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How To Easily And Inexpensively Remove Dents From Plastic Bumper Covers

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Plastic bumper covers add a more refined look to your car by covering the functional bumper, but they dent easily in collisions. The good news is that repair is not difficult and is within the means of most vehicle owners. If your car has a dented bumper cover, below is a step-by-step procedure for removing the dent:

Removing a dent from a plastic bumper cover - tools and materials needed

  • Electric heat gun

  • Flat pry bar

  • Infrared thermometer

  • Duct tape

  • Cotton rags

  • Bucket of water

  • Detailing sponge

  • Leather work gloves

  • Eye protection

Removing a dent from a plastic bumper cover - step-by-step procedure

1. Work safely - Removing a dent is a straightforward job that involves few significant risks, but any time you are working with high temperature equipment, you need to protect yourself from injury. As such, be sure to wear goggles or safety glasses to keep your eyes from being injured in the event the heat gun causes "explosive" paint chipping. Also, always wear leather work gloves to protect your hands from being burned; a heat gun can emit hot air exceeding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, be alert when using the gun, and never aim the hot air output toward fuel lines, tanks or any other potentially-flammable surfaces.

2. Prepare the dent removal tool - While professional collision repair technicians use specialized equipment, you can obtain satisfactory results by using a custom-built dent removal tool. This tool will enable you to apply pressure to the backside of the bumper cover without risking accidental penetration. To make the tool, begin by taping a cotton rag to the bent end of a flat pry bar. Then wrap the rag around the end of the bar. Tape the rag down. Then wrap another cotton rag over the top of the first one. Finally, completely cover the rags with a layer of duct tape; this will form a firm "ball" at the end of the pry bar that can be used to apply force to the dent. 

3. Position the vehicle in a well-illuminated area - In order to effectively remove the bumper cover dent, you will need to be able to see the edges, creases, dips and high points of the damaged area. That's why either strong natural lighting or high-lumens artificial lighting is necessary to reveal these damage features. Light that bounces off the damaged spot at a low angle will provide the sharpest feature demarcation, so keep that in mind when positioning the car.

4. Heat the damaged area - Once you have the damaged area of the car well-lit, then you can begin heating the dent in the bumper cover. Hold the heat gun in one hand about 6 to 8 inches away from the dent, and begin to apply heat using slow sweeps across the dent. Pay particular attention to creases and apply a little extra heat to these areas. In addition, also heat a couple of inches on all sides of the dent to provide space for the dented area to give.

When heating the dent, be careful not to overheat the bumper. If you notice the bumper surface rippling, sagging or bubbling, then you have heated it too much and need to pause until the plastic cools. Continue to heat the dented area until it is heated evenly to a temperature of approximately 150 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured with an infrared thermometer.

5. Push the dented area back to its original position - Once you have heated the plastic bumper cover to the appropriate temperature, place your custom-made dent removal tool behind the bumper cover and gently push it into the softened plastic. Be patient as you work, and if the plastic stops yielding to the tool, re-apply heat to the dented area to restore pliability.

Continue to push the dent out as much as possible until you are no longer able to make observable progress. At that point, stop applying rear pressure to the bumper cover, and use the flat edge of the pry bar to apply pressure to the creases from the outside of the cover. Work your way along the edges, and hold the flat edge in place for several seconds to maintain the position until the bumper cools. If you wish, apply water from a damp sponge to the plastic to help accelerate cooling and firming. For more information or advice, contact a business such as Brandywine Coach Works.