Whether it’s another car’s door or bumper, storm or animal damage, or a runaway grocery cart, accidental bumps and dings happen to our vehicles every day. Sometimes the bumps can be a bit more severe, too, as stop and go traffic often leads to fender benders.
Thankfully, the bumpers on our cars and trucks are able to absorb many of these impacts and save the car’s body. The downside; bumpers can end up looking rough and needing some paint and form repair.
Which brings us to today’s question: Does paintless dent repair work on plastic bumpers? The quick answer is yes, but with a few exceptions. Let’s take a look at this process and see if it’s right for your vehicle.
What is paintless dent repair?
Paintless dent repair is a series of dent removal techniques which body shops use to restore the structure and appearance of vehicle exteriors.
Various tools are used to push and pull bent metals and plastics back to their original forms and shapes. The paintless aspect refers to restoring the damaged areas without the need for re-painting.
This paintless process is often best suited for a vehicle’s metal areas, as the metals on car and truck bodies are often easier to re-form. Plastics, on the other hand, can be a bit more tricky to re-form, but there are techniques which will work successfully.
Paintless repair on metals
Traditional vehicle paint and body repair often relied on more invasive repair techniques. If you had a front driver body panel, for example, which has been impacted and bent in, the standard fix in the past would have involved sanding, grinding, cutting, drilling, and bending the metal back in place.
Any gaps or holes left would be filled and re-formed with Bondo. A body shop would then re-paint the repaired metal/Bondo area to match the existing paint. In the end, the vehicle will appear as it did before the accident.
This kind of auto body work is akin to surgery methods before the advent of CAT scans and MRIs. Surgeons used to open patients up to perform exploratory surgery, sometimes causing as much trauma as they were looking to alleviate.
CAT scans, MRIs, and even x-rays allowed doctors to take a more informed route for surgery, which focused on a specific area of the patient. Then, specific, specialized tools are used to alleviate the patient’s problems with minimal surgery.
With paintless dent repair, auto body shops are using smaller, more specific tools to slowly re-form the metal or plastic without the cutting, grinding, and drilling.
By slowly reversing the damaged areas, customers are able to see their vehicles returned to new without a complete facelift or body overhaul.
Paintless repair on plastics
As we’ve been mentioning, paintless dent repair is often most successful for metal areas on a vehicle. Although plastic areas can be repaired using paintless methods, it’s contingent on a few factors.
- How severe is the damage?
- What was the original shape of the plastic?
- Has the paint been damaged in any way?
How severe is the damage?
If you’re trying to fix a fender bender, some door dings, or even a fallen limb dent, paintless dent repair can be a great option. If the damage is fairly severe, especially to plastic or rubber parts, it may not be completely possible to re-form the material.
Whereas metal bends and can be re-bent, plastic often bends but breaks or cracks when attempting to re-bend. By applying a heat source to the damaged plastic areas, it is possible to re-form the plastic back to it’s original shape. But, because of it’s flexible nature, plastics won’t always stay in the repaired shape.
What was the original shape?
Another factor to consider is the original shaping of the plastic. Because of plastic’s unique composition, it can be formed to fit virtually any shape. Plastic pieces from the factory are specifically designed for single applications. Once they’ve been damaged, it may be difficult to return them to their original factory form, no matter the technique.
Has the paint been damaged?
This is really the make or break factor to determine if paintless dent repair will work for your plastics. If the paint is intact, you’re in business. Unfortunately, paint on plastic is often cracked or damaged when the accident occurs. If the paint is damaged, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll need, at the very least, some paint touch-ups.
Paintless repair solutions for plastics
Let’s assume that your damage is on a plastic area and the paint hasn’t been compromised. Paintless dent repair will work to massage and re-form the plastic back to its original form. Heat guns and warming tools will help to make the plastic malleable enough to re-form.
Even with this successful procedure, your vehicle may still nee some small paint touch-ups and a waxing and buffing to take out any superficial scratches.
Too damaged for paintless repair?
What if your plastic area is too damaged to re-form or the paint is cracked or chipped? Does paintless dent repair work on plastic bumper? More than likely, you can expect a combination of paintless techniques and traditional body shop work.
What can’t be re-shaped will be replaced and painted to match the vehicle. After all, bumpers are designed to be replaced if too badly damaged.
Even if the plastic is replaced, the metal around the damaged area can still be fixed using paintless methods. Minimizing the alterations to the original vehicle’s body is key.
Of course, if you’ve sustained a substantial bit of damage to your vehicle, paintless dent repair might not be an option or may just be a part of the whole fix.
You’ll want to have your vehicle examined by professionals with experience in paintless dent repair to determine if it’s a possibility for your situation.
Modern auto body shops are striving to work as precisely and minimally invasive as possible. Overall, the less-invasive techniques for auto body repairs seem to represent the way of the future. By developing tools and techniques which make repairs move faster, customers are able to be back behind the wheel in no time.