What does a bumper cover do? Why should I replace mine?
Many people tend to use the terms, “bumper,” “bumper cover,” “bumper fascia” and “bumper valance” interchangeably. In technical terms, a bumper cover tends to be a wraparound piece of heavy-duty plastic that’s precisely molded to fit over your bumper reinforcement and absorber, which are a metal beam and a foam, respectively, that are placed at the front or rear of your vehicle and built to absorb much of the impact in a collision. “Bumper fascia” basically refers to the front of your vehicle (which includes the front bumper, grille, headlights, etc.), while a bumper valance is a panel that’s part of the bumper fascia and positioned on top of or right under the bumper for aerodynamic functionality or style. You can think of a bumper cover as part of your car’s skin, the bumper fascia as its face, the bumper valance as its nose and the bumper reinforcement and absorber as part of its skeleton. Bumper covers themselves are also designed to protect the front or rear of your car—including your headlights, tail lights, fenders, hood and exhaust—so those components aren’t damaged in low-speed impacts like fender benders and parking lot mishaps. Last but certainly not least, bumper covers fit seamlessly with your vehicle’s body lines from one wheel well opening to the next, contribute significantly to your ride’s overall look and, along with the grille and the rest of the bumper assembly, are the most recognizable part of the vehicle.
What should I look for when shopping for a bumper cover? How much does a bumper replacement cost?
First and foremost, you need to make sure your new bumper cover fits your specific application, which means you should shop according to your vehicle’s year, make, model, submodel and body type (i.e. coupe, sedan, etc.). You’ll also need to make sure your new cover is designed for the location you need (i.e. front or rear), and pay special attention to what application-specific features or cutouts your bumper cover might need, including bumper valance panels, fog lights, parking sensors, grilles, air intakes, tow hook provisions, etc. Look out for bumper covers that are CAPA-certified, too—extra quality controls during the production of those ensure you’re getting the best bumper cover available. These tend to be pricier.
If you’re looking for a straightforward, high-quality OE replacement bumper cover with an affordable price, check out Replacement or AutoTrust Gold. These are geared towards customers who are looking for a cost-efficient, direct-fit replacement with the best value. If you own a Jeep, Crown and Omix are good go-to brands for top-notch Jeep replacement covers.
If you want to upgrade your ride’s style and performance, you’ll want to look into performance bumper covers made by brands like Street Scene, which specializes in bumper covers, grilles, body styling kits and other custom exterior accessories. Street Scene offers a vast selection of bumper covers, ranging from covers made with ultra-tough, flexible urethane for smooth style and enhanced durability, to lightweight fiberglass covers that offer more aerodynamic performance and a distinct, custom look.
All in all, rear or front bumper replacement costs really depend on your vehicle and lifestyle.
Do bumper covers come painted or unpainted? What are the differences between textured, natural and paint-to-match (primed or unprimed) finishes?
Typically, aftermarket bumper covers come unpainted, which leaves you three options:
(1) Leave it unpainted if that look works for you.
(2) Get it painted by a professional.
(3) Paint it yourself.
The best option for you depends on your budget, your style preferences, the state of your vehicle’s paint job and how well-equipped you are to paint a bumper cover yourself.
If you like the standard black finish that aftermarket bumper covers typically come in, you can simply install one as is. Depending on your application, your bumper cover may be available in a textured, natural or paint-to-match (primed or unprimed) finish. Some older models’ bumper covers come in textured or natural finishes that aren’t designed to be painted, while most modern vehicles have paint-to-match bumper covers. Be sure to note what finish your original bumper cover comes in before checking out your options.
If you want to paint your bumper, a DIY project can save you a lot of money, but might get tricky if your vehicle’s paint job has faded with age and exposure to the elements. Professionals are usually able to mix paint to account for changes that a vehicle’s color can undergo over time. If you decide to go the professional route, which we highly recommend, be sure to research how much your job would typically cost and come armed with that information when you get quotes from multiple shops.
If you decide to paint your bumper cover yourself, be sure to get detailed, application-specific instructions, along with the right color paint, which you can look up according to your vehicle’s factory color code (located in your glove box, driver’s side door jamb, firewall or hood, etc., depending on your application). A DIY project will basically involve cleaning, prepping and wet-sanding your bumper cover before applying primer (unless your bumper cover comes pre-primed), paint, clear coat, polish and wax. Make sure you paint in a well-ventilated area, and wear safety glasses along with a mask/respirator to protect yourself from paint fumes. We highly recommend renting a paint booth to ensure you’re equipped with the best tools and a proper environment to get your paint job done safely and as professional-looking as possible.
Finally, you’ll notice that many paint-to-match bumper covers come pre-primed. This is to ensure that once paint is applied, it’ll optimally adhere to your bumper cover’s surface and resist chipping. When you’re doing your research, you may come across folks who tell you that it’s better to get one that’s raw, or if you get a bumper cover that’s pre-primed, that you should strip the primer and put on a fresh coat. We highly recommend consulting a professional before you consider doing this. In our experience, it’s best to not strip the primer, and to find out more about the kind of primer that’s been pre-applied and what additional measures should or should not be taken to best preserve your car bumper material and ensure maximum chip resistance before purchase.
What should I keep in mind when installing a new bumper cover?
• Look for specific directions according to your vehicle’s year, make, model, submodel and body type.
• Your new bumper typically won’t come with fasteners, so make sure you save yours. If you lose them or they break when you’re doing the replacement, you may be able to buy new ones—just be sure that they suit your application.
• When it’s time to remove your old bumper cover, have a friend help you slide it out, and be careful not to snag any electrical connectors. When it’s time to put on the new bumper cover, have a friend help you hold it level while you install. Be careful not to scratch it!
• It’s probably best to install the new bumper before painting. This requires additional work because masking off the rest of the vehicle is a must. However, it’s much cheaper and much less of a hassle to mask off a section than risk scratching the piece upon installation and having to repaint the whole thing.
• If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself, you could have a professional perform the replacement for you.