Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) is a technique that has transformed the way minor dents, dings and damages are addressed in vehicles. This method is especially relevant for high-end cars like Tesla, where maintaining the original paint finish is crucial. PDR is not just about aesthetics; it’s about preserving the value and integrity of the vehicle.
A dent or scratch on a Tesla can significantly diminish the car’s value and aesthetic appeal. Traditional repair methods often involve repainting, which may not match the Tesla’s original finish perfectly. PDR offers Tesla owners a way to restore their vehicle to its original condition without compromising the paint quality.
You can read more about PDR in our comprehensive paintless dent repair guide, but in short, there are several factors that influence how the dents get fixed best, one of them being the material.
Tesla’s approach to the materials used in their vehicle panels has evolved over time, and the choice between steel and aluminum has been influenced by various factors, including weight, cost, and manufacturing processes.
Tesla Model S: The Model S primarily uses aluminum for its body. Aluminum offers a lightweight advantage, which can be crucial for electric vehicles as it helps in improving range.
Tesla Model 3: The body and chassis of the Tesla Model 3 are a blend of steel and aluminum. Specifically, Tesla uses three different grades of steel for the Model 3. Mild steel is used on the outer body structure, designed to absorb initial impacts. The decision to use a combination of steel and aluminum for the Model 3, as opposed to the primarily aluminum body of the Model S, was likely influenced by factors such as cost, manufacturing efficiency, and the specific performance and safety requirements of the Model 3.
Tesla Model X: Similar to the Model S, the Model X also leans heavily on aluminum for its construction. The choice of aluminum for the Model S and Model X was aimed at saving weight for these larger vehicles.
Tesla Model Y: Model Y shares 76% of its parts with the Model 3 — with a similar hybrid aluminum and steel body. When it comes to the rear of the car, it consists of two large aluminum rear castings called a “mega castings”. The castings are now manufactured using the newly introduced Giga Press high-pressure die casting equipment.
Cybertruck: Elon Musk has confirmed high quality 300 series stainless steel as their engineering team’s material of choice for the Cybertruck. It’s corrosion resistant, strong and affordable – that’s why the Tesla Cybertruck team chose a stainless steel alloy to create the Cybertruck exoskeleton. As a result, there might not be many cases of, for example, hail damaging the car, but inevitably, dents will occur over time.
Why does it matter when it comes to a dent repair?
Malleability: Steel is more malleable than aluminum. This means that it can be reshaped more easily without causing damage to the Tesla’s metal or the paint. This characteristic makes PDR relatively more effective on steel panels.
Memory: Steel has a sort of “memory,” meaning it tends to return to its original shape when manipulated. This property is beneficial for PDR technicians as they can leverage this characteristic to restore the Tesla’s panel to its original form.
Durability: Steel is less prone to sharp dents compared to aluminum. However, when dents do occur, they can often be repaired effectively with PDR.
Flexibility: Aluminum is more flexible than steel but less malleable. This means that while it might bend more easily upon impact, it’s also harder to return it to its original shape without causing some damage.
No Memory: Unlike steel, (but akin to a goldfish) aluminum doesn’t have the same “memory” property. Once it’s bent or dented, it doesn’t naturally return to its original shape. This characteristic can make a dent repair on a Tesla more challenging on aluminum panels.
Heat: Aluminum dissipates heat quickly. PDR often requires the use of heat to make the metal more pliable, especially for larger dents. Since aluminum loses heat rapidly, PDR technicians might need to apply heat more frequently or for longer durations compared to steel panels. This would not necessarily damage the Tesla’s pain, but it is an additional complexity that the technician needs to work with.
Risk of Cracking: Aluminum is more prone to cracking than steel when being manipulated. This risk means that PDR technicians need to be especially careful when working on Tesla’s aluminum panels to avoid causing further damage.
Given that Tesla uses a blend of steel and aluminum in vehicles like the Model 3, the dent removal technicians need to be well-versed in handling both materials. The approach might vary depending on the specific panel and its material so when it comes to the PDR cost estimate, it is difficult to get a quote in advance. On the other hand, Tesla vehicles, being premium, typically have high-quality paint, which can be an advantage during the PDR process as it is more “forgiving”, and provides the technician with a bit more wiggle room when it comes to different techniques.