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Old 04-17-2003, 08:54 PM   #1
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Dent removel - two methods

I thought I’d pass on what little I have learned about dent removal on an Airstream.

I have been working on two dents, both on the rear curbside corner. One, a rather large one about head high next to the window is pictured below.

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Old 04-17-2003, 08:55 PM   #2
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It was removed by the simple expedient of purchasing a replacement segment and having an expert install it. I did perform part of the labor by removing the interior panels. He wanted them out so he could use as many bucked rivets as possible. The result, as you can see is in every way satisfactory. Only a very close inspection will discover the few shaved Olympic rivets.

Note that the dent next to the tail light under the blue stripe is also gone. That was removed by method two, below.

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Old 04-17-2003, 08:56 PM   #3
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The other method is more tedious and the result is not as good, but it is less expensive. A previous owner had backed into something just higher than the bumper, putting a roughly 18” crease in the skin just above the lower trim piece. This crease had a maximum depth of nearly an inch. See below.

Mark
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Old 04-17-2003, 08:57 PM   #4
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The procedure is to start at the outside of the dent, and work carefully and slowly around and around until you finally press out the center. The trick is to put so little pressure on the metal that an outside observer (you NEED an outside observer!) cannot actually see the skin move – ok, maybe just a little. But too much pressure will leave a new stretch mark that is even more unsightly. Additionally, you need something to push with that has no defined edges or THEY will leave stretch marks. Keep in mind, you cannot see these forming from inside – this is why you need someone outside.

After considerable trial and error, I settled on an ordinary rubber mallet. Initially, working on such a large area, I used the head as shown below on the left. Guiding with one hand near the head, and pushing on the handle with the other, I pushed, moved a perhaps an eighth of an inch, pushed, moved another eighth, and so on. Once I got down to the sharp portion of the crease I needed something with a smaller contact area. I was at a loss until I thought of the rubber coated handle (on the right below). It worked great! I don’t skimp on the important tools, no sir! That’s the $3.95 mallet, not one of those $1 ones.

Mark
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Old 04-17-2003, 09:04 PM   #5
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Results will become apparent only very slowly. What you see below is the result of about three hours steady work. Four with rest breaks. It is very fatiguing. But the curve came out very, very close. The mark that remains is where the metal was stretched from the initial impact. If this were an early model coach with the thicker, highly polishable aluminum, I believe it would easily pass the 10 foot test after polishing. As it is, I now have something more in the nature of a “beauty mark” rather than a rather prominent crease.

I also used this method on the dent next to the tail light, under the blue stripe. If you look closely at the before and after in the top two photos above you will see that the dent is simply no longer visible, even close up.

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Old 04-17-2003, 11:18 PM   #6
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Thumbs up Nice tip

j54mark

Mark,

Very impressive piece of work here.

ciao
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Old 04-18-2003, 07:35 AM   #7
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Just curious...

What does the segment itself cost?
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Old 04-18-2003, 09:22 AM   #8
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Nice job, Mark! I need to take care of a crease from when a deer ran into my newly polished baby last summer. I think I'll try your second method.
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Old 04-18-2003, 09:23 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by j54mark
A previous owner had backed into something just higher than the bumper, putting a roughly 18” crease in the skin just above the lower trim piece. This crease had a maximum depth of nearly an inch. See below.

Mark
That dent looks like it was caused by heavily dragging the rear bumper on something, a compression of the skin. Quite possibly made worse by the addition of dolly wheels to the rear frame. I had them on my Argosy and if you pull the blue trim off you will undoubtedly find some popped rivets under it. Just my 2 cents, helpful or not.

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Old 04-18-2003, 11:11 AM   #10
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"That dent looks like it was caused by heavily dragging the rear bumper on something, a compression of the skin. "

There are no dolly wheels, nor does it appear there have been, but the theory about the bumper is quite possible. What makes that more plausible is the fact that the bumper is clearly not original with my trailer.

Whatever the cause, you have no idea how pleased I was to get it to come out as well as it did.

Mark
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Old 04-18-2003, 11:16 AM   #11
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"What does the segment itself cost?"

The estimate was made last fall, and my memory is not the best, but I believe the segment itself was priced close to $600.

High? Sure. But how many RV manufacturers could provide a replacement exterior panel on an 18 year old unit at ANY price?

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Old 04-18-2003, 11:37 AM   #12
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Great work. Thanks for the tips, Mark.

I once pulled a rather sizeable dent out of the top left segment of my trailer, using a suction cup tool from a body shop. This worked extremely well, without having to remove interior panels.
I am not convinced that it would remove sharply creased dents, as the ones shown in your pictures, but large, blunt dents come out easily by way of these suction cups. It took a little time, as you mentioned, and I did have to use different size ones, but eventually the entire ugliness came out, and is now all but invisible.
Just an alternative.
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Old 04-18-2003, 12:24 PM   #13
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I have suction cups in two sizes for sale, cheap.

I am sure there are dents on which the cups could work. Neither of these came under that category.

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Old 04-18-2003, 12:52 PM   #14
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Mark,
You're right on. Some dents this suction cup stuff will not work on.
The suction cups I used were not the cheap ones. They have a rubber cup underneath an aluminum plate, with a handle and a tensioning lever. The smaller ones were strong enough to hold all of my 210lbs.
One of the suction cups had a small pull hammer attached to it, which worked great for working on the remaining crease.
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