How paintless dent repair techs move freely on 12 volts

12 volt battery for powering paintless lights, etc.

Why does a paintless tech use batteries in a shop wired for electricity?
One word: CORDS!
Rolling over them is a pain and costs you time and aggravation.
Another tech is moving a car in behind yours. He parked his wheels right on your cord.
Use 12 volt batteries on your lights, your glue cart and even on your tool cart, and you’re free to move about the shop unimpeded. Speed is key and not fiddling around with cords makes you even quicker.
12 volt battery for powering paintless lights, etc.
What batteries work best?
If you travel at all with them (and you will), the sealed gel cell type work best. Just ask Drew Lechtenberg of He was using the wet cell kind and carried all his tools, clothes and even motorcycle in a large, enclosed trailer. When he arrived at our shop to help us with a hail storm, some of the batteries turned over and spilled acid everywhere. At the time, Drew would rather buy new stuff than do laundry, and his trailer was filled full of clothes on hangers. Clothes and battery acid do not mix.

Fortunately, their are plenty of choices in the sealed lead acid battery field. This by way of the electric wheelchair industry.
Three things will drive your battery choices. Weight, size and capacity. They are all tied together, so lets focus on capacity.

Batteries are measured in amp hours and its just like it sounds. A 33 amp hour battery can drive an item that draws 1 amp for 33 hours. Your mileage may vary, for a number of reasons. Battery age, the device type (i.e. motors draw differently than lights), and how crucial it is to stay at or near 12 volts.
The last reason noted there might not seem so important to you except for one thing. It directly affects your battery’s life.
One of the leading makers of battery testing devices in the world happens to be located here in Tulsa. I was talking with Andy McKay of Maccor one day, and I asked him what’s the best way to make these batteries last longer?
“Don’t run them down past 90% of their given voltage.”
For 12 volts this means keep it at 10.8 volts or higher.
Andy also told me, “Sealed Lead Acid batteries are not like the Ni-cads in yesterday’s cell phones. Running them down to nothing does not help. They have no memory effect. If you use it, charge it back up the same day.”
I was glad to learn this, as I’ve had some batteries last 3 years and some only 1. You can really tell when a battery starts to die. It just won’t last long as it used to.
For me, the 33Ah batts are sufficient and get me through a long day of pushing. I drop them onto a charger at night and good to go next day. I use one like this: U1-36NE Sealed Lead Acid Battery 12V 35AH with Nut and Bolt Terminal

I do know some guys who get by on much smaller batteries.
One breakthrough in paintless repair of late is the introduction of LED lights. These are very efficient and use less power than a fluorescent bulb.
LED’s use direct current right off the battery, while the fluorescent require an inverter to change the current to AC. The inverters waste a lot of power through heat due to constant switching.
For example, the current draw of an old fluorescent paintless dent light I measured was 1.2 amps. This light was 3 feet long and had a single bulb.
By comparison, my LED light with two 3 foot strips turned on showed a current load of only half that or .6 amps. So, the battery should last twice as long.
The charger technology has come a long way and will also help batteries live longer.
Deep cycle is what you want, but low amps are needed for sealed batteries, since they don’t vent.
I use a three bank charger made for a boat: MinnKota MK 315D On-Board Battery Charger (3 Banks, 5 Amps per Bank)
Had to add alligator clips to the ends, but I’m pretty handy with a solder gun. If you aren’t this version has clips already: Minnkota MK 110P 10 Amp Portable Battery Charger

This is a good beginning for the 12 volt paintless dent repair tech who wants to get fast and go cordless.
Haven’t touched on dimmers and glue guns yet, but will in a future post.
Would love to hear about your 12 volt setup. Leave a comment below.

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  1. Great info Tim. About a year ago I went to the Ultra LED lights and the werker batteries. This year I purchased the Snap-on glue gun and 2 18 V batteries with charger. I love it! Getting about 2 hours and 15 minutes out of a battery. I never pick up the glue gun, it stays on a rolling tool tray and I bring the tab to it! Really increased my bottom line at the end of the day!

  2. Hi Tim, Nice to hear from you.
    I so far have not had any great need for batteries as I mainly work outside with a line board though I always have my 2ft Ultra light with me.I am very tempted by the led lights for my outside work. On glue guns I use the Gas Tec 600 which is very good and being lighter gas powered can be used anywhere.
    Do you rate the led’s for outdoor work or are they really still for indoors?
    Cheers Tim
    P s, I still have your training course and No copies have ever been made!

    1. Hi Gary,
      thanks for your comment and high integrity!
      LED’s outside are a bit brighter than a fluorescent in my opinion, but I’ve not used them in sunlight, only the shade of a building.
      I’ve seen some guys get a 3 foot LED and put stripe lines on half of it.
      Thanks for the tip on the butane glue gun.

  3. Tim
    How are you doing? I almost called you today find out how you are and if you have done anymore DVDs, I miss getting them.
    Good info on the batteries. Haven’t done much this year at all. Still use my Milwaukee M12 with power port on my small LED, get about the same run times as I sent you on it. Looking to get a 3ft LED, some many to choose now. thanks for all you have done and still do.

  4. Hi Tim, thanks for the tip, so i use the deep cycle from werker batteries. I use a 4 strip led light 18 inch. The battery works great plus i also use the same one to use the light and glue gun at the same time and lasts all day but of course only plug in the glue gun when i need it plus charge the cell phone too. This batteries are great and last all day one fully charged.

    Dent Out & Windshield Repair
    From Puerto Rico

  5. Tim,
    Great to hear from you, I really miss your training dvd`s etc.
    I have been using a small car jumper with a twelve volt outlet to power my LED light and that works really well and lasts a long time.I use the pro pdr solutions light with a yellow cover and love it inside or out.I am still in the body shop but doing pdr for other shops, used car lots, car washes and retail through our shop.I love pdr!
    On another topic; We lost power at my house after Huricane Sandy for 7 days so I used my car jumper&LED light without any fogged cover and just one strip lit up my whole living room, awesome!
    Regards, Pete

    1. Hi Peter,
      so glad you guys made it through Hurricane Sandy!
      Really cool using your LED light this way. They are bright, for sure.
      The jumper boxes all have sealed lead acid batteries in them.

  6. Hi Tim,
    I do a lot of PDR hail repairs, I use a 12v deep cycle 36aH battery to run my surebonder glue gun. The glue gun seemed to run way to hot, dripped everywhere and bubbled glue out when I pressed the trigger. I have solved these problems by adding a 12v dimmer and turning the knob down, I presume this will save battery power as well? can you tell me if you come across this problem before and is a standard 12v dimmer switch the best thing to use in this situation.
    Best Regards,

    1. Hi Ben,
      I have seen the paintless glue gun drizzles before.
      If you are using a 12v dimmer like this PWM dimmer then you are fine.
      Yes it will make the battery last longer, by changing the duty cycle. This is a fancy way of saying the dimmer turns on the voltage then back off many times per second. Turn the knob down and its off more than its on, giving a dimmer light or cooler glue gun.
      These dimmers use an integrated circuit much like your computer does. This electronic dimming is easy on your PDR glue gun and LED lights because it still sends them the 12v they want.

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