Bumpers look pretty flimsy, but the cover that you see is only part of the bumper system. Let’s take a look at the parts, working from the outside in.
The bumper cover is usually painted the same color as the vehicle, and it’s made out of plastic. It’s designed to flex and absorb minor bumps, and it is pretty much just ornamental.
Behind the cover is a foam absorber, and it is usually made out of foam much like an ice cooler. It’s designed to absorb low speed bumps, usually under 5 mph or so.
The real important part when it comes to crash protection and that is the reinforcement bar. The reinforcement bar is usually made of high strength steel, and it is mounted to the main frame rails of the vehicle. When this reinforcement bar is hit, the energy from the collision is distributed into the front or rear frame rails of the vehicle.
When your bumper cover is damaged, there are a few options. One is to replace it if it is severely damaged, and that can get expensive. Most new covers also need to be painted the color of the vehicle, so that is going to add to the expense of the part itself. You can spend well over $1000.00 to replace a bumper cover on a newer vehicle.
Minor scrapes and dents in bumper covers can be repaired and repainted without too much trouble, but the shop still usually needs to remove and completely disassemble the bumper cover in order to do the job right. Plan on spending at least $300.00 to repair a bumper cover.
Here are a few tricks that can be done to make a damaged cover look a lot better without going through the expense of repairing or replacing it:
If you have an older vehicle with a bumper that’s pushed in, you might not want to spend the money to have it replaced. But you can usually pop it back out and make it look much better without too much trouble. Warm up the damaged area with a heat gun, being careful not to overheat it. Then while wearing a glove, gently push the dent back out from behind with your palm. If you can’t quite reach behind with your hand, you might need to use something like a curved pry bar to reach up behind. The final results aren’t perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than replacing the cover!
If you have gotten a little too much paint on your bumper cover from a pole or your garage, you can usually use some “Goof Off” paint remover to get a lot of the paint off. Follow up with some rubbing compound to remove the rest. (Just for the record, that product was NOT named after me!)
Many newer vehicles have plastic brackets on the sides, where the bumper mounts, and then the bumper cover pops into it like a model car. If your bumper cover has been popped out by a minor impact, don’t be afraid try to put it back together. Sometimes popping it back in is a “snap”.