How do you know that it’s hail damage?

Hail damage

Hail dents fall in random patterns and very in sizes and depth even on the same panel. Often the damage is too small to notice on camera, although you can see it with the eye (this photo has a lot of damage and thus can be seen better in photos).

It appears there are more threats of storms heading out way – ‘tis the nature of weather in the Great Plains states throughout spring. This is especially the case in May, of course! While some storm threats do involve tornados, as of late it seems hail is the biggest threat to your home and car this spring. It is with that in mind that we discuss hail damage in more detail today.


Most of us have seen hail at some point in our lives. Hailstones vary in size, shape, and hardness. In general, the larger the hail size, the fewer the hailstones there are and the farther apart they fall. Most hailstones are relatively smooth and nearly spherical. That being said, sometimes hailstones are jagged or even elliptical in shape. Hardness is a key factor, as well. The harder hailstone the greater its ability to damage vehicle panels.
The damage created from hailstones is usually due in large part to the wind. Surfaces left uncovered or unsheltered from the elements during a hailstorm can get blasted in random patterns. Those surfaces facing the wind typically receive greater damage than the other sides. This is why one side of a vehicle may have extensive hail damage while the opposite side may have very minimal damage.

Effects of hail

This is a rock chip in the paint. It occurs simply from driving and is considered normal wear and tear on a vehicle. It is therefor not covered by insurance during the course of a repair.

The effect of hail on your vehicle’s metal is determined by the size of the hailstones, type of metal on your vehicle (its thickness included) as well as the vehicle’s profile and support. Smaller and less dense hail may not dent your car at all. Metal thickness can play a big part in your potential for damages from a hail storm. “Testing and observations have shown that the threshold size for hail to dent a steel vehicle body panel is hard ice that is one inch in diameter. Softer aluminum panels and bright metal trim material may be dented by hard ice that is one-half inch in diameter”, according to National Underwriter Property & Casualty.

This is what a door ding looks like. It is usually caused by someone in a parking lot opening their car door and accidentally hitting their door into the parked car next to them. Unless the paint is chipped, PDR is an effective and inexpensive way to repair a door ding.

Hail that impacts the metal on a vehicle will produce a dent that is conical in shape and has shallow sides. The center of the dent usually sustains a slight crease but with no loss of paint. With paint intact, most dents can be removed without painting the vehicle. It is for this reason that you estimator will usually recommend paintless dent repair (PDR) as a more affordable option to repairing your vehicle’s hail damage. In most cases, this is all that will need to be done to return your vehicle to its pre-hailstorm condition. There are times, however; depending on the extent of the hail damage that your estimator will recommend more conventional auto body repair instead of PDR. In these cases, it is usually that the cost of pulling the dents outweighs the cost of simply replacing the damaged panel. Both are viable solutions that will return your vehicle to its pre-storm condition – no one way is better than the other as far as results are concerned. It typically comes down to cost efficiency.

Before getting an estimate

Before taking your vehicle in to a shop for hail inspection and estimating, be sure that the vehicle’s surface is clean. If the vehicle is not clean, it must be washed to ensure that all dents are observed and that the subtle details of each dent will not be obscured. The estimator will closely examine each dent panel-by-panel, and number and list its characteristics. They will look for the presence of creases or scratches and whether these impacts have a half moon shape, round bottom, and consistent size, as well as any other distinguishing characteristics. All these things determine the cost of the repair.
To the untrained eye a “door ding” or rock chip in the vehicle’s paint may be wrongly determined to be a hail dent. Dents that are caused by natural hail will vary in size, have shallow bottoms, and have very light creases across their widths. A hail-caused dent will not exhibit a scratch in its center, will be randomly located on a panel, and will not be arranged in a pattern in relation to other dents. Natural hail is relatively soft and, typically, does not harm paint.

Estimate and repair

Your estimator or insurance adjuster will provide you with a completed estimate once they have looked the vehicle over from top to bottom. Note that this process could take as much as half an hour. So be prepared to wait a little while – bring a book or something for the kids to do to pass the time. Once the estimate is completed, your estimator can give you a give indication of how long the repair will take. This is not an exact science, so understand that once the car is in for the repair that time could possible increase if a PDR specialist finds additional hail damage once your car is under special lighting. Special lights are used when repairing hail damage. These lights are designed to make the hail dents more visible during a PDR repair. As a general rule, more dings and dents take longer to repair. Keep this in mind and be understanding if your repair advisor lets you know the repair time has been extended a bit longer. It is all in the process of making sure you vehicle is returned to you in its best condition.

If there are more dings and dents found to be part of the hail storm claim, the auto body shop will go back to the insurance company to get the additional money necessary to cover the cost of your repair. It will not come out of your pocket. The only amount you are responsible for is the deductible.
While we always hope for the best in severe weather – no one hopes for damages and loss, things do happen. It is good to be aware of the process and educated on how insurance works. If you need to know more about processes, your insurance agent should be able to help you with respect to insurance questions. Feel free to contact Collision Works with any questions in how repairs are handled once a file is claimed. Any of our team would be glad to provide you with answers.