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At some point, every one of us has heard this yarn: take a torch and a block of ice, heat a dented piece of bodywork, then apply ice to the center. Supposedly it pops the dent right out, but I’ve never met anyone who claims they pulled it off. I’m contemplating filling a dented motorcycle fuel tank with water and chucking it in the snowbank, but that’s an entirely different principle, and it might be roughly as sane as trekking through the lion pen in flank-steak briefs. Can the contraction from slapping an ice pack on a hot fender straighten it out? Or is it just a way to wind up with a burnt headliner and nothing to cool your beer?

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23 Responses to Reader Question: The Fire And Ice Trick

  1. dano says:

    I say try it out and video tape it for us. Or buy a cheap body fender from a pick n pull to test. How would you heat it up without ruining the rest of the paint? This would be a perfect application for some sort of photon laser gun. Would a heat gun work?

  2. Chris W says:

    You might try dry ice if the regular kind doesn’t work.

  3. Brian says:

    it’s the heat gun and can of air trick… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILVWPzO_swY

  4. Justin says:

    It works. I have done it. Heat the panel with a hair dryer or heat gun on a medium temp, I mean like hot black fender in the Texas sun hot. Hit it with a can of compressed air (the nitrogen computer cleaning stuff) upside down to flush the liquid nitrogen out. You’ll hear a pop as the panel pulls out. Rinse and repeat.

  5. Toolhearty says:

    Wow, that’s pretty spiffy. I’d never heard of the heat-gun-and-can-of-air method before. Is this the same as the no-hole-dent-removal method that some shops advertise? (I’ve seen at least one outfit that advertised they’d come to your home to do it)

  6. Wayne D. says:

    No, they push it out from the inside with probes that they put through access hole behind panels. Just go to a town that had large hail and watch them work.

  7. Toolhearty says:

    Wayne D. Says:
    No, they push it out from the inside with probes that they put through access hole behind panels.

    Ah, thanks. We occasionally get large hail, but I’ve not had the opportunity to watch the guys work to see how it was done.

  8. uqbar says:

    Haven’t tried the ice trick, but I have had some success using a suction-cup type floor panel lifter (like this http://accessfloorsystems.com/access/prod/?access=/prod/code.php&code=9DSCPL5&product=Heavy+Duty+5+Inch+Panel+Lifter ) Just stick it on and pull hard!

    In either case, I suspect this only works well if the metal has not been “creased” as opposed to just “pushed in” or “indented.”

  9. DocN says:

    The ice in a gas tank trick doesn’t work. The ice expands in all directions, which includes conforming to the dent. It isn’t a specific pressure point.

    Doc.

  10. Toolaremia says:

    Hey Justin,

    It’s not liquid nitrogen. That would have a vapor pressure of about 1600 PSI at room temp. That little can couldn’t contain that. 🙂

    It’s actually R-134a aka “Suva”, the same refrigerant that’s in your car A/C. It has a vapor pressure of about 70 PSI. That’s how they can squeeze it into liquid form in that little can.

  11. Justin says:

    Toolaremia, whoops my mistake. Still gets F-ing cold though.

  12. Brice says:

    Canned air used to be R-2. Probably eats Ozone or something…

  13. TMIB_Seattle says:

    Heh, I read Toolaremia’s name as “Toolaroma”, which made me think of some kind of spray air freshener that smells like tools.

    What?

    I’d use it.

  14. Jeff L says:

    Try pounding that dent at the very bottom of the dent, around the 6 o’clock region, with the meat of your fist. (pinkie side down) A couple of robust and serious ‘pops’ and you may be very surprised at how the dent pops itself back up most of the way.

    THEN….do the fire & ice trick or co2 can trick.

  15. ambush says:

    Some paintless dent removers also work by essentially hot-gluing a pad to the paint and pulling it out that way, works surprisingly well.

  16. Jerry says:

    I have seen this fire and ice thing tried by a couple of different people. I have seen it on youtube. On youtube it works but in real life it don’t. It’s not fire and ice on youtube, it’s smoke and mirrors like so many other youtube vids.

  17. kyle says:

    with hail you can heat it with a torch in just the right way to get out small dents but you have to repaint the panel.

  18. Rick says:

    In many cases, it does work. I’ve seen it done a few times. I’ve seen it not work, I’ve seen it work perfectly, and I’ve seen it work but damage the paint.

    Frankly I wouldn’t do it. Paintless Dent Removal (PDR) is VERY effective and VERY affordable. A job like that should only cost 40 to 50 bucks. The Prius, shown in the picture, doesn’t have any creases in the dent. IMO, a PDR guy shouldn’t have any problems.

    One thing of note. the dry ice/can of air method is totally useless on aluminum. Make sure that body panel is STEEL before trying it.

  19. Geoff K. says:

    I’ve also heard that, even if the dry ice trick works, once the panel gets into the sun and heats up again, the dent reappears. It’s only a temporary solution that relies on the cold to pop out the dent. Once the cold is gone, the dent can return.

  20. csr says:

    Heat / computer duster worked well for me. 2005 lexus GS small dent in C-pillar. Not a 100% fix but an 80% one.

  21. I don’t think there is any rule against wearing necklace’s but it wouldn’t be a wise choice to do so. It could be tangled up in something and choke you. Gregg Biffle used to wear a necklace in his car until Benny Parsons got after him that same reason

  22. Smoke Relief says:

    Does this still allow my airway to get air while I sleep?

  23. PDR Shop says:

    It all depends on the shape of the dent. If it’s fairly round and not to deep it would work. It all depends on if you’re willing to risk having warm beer.

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