Can You Really Remove a Dent With a Toilet Plunger?

You may have seen trending videos of an old body-work trick some people would try to use on their car. It features a rather unsanitary tool that most people have in their homes, even they don’t work on vehicles: a toilet plunger. The theory behind using a toilet plunger is that you can use suction to pull the dent back out from the car, and it goes back a lot further than social media. Does the trick actually work to repair the car damage?

There’s no simple answer

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t given this truck a go in my younger years, but cars back then were made of a different material than they are today. Cars used to have metal body panels like the doors, fenders, and other crucial body pieces. These body panels could be a variety of different metals, but steel was pretty standard. The physical properties of steel make them able to reform back into their molded shape, so essentially you could use the suction from the toilet plunger to pull the metal back to its original form.

The car normally carrying Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a large dent in the back as a pro-Kurdish protester ran in front of the car as it was leaving the Houses of Parliament after PMQs forcing it to stop and be subsequently struck from behind by the next vehicle in the convoy on 17 June, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The car with a large dent in the back | Wiktor Szymanowicz / NurPhoto

There are a lot of problems here

As you can imagine, that doesn’t work exactly how you might think; otherwise, you’d see a toilet plunger come standard in every repair shop. The suction might do enough to decrease the damage if you can get the plunger to create an effective seal over the dent. This could be difficult depending on where the dent was on the body panel, or how large it is. Overall the method isn’t very useful.

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Numerous content creators have tried their versions of the method, using everything from vaseline to hot water to create a better seal for the suction. There are a lot of factors that play into the ability to pull a dent using a toilet plunger successfully, and if you want to give this method a shot, we thoroughly suggest buying one new at the store instead of using one you might have on hand.

Today’s composite cars

Cars today still have a lot of metal components, but the use of composites like carbon fiber and fiberglass, as well as some plastics, are becoming more and more common. These materials are sturdy and absorb kinetic energy from accidents more efficiently, not to mention they are significantly lighter than using steel. Unlike steel, composites aren’t as generous when it comes to reforming back to their original shape.

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So the answer sounds like a no, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t success stories out there. Some people even suggest using a mixture of boiling water and a plunger, if not just a toilet plunger, by itself to remove a dent. Under the right conditions, a plunger can help to repair a dent, but chances are you’re better off leaving it in the bathroom.