effort to cover….

Back on the story line, this left only a few simple hand tools to round up. The grinder and sander stuff is handled. But I didn’t have a set of auto body tools (three hammers and four dollies) so there went $27 bucks.  Performance Tool W1007DB 7-Piece Auto Body Repair Kit

Finally, a spray can of approximately matching paint, which will be applied over aircraft grade primer (which we have on hand). Topping everything off will be a nice coat of clear-coat.

Notes to the Financial Statement

Now comes the detail level – facts that matter, but they would get in the way of storytelling.

1.This is not a hurry up project. I understand that the hammer hits only move the metal about 3-thousands of an inch at a time. Between a piece of copy paper and a manila folder, right? So it will be no hurry up job. Just a little Zen kind of metal beating.

2.Ear protection is required when banging metal. A hundred pairs (2X 50 packs) ofMack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs, 50 Pair (Pack of 2)  will do fine. Around the ranch, there is no end to noise so this makes sense to us.

3.I have no delusions about perfection. If I cannot bump the metal perfectly, I don’t have any problem resorting to what Pappy referred to as “1/4-inch Spackle.” For additional durability, I will use Bondo, lol.

4.Good shops will take a project like this hood deal off the vehicle. You get much better access for tools and such. But, no, not me. The work is about chest high as it is, and propping the hood open ought to work just fine. I can tie it into position with a rope to the carport overheads.

5.The MOST IMPORTANT sub-recipe is that when metal is dented, it can become hardened by the stretching. In which case, it has to be annealed first so that it can be piles back into itself in the hammering process. The best tool for this is an oxy-acetylene torch with a #1 or #2 tip. With this, the metal is quickly heated to about 1,550 to 1,600 F which makes it about salmon-color. Books say to do it quickly, don’t burn through and consider a wet rag to aid cooling. I figure to use the wet rag to put out the fire when the truck lights off, too.

There: Howzat? A complete idiot’s guide to Prepping for the Next Accident. If we lived closer, Gaye’s hubby (SurvivalHubby of used to bang metal when he was a teenager and is reportedly very good at metal bumping. While it would be a lot faster and for sure it would look better if someone else did the work, I can’t think of anything more fun than mashing yet-another skill into my head.

This one sounds like more fun than most and even if it goes terribly wrong (except for the fire, what could go wrong though?) so what: It’s a damn farm truck and it’s not for trolling. It’s for pick up new burn barrels, bringing home dimensional and sheet goods from the lumber yard, and dumping things like old water heaters at the dump…and using it to move things.

Think about it: How many people would lend out a new $80,000 show-car detailed Cummins Diesel-powered truck to do a move or hazard the road into the dump? Or let a kid at a lumber yard dump 2,000 pounds of peeler poles for fencing into the bed from 2-feet up (“Ooops, sorry…”) (“Aw shoot, don’t worry kid, it’s a farm truck…”)

Approximately no one.

That doesn’t mean I’ll do a sloppy job. In fact, I still marvel at my rust-prevent work from ’06. Why the damn dent looks good-as-new to me.

Besides, you can just rush into things of such importance now, can you?

Mandatory Disclosure:  Yes, Preston the real body artist will be doing the Lexus.  Sure, I have read how to pop out the ding and how to heat it back into position with a heat gun.  But me?  Paint?  Lexus?

Three variables to weigh closely here:  Skill of workman, quality of results, and the continued high reliability of marriage.

Write when you get rich…

18 thoughts on “Coping: Prepping for a Wreck with Body Work”

  1. Have you tried leaving it out in the sun all day and about 4 in the afternoon pulling on it with a bathroom plunger?

  2. In my neck of Pennsylvania, on an older pickup like Ures (2001), local folks would likely remove the hood and hammer out the dent as best they could, then use an angle grinder to level out the small hammer dents and bumps. Then liberally apply several coats of Bondo (sanding with increasingly finer paper in-between each coat, making sure each coat is completely dried). Apply several light primer coats (checking for irregularities and sanding/re-coating with Bondo where and as required) then spray paint the entire truck in a creative green-gray-black camo pattern . . . . hides all of the defects and even some light rust quite well! Pennsylvania – the “State of Independence!”

  3. On bodywork for the beginner.
    The untrained hand will never feel .010 ripples but any eye will see them when painted.
    Remember, there is no crying in auto body repair.

