How to Repair Your Plastic Bumper

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Can You Repair a Torn Bumper Cover?

Major plastic bumper damage
This bumper needed some serious repair. photo by Adam Wright, 2013

If you're driving around with a big hole in your car's plastic bumper, you need to stop. There's no reason to disgrace your beloved car or truck by subjecting it to ridicule due to the gaping tear in its otherwise beautifully painted plastic bumper cover. Seriously though, even a minor accident can result in a damaged bumper. Sometimes you're lucky and you can get away with simply sanding and painting the damaged area. But an impact as low speed as 15 mph is more than enough to tear a big gash into your bumper cover, resulting in unsightly damage that you don't have to live with.

The professionals use expensive epoxies, heat, plastic welding and other techniques to repair these bumpers. Not to mention the cost of a professional repaint. If you want it to be perfect, you should take it to a professional and let them repair, or often replace, your bumper cover. But if you aren't obsessed with perfection, or the value of your vehicle doesn't support spending that much money on the repair, the steps we took on this car might appeal to you. We were able to repair this car's bumper -- including a custom mixed paint for a perfect color match -- for less than $100. That's real savings. If you've just got a chip in the paint, check out this easy repair.

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Clean Up the Bumper Damage

razor blad cutting the bumper chunks
Even out the area to be repaired by cutting off any excess material that is sticking out. photo by Adam Wright, 2013

The first step in repairing a plastic bumper is to clean the wound, so to speak. Chances are your damage was not a simple cut. Before you patch it, you need to cut off any bits that are sticking out. Anything that's breaking the natural contour of the bumper needs to be cut off. It may seem counterproductive to make your hole even bigger before you patch it, but those pieces sticking out will prevent you from creating a smooth surface with the patch. Large pieces can be cut off with a razor blade. Any small burrs or sections can be sanded down with 80-100 grit sandpaper.

Next, clean the back of the bumper as well as you can. If you can access the area behind the damage, that's perfect. Clean it well, and scuff it with your sandpaper. If you can't access it directly, do anything you can to clean the backside of the bumper near the damage.

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Add Some Reinforcement to the Repair Area

repair cloth applied to bumper
Reinforcing the backside of the repair area. photo by Adam Wright, 2013

In order to create as lasting a repair as possible, you need to reinforce the area behind the holes before you add any filler to the front. To do this, cut a piece of auto repair cloth or mesh that is sized about an inch larger than your hole on all sides. Soak the cloth with fiberglass impregnated body filler and press it onto the back side of your damage holes. Allow at least 3 hours for the repair patch to set before proceeding to the next step.

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Adding Filler to the Repair Area

Bumper repair filler
Body filler applied to the outside of the bumper and sanded smooth. photo by Adam Wright, 2013

Once the patch has set, you can start to add filler to the front. I recommend a fiberglass-reinforced filler (the green Bondo) for strength. Add thin layers allowing them to dry between applications. See the section on filler for more info. When you're finished, sand the are smooth, including a wet sand.

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Painting your Repaired Bumper

the repaired bumper cover
Budget bumper repair, finished!. photo by Adam Wright, 2013

Now that you've filled, sanded, and loved your bumper, it's time to spray the color on. We recommend ordering your paint as a custom mix. This produces much better results generally than the over the counter paint. It comes in an aerosol can and is easy to use, but the color actually matches! We found lots of them, but one guy you can find easily on seemed like the best, and we got a perfect match to a paint color that is not even available as an over-the-counter touch up paint!

Carefully mask the area around your repair and spray the smooth repair. Remember, many light coats are better than fewer heavy coats!

If your car uses a clearcoat type of paint, add layers of clearcoat once you're happy with your paint job.

Nice work!