Bumper Cover Buyer's Guide
- A bumper cover is a fitted attachment that houses the metal bumper.
- It is a styling element that provides mounting for lights, sensors, grilles, and trims. It can be made of plastic, fiberglass, rubber, or leather.
- It is also a functional component that helps absorb shock and dissipate the force of impact in collisions.?
- A bumper cover helps protect internal car components, maintain the look of your vehicle, and improve car safety.
- Damaged bumper covers should be replaced to keep internal car parts protected, maintain the look of your car, and improve overall car safety.
- Make sure your bumper cover compliments your vehicle’s aerodynamics, does not have loose nuts and bolts, and doesn’t block any air vents, fog lights, grilles, and headlights.
- OEM replacement bumper covers cost anywhere between $70 and $4,700.
- Installing a new bumper cover on your vehicle is a relatively simple process if you have the necessary tools and know-how.
The car bumper is a vehicle part that even small children can easily identify. But as simple as it may seem, this part is made up of multiple components. What we typically refer to as a car’s bumper is most likely its bumper cover. To understand the difference between the two, let’s go through the basics of bumper covers.
What is a bumper cover?
A bumper cover is an attachment that fits over the entirety of the bumper of a vehicle. It is both a style and functional element which may include provisioning for mounted lights, grilles, parking sensors, tow hooks, and trims. Bumper covers are typically installed in the front and rear of a vehicle.
What does a bumper cover do?
As its name suggests, the bumper cover is the external component that houses the bumper. Inside this cover is the metal bumper, which is protected by shock-absorbing material. The front bumper cover dissipates the force of impact on the head of the vehicle in the event of a collision, while the rear bumper cover has the back of the car covered.
Bumper covers may also include built-in features like grilles that allow proper ventilation for car parts under the hood. Air dams may also be molded into it to improve aerodynamics. Aside from circulating cool air, the part can also act as a barrier that protects your engine from debris on the road.
Car owners may also install bumper covers purely to improve their vehicle’s aesthetics. This is a quick and cost-effective way to update the look of your vehicle. Your car’s bumper cover can also be used to close off gaps or openings in the front of your car to make it appear more sleek and streamlined.
The types of bumper covers
Before bumper regulations were passed in the 70s, most cars and trucks sported chrome bumpers. These bumpers were easily dented and prone to rust. Once federal regulations for crash safety were enacted, car manufacturers started using plastic panels and bumper end caps, which paved the way for modern bumper covers.
Today, different materials are used in fabricating automotive bumper covers. High-density reinforced plastic and fiberglass are the most common types of material used in newer vehicle models. Some use rubber, while some are even made from leather.
Regardless of what material you choose for your car, it’s important to double-check that the part is securely fitted and correctly installed so that it reinforces the bumper and helps it absorb impact effectively.
Bumper covers vs. Air dams
A bumper cover fits over the entire bumper, while air dams are mounted in the lower portion of the bumper. If you want to save on buying these parts separately, there are bumper covers that already have built-in air dams. Both parts function together in maintaining airflow to the components under the hood and preventing overheating.
What does a CAPA Certification mean?
The Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) is an independent non-profit organization that oversees the testing of genuine replacement parts with the public’s interest in mind. Structural parts like the bumper assembly are typically tested to make sure that it meets or better yet, exceeds crash safety requirements.
The benefits of replacing a damaged bumper cover
As an external component of your vehicle, your car’s bumper cover is prone to abuse. While bumper cover repair is possible for small dents and scratches, replacement may be necessary when there is breakage or significant damage from a road accident. Here are some of the reasons why you shouldn’t put off having your bumper covers replaced.
Protect internal car components
The bumper is your car’s first line of defense against the elements. Small rocks and branches can be dangerous for your car’s engine as you’re driving on the freeway. The bumper cover along with your car’s grille assembly helps keep your engine safe from flying debris.
Maintain the look of your car
As most bumper covers in modern vehicles are made of plastic, fading and cracking can occur after extended exposure to UV rays. The impact of flying debris can also cause irreparable dents, while features like chrome fittings can get pitted over time. Swapping out your bumper cover is an easy and affordable way to maintain or improve your car’s look without costing an arm and a leg.
Improve car safety
Bumper covers may look simple, but they are a complex impact absorbing mechanism. Installing a properly fitted bumper cover increases your car’s ability to dissipate energy from external sources, keeping you and your passengers safe in the event of a collision.
