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Paintless dent repair, known in the industry as PDR, is the art of removing small dings, dents and protrusions caused by hail damage, too-close-in-parking-lot door openings and other minor accidents.
By manually manipulating the paint back to its original form using various PDR methods, the factory paint stays intact and no body fillers or painting is necessary.
Since its inception, PDR service has mainly been offered to car dealers, fleets and insurance companies. Now the public is becoming aware of this service and it is exploding on the scene at local carwashes and detail shops.
PDR techs are finding the public is becoming a bigger part of the market and willing to pay 2-3 times as much as a regular PDR service call to a fleet or dealership.
Training, training, training
There can’t be enough said for proper training. Like any industry, there are good schools and average schools, putting out good techs and average techs.
If you’re looking to enter the industry, look for a school that has been in business for years, offers small classes and is dedicated to training.
Be careful of schools that offer “on-the-job” training. Most of the time you follow a PDR tech on his route while running his business and not getting enough time with a tool in hand to perfect the skills needed. This is a dangerous way to learn PDR.
In the toolbox
A good set of stainless steel tools is suggested for strength and durability. Tools needed for a PDR service involve several variations of lengths, thickness and tips to attack varied situations.
Beginning PDR techs should look for a set that includes spring steel tools. These tools tend to be more flexible. They offer less torque when you need to push a dent on a harder metal, such as Mercedes or BMW.
A good beginner tool set should consist of roughly 20 tools in a wide variety of tips and lengths to accommodate all types of dents. Successful PDR techs usually use about a dozen tools on a regular basis and a specialized tool only on rare occassions.
Despite some sales pitches, new techs entering the business should not be looking at getting sets of 70, 80 or 100 tools — it's not going to help you become a better PDR tech. Most of the time these sets are one tool duplicated with different lengths, which you will discover is an unnecessary waste.
A new PDR tech should be concentrating on education in the beginning. Attending a good school will teach you various techniques for access and making quality repairs.
These training sessions will teach you how to use the wide variety of tools and also give you tips on how to work under braces, access tight areas or how to use thicker tools when you need more torque or force to remove the dent.
Lights, reflectors, boards!
Equally important in making quality repairs is having the correct lights and reflector board to read the dents properly. Proper lighting will also be easier on the eye.
Training your eyes to read the dent is as important as having a quality PDR tool. Because PDR can be difficult on your eyes when you are first learning, you will need proper lighting to ensure you can be as precise as possible.
Bottom line — good lights that are easy on the eyes will help you make faster and better repairs.
All hail extra business
Hail chasers, PDR techs that watch the weather and travel the country following hailstorms, have become quite common in the industry. Some have even banded together to form teams of PDR techs that specialize in hailstorm damage.
Insurance claims from the retail market and car dealers are the biggest part of this market. A PDR tech specializing in hail business can easily average $500-$1,000 or more a day in a hot market.
If you like to travel, this is a great way for high dollar earnings in a short period of time. Some hail chasers work six months on (during hail season) and six months off and still earn $100,000 or more.
The profit margin! The overhead for a PDR business is nearly nothing for a mobile route, where gas and vehicle maintenance will be your biggest expense.
Other than buying a specialized tool from time to time, you are being paid for your skills. This makes PDR one of the most lucrative businesses in the detailing industry.
Compliment your PDR business with spot paint repair and paint touch-up services.
This is important for any PDR tech because there will be many occasions where the paint is cracked or chipped and you can’t make a paintless dent repair. What the damage really needs is a minor spot repair or touch up.
You could boost your sales another $50,000 - $100,000 a year by adding paint repairs to your PDR business.
Michael Patrick has been president of Appearance Plus since 1987. Michael was voted PDR Person of the Year at the 2006