How to Repair Your Car's Plastic Bumper

close up of a damaged Car from a crash
deepblue4you / Getty Images

Even a minor accident can result in a damaged bumper. The professionals use expensive epoxies, heat, plastic welding, and other techniques to repair bumpers. That's costly, but probably worth it if you own an expensive vehicle. But if you aren't obsessed with perfection, or the value of your vehicle doesn't support spending that much money on the repair, you can do it yourself for less than $100. If you've just got a chip in the paint, that repair is even easier.

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Clean the Bumper

Even out the area to be repaired by cutting off any excess material that is sticking out.
Adam Wright

The first step in repairing a plastic bumper is to clean the wound, so to speak. Anything that's breaking the natural contour of the bumper needs to be cut off; 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- or 100-grit sandpaper. Next, clean the back of the bumper as well as you can and scuff it with your sandpaper.

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Reinforce the Repair Area

Reinforcing the backside of the repair area.
Adam Wright

You'll 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 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 three hours for the repair patch to set before proceeding to the next step.

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Add the Filler

Body filler applied to the outside of the bumper and sanded smooth.
Adam Wright

Once the patch has set, you can start to add filler to the front. Follow the directions on the filler container to find out how many total layers you should apply. Spread a thin layer, allowing it to dry between applications. When you're finished, sand the area smooth.

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Paint Your Bumper

Man painting bumper

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Before you paint the repaired bumper, you'll need to make sure you've got a proper match. You can do this at your auto parts store or online as long as you know the make and model of your vehicle. Touch-up paint is sometimes sold in a spray can, which makes applying it easy. But for whole-bumper repaint jobs, you may be better off renting a professional paint sprayer.

Make sure you're working in a well-ventilated area and wearing safety gear like a respirator or mask, goggles, and gloves. Now that you've filled and sanded your bumper, it's time to spray the color on. 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 paint, add the clearcoat after your paint has been applied and had time to dry.