Many modern bumper covers deform in a specific way upon impact. They have pressure triggers, which are connected to the airbag deployment system of the vehicle. Survivability of pedestrian collisions have increased with these smart designs. This keeps both the vehicle’s passengers and the people around the vehicle safe.
Considerations when buying a bumper cover
The first thing you have to consider is the fit. Although there are covers that are made to fit many different vehicle models, it is highly recommended that you go for a cover that was specifically designed for your car. This will ensure that there are no loose nuts and bolts that can compromise the integrity of your bumper.
Another thing you should consider is aerodynamics. The entire silhouette of your car affects how air flows around it. Modifying the body could affect the aerodynamics positively or negatively. A smooth air flow also influences your car’s fuel consumption, in addition to making it faster, and providing better downforce while turning.
Some bumper covers have flaps that push air upward, increasing downforce, giving it better aerodynamic characteristics. Other bumper covers have air ducts or huge grilles, which direct air to cool the brakes and allow air to flow into the engine bay.
Be sure the bumper cover you’re planning on purchasing doesn’t block any of the stock air vents, fog lights, grilles, and headlights. If it does, you might be driving with less light in the dark, get less grip due to a disturbed air flow, and risk overheating.
Make sure the cover that you get comes with a complete installation manual. Putting the cover on by yourself will save you a pretty significant amount of money.
Finally, if you must get a bumper cover not specifically made for your car model, stick to one that is closest to the original design of the vehicle. Also, choose only products from established brands. That way, you can be sure of quality, reliability, and durability.
How much is a bumper cover?
The cost of bumper covers may vary depending on your vehicle’s year, model and make. An OEM bumper cover replacement typically costs anywhere between $70 and $4,700. Individual components are available as well as bumper cover kits. The latter may come with provisioning for fog lights, parking aid sensor, and license plate holes.
Universal aftermarket bumper covers are available for a wide range of makes and models. Specially modified bumper covers, which allow for additional lights and air vents, can be made to the owner’s specific vision.
While it is possible to replace your car’s bumper cover on your own, we recommend going to a trusted mechanic. Going to a professional will guarantee that the bumper cover is fitted correctly and does not compromise the ability of the bumper to absorb shock from a collision.
How to install a bumper cover
Installing a new bumper cover on your vehicle is a relatively simple process regardless of what kind of car you are driving. Just keep these tools handy and follow these simple steps:
Needed tools and materials:
- New bumper cover
Step 1: Preparing for the task
Before installing a new bumper cover for your car, make sure that you have everything you need set up. This will make the installation process much faster and easier. Your car should also be engaged in the emergency parking brake. This will prevent the car from moving or rolling while you're removing the old bumper cover.
Step 2: Removing the old bumper
Using a screwdriver, remove the screws and fasteners that secure your old bumper cover in place. Once you have removed the screws, carefully pull the old bumper cover away from the vehicle and set it aside. Don't forget to keep the screws, brackets, and fasteners in a secure container as you may need to reuse them with your new bumper cover.
Step 3: Installing the new bumper cover
Check the alignment of your new bumper cover before putting it on the vehicle. While aligning your new bumper with the front or back of your car, make sure that it is placed on a blanket or a towel that is laid out on the ground to avoid scratching it. Once you have it properly aligned, you can start inserting the plastic clips through the sheet metal of the vehicle. To secure the new bumper cover in place, tighten the screws and plastic clips properly with a screw then reconnect the other additional brackets.
Tips and warnings
- To avoid having to repaint the new bumper cover, make sure that it's in a color that matches your car's perfectly.
- Some fasteners on your replacement bumper cover may require the need for a hex screwdriver.
How to repair a damaged bumper cover
Accidents can happen even if you are the most careful driver in the world. Repairing a damaged bumper cover is a good option, especially if you want to save money. But bear in mind that restoration can only be made to a certain extent. Repeated restoration could weaken the bumper cover’s impact absorbing capabilities and aerodynamics.
For small scratches or paint chips, you can easily repair it by spraying over the bumper cover with automotive grade spray paint, similar to your vehicle’s body color. To get the paint to apply evenly, use a fine 2000 grit sandpaper dipped in a bucket of water. Following a crosshatch pattern, lightly sand down the overlapping area. Bring it to shine with a little polishing compound and buffing. Don’t forget to apply wax after for a lasting effect.
Bumper covers that have been dented from impact can be restored to its original shape with the help of a plastic welder. Heating the surface makes the bumper cover malleable, giving you the opportunity to push the dent outward. Using this method to fix a dent may leave cracking, or a crease in the paint of the bumper cover, which can be solved with a quick respray of paint.