My mother, Mila, G-d lover her, has trouble with parking spots. I probably inherited this bad-parking gene from her, as these parking jams have happened to me as well. In this article I will describe how to fix plastic bumper and fender dents without paying an arm and a leg (at least $300) for what amounts to 1 hour or so worth of your time.
Here's what a typical plastic bumper dent looks like:
This happens when you back into a pole or another car, or some other immovable object. Most repair shops will tell you to replace the bumper - maybe an $800 job. This video shows how you can do the job with out drilling holes, because you have access behind the bumper. But if you are working where you cannot access behind the bumper, or where you'd need to take apart the bumper to fix it, the following procedures may be necessary.
The instructions will show you how to do the job with minimal tools and cost. You can finish the paint and resulting drilled holes much better than we did. Follow this video if you want to see how to professionally finish the job (but you will need more time, equipment, sandpaper and materials to do this right).
1. The materials required for this job are described in the picture below. Most are found around the house (meaning you should not have to buy anything, hopefully)
- a small hammer
- a few thin drill bits (less than 1/4")
- a set of pliers
- finishing touchup colour you can get from your car dealership for your model and make of car
- an electric drill
- silicon filler (or some other plastic bonding filler)
- a putty knife and regular knife
- a flowerpot hanger (with a hook at the end) with a threaded point
- a hot air blow dryer (preferably with leopard print like my Mom has ! :)
2. Use the drill to make very small holes in the deepest part of the depression of each dent. Start here because this is the part you will attempt to pull out. MAKE SURE YOU DON'T DRILL A HOLE LARGER THAN THE HANGER SCREW.
3. Screw in the hanger screw carefully into the hole.
4. Use the hot air blow dryer to soften the plastic bumper around the screw. A good 3-5 minutes should be good.
5. Carefully pull on the hanger and see if you can pull out the bumper. If pulling doesn't work or if the screw pulls out of the hole, put the end of the hook into the drill hole instead, and use it as a "puller".
6. Once you have pulled out the dent, look for other depressions. Drill more holes there and follow steps #3-5 to continue to reshape the bumper.
7. You may find that if you have had your dent for a few months or years, the shape will not fully recover. The reforming should be done as soon as possible as the dent occurs, as plastic tends to reform based on a new shape and "remember" its shape.
8. You may be able to heat up other parts of the bumper, use the hook to pull out the shape, and quickly put a cold, wet cloth over the area to "encourage" the plastic to go back to its original shape. This is plastic, you will have to get creative to ensure the material is reformed by using heat and then cold. This video shows a smaller dent being removed without any screws at all - just a heat gun and compressed air to quickly cool the heated area.
9. The result will look something like the pictures below. Note the holes have not really been finished properly, and could use some good sanding, proper plastic bond and then a finish with spray paint. The key is that the major dents are gone (mostly at least -- it is very hard to remove these dents 100% without replacing the bumper, especially if the dents are a few years old like in the case below. Your mileage may vary!)
Rear bumper - 4 attempts to pull out a very deep dent
Pulled out dents with 2 attempts
UPDATE: Friends are asking why I didn't take "before" and "after" pictures of our Toyota Camry that we fixed. The reason is simple: I really didn't think this would work as well as it did, so I didn't take the "before" picture before it was too late and it was fixed. Should have, I know. And will next time!