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Painless Paintless 

by Clint Burgess

Unavoidable rock damage ... the neighbor kid's handlebar ... an errant bocce ball. Lots of things cause trips to the body shop. There is, however, an alternative to costly repairs. The practice of paintless dent repair is becoming more mainstream, although it still has a long way to go. The results rival those produced by your body shop - it's just that many people aren't yet aware of the method.

Northwest Dent Repair has been doing paintless dent repair for some time now -- nearly 14 years. Allen Thorpe started his Spokane Valley business, training his small crew in this unusual craft. Since that time, Northwest Dent Repair has been able to build a clientele and service anyone with dent issues.

"It can do a surprising amount of help for damage that has been done," says Chuck Mashtare, who has been on the team for nine years. "If the paint isn't cracked and the body lines aren't too damaged, then we can usually get the dent all the way out." Amazingly the process really works. The technicians use a series of metal rods to get underneath the dent and gently push it back out.

It may sound simple, but there's more to popping out dents than you might think. The process requires a steady hand and a good eye for leveling off the dents and assuring that there aren't bumps or ripples in the metal. "It really does take an artist's skill to do this work," Mashtare explains. "Every dent is unique. You have to be able to adapt to each situation -- it's like learning to work in a new medium each time."

After just a few minutes of watching Mashtare and fellow employee John Ferguson work, it's evident that this process is pretty complicated. But it's also cheaper than a body shop and not as time-consuming.

"We can save customers quite a bit of money over going to a body shop," says Ferguson. A typical job can be done in about three hours, and that includes going all around a vehicle fixing all the little dents and dings. "We can get people out of here in as little as half hour if we're only looking at one dent," Ferguson says.

While the business of paintless dent repair may not be glamorous or well publicized, Northwest Dent Repair has been doing regular business for a long time. The majority of customers are dealerships, and it keeps the guys at the shop constantly busy. Another added bonus to this procedure is that all the technicians are mobile. "We all have our regular lots that we work every week," Ferguson says. "We service all of Spokane and North Idaho, and that keeps us pretty busy."

The minimum charge at Northwest Dent Repair is $55; additional fees are assessed by the technicians on a per-dent basis and added on top of that. (But just as at the body shop, you get an estimate before any work is done.) If your dent is too severe for the paintless procedure, Northwest Dent Repair has a full-service body shop, too.

Publication date: 2/03/05

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