The Dent Princess:
Pushing (Dents) In Pink
Pushing (Dents) In Pink
On any given day, you will find her astride a Missouri Fox Trotter named
Diablo Ablaze. She scuba dives in some of the world’s most enviable tropical
paradises: Figi, Australia, Belize, and exotic islands in the Caribbean and
Indonesia. Her favorite color is pink, a shade she wears while galloping the
pastures of rural Kansas, swimming Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and while pushing a dent in the back of a garage in Anytown, USA or anywhere in the world for that matter.
Oh! Did we forget to tell you Susan Lechtenberg, The Dent Princess makes
her living as a bona fide hail chasing, motorcycle-riding, blue abyss-diving,
horse-loving, female paintless dent repair technician? She is one of less than 1 percent of PDR specialists in the US to be a female. The only thing
stranger than using her trade to afford a lifestyle filled with a passion for horses, traveling, and scuba diving, is how she got into the business in the first place.
“In 2003, I went through a nasty divorce that left me with little more than my ex-husbands debts and the legal right to take back my maiden name,” she quips in a manner perfectly fitting to her email handle SunshinSzy. “I was a
bartender with absolutely no interest or knowledge about cars. My brother, Drew, who had a PDR shop pulled me aside and said, ‘I’m going to teach you something that will ensure that you are never dependent on a man again’.
“I was never really ‘dependent’ on my husband, but nonetheless, I was in no position to argue, so I began pushing dents in the back of Drew’s shop in 2004. A couple of months later I went with him to chase a hail storm in
Lacrosse, Wisconsin and a couple of months later, followed him to Australia
for another storm. Less than eight months after I pushed my first dent, during
the summer of 2005, he said, ‘You’re doing good. You go chase this storm on your own.”
Susan says that although Drew introduced her to the business at a time when she needed it, he is busy himself and over the years, a lot of great mobile tech guys on the road have mentored her and taught her the ropes.
“There was a steep learning curve for me because I had never worked with metal before,” she admits. “Drew always treated me like one of the guys. There was no holding hands. He expected me to sit down and figure it
“But out in the field, there have been some talented dent professionals and
craftsmen who when they saw me struggling, have suggested I look at the
dent like this or like that; or showed me how to adjust the lights so I can see the dent better; or recommended a different technique to give me more leverage.
They are the ones who taught me how to do it faster or better. I feel very
blessed to have had their support.” Susan went completely solo in 2008 as The Dent Princess working out of a shop in Lawrence, Kansas. Chasing hail has given her the profits and the freedom to be her own boss.
“I am not trying to build the next biggest dent repair shop in the Midwest or win trophies in the Dent Olympics,” she says. “PDR gives me the freedom to work as hard as I want, work the hours I want to work, and it affords me the freedom to care for my aging parents, to go where I want to go, and to see the world.”
She believes everyone has their preferences and she is a little different in that she prefers to hunker down with a car with dozens of small hail dents; while many dent techs get anxious at a vehicle with multiple dents and prefer to put all their energy into a single big collision dent.
While many dent techs push dents from sun-up to sundown, Saturdays and Sundays, from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. she says her low-key attitude is not a lack of enthusiasm for her work. PDR for her is not working to live, but living to enjoy work.
“For some diehards, there is nothing better than fixing dents. That’s all they
think about and I respect that commitment to their work. But for me, I am grateful for the lifestyle. I love to travel and PDR has let me see amazing parts of this country while affording me the opportunity to take off for months at a time and scuba dive in countries around the world.
I can fully live life without dent repair running my life.” Known as someone who has never met a stranger and always wearing a bright pink work shirt, a pink visor, and carrying a pink toolbox and even pink T-bar dent lifters, The Dent Princess says her life on the road as a hail chaser known as the “circus” is anything but the wild ride it is sometimes rumored to be.
“For one thing, I work the body shops and not the car lots, which I see as a cut-throat side of the business full of drama,” she says. “When I am not at a shop fixing dents, I am in my hotel room or apartment, cooking my own meals, doing laundry, and catching up on paperwork.
“I think it’s why I get called back so often to do the work rather than constantly looking for work,” she continues. “I get top dollar for my work and the people I ‘run’ with while on the road are excellent technicians who are making a living for their families.
“We often play a round of golf, but I know all the guy’s wives, some of which I stay with on the road. But rather than throwing my money away on clubs and carousing, I save my money so I can take off for weeks at a time to take a scuba excursion.”
That accountability has saved her on two occasions when medical issues
made it impossible for her to work. “I have broken my back twice – in 2005, I
was just back from Australia when I had a motorcycle accident that broke lumbar 4 and 5 and I was out for 3 months recovering. Then the day of the Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011, I got thrown from a horse that did a lot of spinal damage and broke a rib. I was out for over two months right in the middle of hail season. I never missed a beat in terms of paying my bills and getting back on my feet either of those two times.”
Lechtenberg says she has never competed in the Dent Olympics at Mobile Tech and probably never will. “It’s just not something I need to do. For another thing, I am always setting up Drew’s exhibit booth, talking to people,
and selling our services. Sometimes I don’t get a chance to even pee until
The Dent Princess admits she does not have the physical strength men have but she has discovered techniques that may take an extra two seconds
in order to get more leverage, but the payoff is not tearing up a shoulder, a sacrifice worth the extra ticks off the clock.
“I will probably do it as long as my body holds out,” she says. “You have to be a contortionist to do PDR work anyway so it is hard on your back and
shoulders. But I am pretty tough growing up with four brothers! I have learned new ways to work a dent that helps sustain me, and toolmakers today also design tools that are ergonomically healthier and protect your body so you work smarter and not harder.”
Susan E Lechtenberg
The Dent Princess
1701 Barker ave
Lawrence, KS 66044
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