Bumper Buyer's Guide
- The bumper is a structural metal component of the bumper assembly designed for vehicle crash safety.
- What most people refer to as the bumper on modern vehicles is actually the bumper cover.
- It is part of the bumper assembly that absorbs and redistributes impact energy during a low-speed collision, minimizing passenger injury and vehicle damage.
- The bumper also prevents the headlights, taillights, and critical engine components underneath the hood from incurring significant damage in a forward or rear collision.
- Most bumpers use materials such as aluminum, carbon steel, stainless steel, and combinations of metal and plastic. These may come in chrome-plated, primed, painted, or textured finishes.
- You should have your bumper checked by a licensed mechanic anytime you get involved in a road accident involving your front or rear bumper.
- The bumper may also require replacement because of rust or corrosion damage.
- OE replacement bumpers will cost you somewhere between $19 to $2,120. Bumpers sell individually, in sets of two, or as part of a kit.
What is a bumper?
The bumper is a metal crash-safety component that attaches to the front and rear of the vehicle frame. This structural bar is part of the bumper assembly that absorbs and redistributes impact energy during a low-speed collision, minimizing passenger injury and vehicle damage. A front bumper sits right below the headlights and grille, while a rear bumper fits below the taillights and under the rear compartment.
What’s the difference between a bumper and a bumper cover?
What most people refer to as the bumper on modern vehicles is actually the bumper cover. This external cover serves both functional and aesthetic purposes. These bumper panels use thermoplastic or fiberglass and have foam or plastic honeycomb energy absorbers that crush upon impact. Bumper covers can come primed or painted in different colors to match your vehicle.
Underneath this cover is the actual car bumper, which attaches to the frame of the vehicle. This metal bar provides structural support to the assembly. Between the bumper and the bumper cover is a bumper reinforcement bar, otherwise called a rebar. When the bumper cover crumples, this rigid component resists some force to prevent damage to the frame. It mounts onto the bumper bar, using brackets that may collapse when needed.
What is a bumper for?
The car bumper protects both the vehicle and its occupants in the event of a low-speed forward or rear collision. The entire bumper assembly forms a crush zone, particularly in the vehicle's front, that absorbs collision forces and redirects it away from the passenger cabin. In this scenario, the actual car bumper acts as a rigid component that prevents critical engine components underneath the hood from absorbing impact forces in a forward collision.
Types of aftermarket bumpers
Most bumpers use materials such as aluminum, carbon steel, stainless steel, and a combination of metal and plastic. These may come in chrome-plated, primed, painted, or textured finishes. Here are the main differences between different metal bumpers.
Aluminum bumpers are a great option for performance vehicles that need something lightweight, rust-proof, and require very minimal maintenance.
Carbon steel bumpers
Carbon steel bumpers are heavy-duty bumpers made from a harder and stronger type of steel. These bumpers are great for trucks and off-roading vehicles that require additional strength. The only two cons of this material are that they add significant weight to your vehicle, and they are not corrosion-proof.
Stainless steel bumpers
Stainless steel bumpers perform almost exactly the same as carbon steel in terms of durability while providing better corrosion resistance than the latter. This option typically costs more than bumpers made from other materials, but is a choice if you want to spend more for quality.
When should bumpers get replaced?
You should have your bumper checked by a licensed mechanic anytime you get involved in a road accident involving your front or rear bumper. Minimal damage on the bumper cover does not always guarantee that the components underneath are free from underlying damage.
There are also car bumpers designed with mounts or hooks that cannot get replaced once damaged. To ensure your safety on the road, damaged bumpers—especially those dented in a collision—should only get replaced with a new part and never a repaired bumper.
Classic cars typically have chrome and steel bumpers with no plastic cover. While some bumpers can withstand the elements, there are older models that may suffer from rust and corrosion damage. As these get worse, you may discover holes in the bumper itself after sanding off the surface rust. To preserve the structural integrity and the look of your classic vehicle, get a bumper replacement as soon as possible.
Why is bumper replacement important?
Even minor accidents can cause enough damage to compromise the structural integrity of your bumper. It’s difficult for the untrained eye to determine whether parts have become misaligned or internal components need replacing. If left unchecked, a bad bumper will reduce your vehicle’s ability to keep you and your passengers safe in a subsequent vehicle crash.