  4. George,
    Ever consider checking a salvage yard for a hood, minus dents, that could be painted to match truck with a little less time invested? I do know that salvage parts are getting increasingly hard to find, especially in our area because there is a secondary steel mill that gobbles up old cars/trucks as fast as they can be brought in. Good luck with the project. Have done several of similar nature for myself, and the satisfaction of completing the job is better than the result sometimes.

    Lloyd Snider

    • That would be my move. Much less aggravation and a better result. Hell you might even find one that’s the same color!

  5. I’d go with taking it off, you need mass behind what you hammer and at that height gravity is not your friend………

  6. Has anyone tried to use a Pops-A-Dent? I thought about buying one for possibly future use. Although, I’ve read that some people use liquid nitrogen or some other such stuff instead-(and use hair dryer heat later?). A neighbor who once lived in Louisiana once told me that people with hail damage there collect the insurance money, and then wait for a hot day and wash the car in cold water, leaving the car in the sun. Sounds like a tall tail to me, but I dont know anyone in LA.

  7. Near fifty years ago, my dad (who was a used car dealer all his life) decided that I would be okay to use as help during various projects he was involved with – which was why we ended up going to a ratty-looking house and he introduced me to couple of people he said were ‘artists’. (Of course, in the same breath he mentioned that they ‘had a drinking problem’, so I pretty much figured that they were rarely sober, given what he considered ‘a problem.’)

    Having had a somewhat sheltered up-bringing, I was surprised to meet ‘the wife’ who was a tall, rather muscular woman, and her husband, a wizened, older ‘- who was obviously ‘under her thumb’ (according to my dad – woman’s lib not withstanding.)

    My dad was there to pay them – the woman could paint cars perfectly and the man – using most often ‘a hammer and a block of wood’ since he usually ‘drank’ his tools away – could pound out dents and other imperfections in automobile bodies – hence ‘the artist’ title.

    My dad may have been there just to take care of a bill (and I was only tagging along), but I was impressed that ‘a woman’ was in charge. Didn’t get to see very many (my mom being the exception at the time).

    • And both my Grand mothers born 1905, 1914 and my Mom born 1936, and me IFFIN you ask my husband!!! I used to be a skinny ninny NOW I am large and in charge!!!

  8. The dent has caused the sheet metal to stretch. And will stretch even more when trying to straighten it. The trick is to drill a few small holes in the dented area, these holes will close when the metal is straightened.

  9. The hood has compound curves…the crease intersects with a beginner you will not get this done correctly. The problem is as you hammer and dolly one area…it tends to push the “wrinkle” against the curve….NEW CREASE. As you try to work the sheet metal back to a neutral position between creases and compounds you stretch the metal and end up with etra mass that needs somewhere to go to. The remnants of the dent will return…unless you do as suggested by others here drill a couple lateral holes in line with the potential crease to allow the new thinner metal to expand into …then grind down and bondo..Also would not suggest heating the metal

  10. Mind you this is all hypothetical but take a few pieces of wood it would put under the hood @a Heights where the air cleaner doesn’t get hit then takes a small piece of plywood and lay across the wood then take some rotten watermelons and lay on the wood where are the dent is and then slam the hood shut a few times and it’ll pop back out if you’re worried about the metal expanding ,put some of freon and let it Xscape underneath the hood toward the dent and then close the hood on the watermelon pool hey if you don’t try you won’t know huh

    • About the crease ,put some Brylcreem on it that should straighten it well I have fun but all I can say, about to crease what you do is take some rug the square rug shag rug and you just apply the’m all over it you know the hood and the fender and that way you can enter into the local parade next time it comes around I tried that and it was I tried that in Myrtle Beach once my whole car was covered in shag rug it was something else the old times were the best, until it rained real hard while coming back to Virginia ,with shag rug tiles flying off into the wind haha lol

  11. George, if it’s a farm truck and the hood stays dpwn at highway speeds WTF. Let it be. I have a 75 For F100 4X4, 300 six 4 speed down at the ranch. There is a crease along the hood a lot like yours along with lots of others. I drive it to town most every weekend for supplies and such. I get offers to buy her all the time.

    Dad called it a beauty mark.

  12. Is there a technical school with an auto body class in your neck of the woods? I spent several years in evening classes restoring a car that way. They have all the tools and an instructor to show you the shortcuts.

    It was a lot of fun, too. Being the only woman in the class I got a lot of attention.

  13. Dear George! I salute your constant efforts to master “The real World!” Please post jpgs etc as you complete this project. England expects! Wear eye protection!
    Regards to you, a Real Texan, now!
    Walter Wilmanski

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