As a critical safety component of your vehicle, visit your trusted mechanic for proper diagnosis of a damaged bumper and installation of its replacement. This will also give you the opportunity to have a professional assess the structural integrity of the other vital parts of the bumper assembly.
Things to consider when choosing a replacement bumper
Once the integrity of your car bumper has been compromised, you will need to replace instead of repair. Bumpers come in a wide range of materials and styles. Before you go shopping, make sure you know the basics so that you'll know exactly what to buy.
Replacement bumpers are usually made of polyresin (plastic), fiberglass, carbon fiber, or metal. Each offers specific advantages and disadvantages.
Polypropylene or ABS Plastic bumpers
- Pros: Polyresin bumpers are used by most automakers. They are the sturdiest and most impact resistant; simply bends or rips on impact but can crack as well; and are ready to be primed and painted.
- Cons: It's not easily repairable and is non-sandable.
- Pros: These are used by most aftermarket parts maker; lightweight and strong; easily repairable; sandable and paintable.
- Cons: It is less flexible than plastic and more prone to cracking.
Carbon fiber bumpers
- Pros: These are lightweight and durable; heat-resistant; ready for painting but can also be used unpainted.
- Cons: The quality of carbon fiber varies according to the manufacturer. Also, it can be repaired but must be painted afterwards. It is also more expensive than the other types.
- Pros: These bumpers are strong and durable.
- Cons: Very heavy. Metal bumpers and winches should only be used on off-road vehicles.
The right bumper may depend on how you use your vehicle and the conditions that your car and its bumpers will face.
If you use your vehicle mainly to get around town, you may choose any kind of bumper material and any style that you prefer. But, it is wiser to choose a lightweight bumper.
If you often go on off-roading adventures, you will need a heavy and durable front and rear bumper. Metal bumpers and winches are the best choice for off-roading because these will allow you to navigate boulder-strewn terrain, mud pits and swampland.
For moderate racing, you will need something that can withstand the abuse of the race circuit. Plastic and carbon fiber bumpers can handle the scrapes and scratches but you may also use fiberglass if you race infrequently.
A bumper can make or break the look you want to achieve. Nothing looks worse than replacement bumpers that don't match the look of your car. So, take time to shop around and check the options available before you decide to buy.
How much does a bumper replacement cost?
Bumper repair and replacement costs will vary depending on the make and year model of your vehicle. OE replacement car bumpers will cost you somewhere between $19 to $2,120. The price may also depend on whether you’re getting a front bumper replacement or a rear bumper replacement.
Bumpers sell individually, in sets of two, or as part of a kit. Keep in mind that your purchase may or may not come with mounting brackets included.
Finding the right fit
Different makes and year models carry front and rear bumpers of varying fit and designs. To help you find the right one for your vehicle, use the built-in vehicle selector on the CarParts.com website. Plug in the correct year, make, and model information.
How to replace your busted bumper
As a kid, you must have thought that driving an actual car is like riding the bumper cars in your local carnival. But of course, that isn't the case. Basically, the purpose of bumpers is similar to those of the actual rides in carnivals; they are designed to sustain an impact without damaging the automobile's safety systems. However, even a small dent in the front or rear bumper can be an eyesore and can definitely degrade the value of your vehicle. Having it repaired at auto shops will probably leave you bankrupt due to the expenses. But, why pay them when you do it yourself for free? Here's a guide on how you can restore, remedy, and repair your busted bumper.
Tools you'll need:
- A rag
- A couple of towels
- A bucket of ice water
- A heat gun or a blow dryer
Step 1: Settle the towels on a flat surface for the bumper to rest.
Step 2: To avoid scratch marks or more dents, remove the bumper off your car and place it on top of the towel.
Step 3: For about 2-5 minutes, hold the heat gun or blow dryer on top of the dent to heat up the surface. This will allow you to easily push back out the dented area.
Step 4: After doing Step 3, soak the rag in a bucket of ice water and wipe the surface to cool it down. Check the area until it is back in place.
Step 5: Mount the bumper back.
Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
- For a faster process, use the heat gun instead of the blow dryer.
- Wear gloves so that you won't burn your hands.
- Four hands are better than two, so ask a buddy to help you push the dented surface out.
- If you're having difficulty with pushing the surface out, you can use a rubber mallet to help you push.
In just five easy steps, you get to repair your car bumper. Using the tools found in your home, you don't even have to rush and pay any mechanic to do the job!