How to repair a vinyl car bumper

Those textured vinyl bumper covers on your car or SUV sure take a lot of abuse, and damage of some type is hard to avoid. Whether it's pits from flying road stones, dents or scratches from other bumpers or bumper benders where the bumper took the hit, this article will be help you learn how to repair the problem yourself.

If the dent is very small or just some scratches, scars or pits you will not need to follow steps 2 and 3 but can just move right into step 4. If the dent is deeper and needs to be pulled out, please follow stesp 2 and 3.

Determine the approximate centre of the dent and drill a small hole into the centre, large enough to fit your scratching awl. If the dent is directly over a section of the steel behind the cover, try to find a nearby location where you can drill through if it will still be a helpful location for pulling out the dent. If you cannot locate an area to drill you can move right into step 3 for filling or remove the bumper cover. (Removal of the cover is not covered in this article.) Filler shouldn't be applied more than maybe 1/2 inch thick done in two layers of 1/4 inch each. Using filler for dents deeper than this runs the risk of it not adhering properly and possibly falling out. The goal is to use as little Bondo or filler as possible.

Once a hole is drilled, insert your angle awl into the hole with the angle part just under the dented in area. Pull out to revert the dent outward. You may have to drill more than one hole to effectively accomplish this. Don't worry about the holes, you will patch them later. If you have removed the entire bumper cover you may not need to drill any holes for your awl; you may be able to simply press the dent back out since you will have complete access to the inside of the cover.

Scuff up the area to be filled in with 120 grit sandpaper using your sanding block. If the area is small, you can use your fingers under the paper. You want to remove any rough edges around the damaged area.

Wipe the area down with lacquer thinner or another strong solvent to be sure all wax and grease is removed from the repair area and also wipe any extending sections of the cover that you will be painting.

Using your glazing compound for very light work (no thicker than a 1/16 inch layer at a time with a max filling of 1/8 inch), press the filler into the dent or scar with your putty knife and smooth over the top of the area so that the filler is "above" the height of the rest of the bumper cover, feathering out as you spread it. Use your body filler or Bondo for deeper dents.

Once the filler or glaze completely dries--which depends on temperature, humidity and how thickly it was applied--you can use 120 grit paper to smooth out the filler in the repair area and then use the 320 grit over the same area and finish with 600 grit paper, which will give you a smooth surface for primer and the special bumper paint. Be sure to sand down any filler that you feathered out also so that it is flush with the original surface and smooth. Always use the proper size and contour sanding block to wrap your paper around.

Tape and paper off the bumper area before doing any painting. Be sure you wear your face mask over nose and mouth. Then spray automotive primer over the section. Let dry, and then you are ready for spraying on the bumper paint for a complete job.


You may choose to repaint the entire bumper cover with the vinyl bumper paint since just spraying a section may leave you with paint lines or unmatched colours.


Always wear safety glasses when using a power drill.

Things You'll Need

  • Proper coloured bumper paint specific for the textured bumpers found at auto parts stores
  • Sandpaper, 120, 320 and 600 grit
  • Proper size sanding block for the repair area
  • Lacquer thinner or other wax and grease remover
  • Clean rags
  • Drill with small bits
  • Scratching awl with angle end
  • Automotive primer
  • Safety glasses
  • Tape and paper to protect rest of car while spray painting the bumper cover
  • Paper face mask for nose and mouth
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About the Author

Tom Keaton has been writing professionally since 2007. His background includes experience in mortgage banking, pest control and classic-car restoration. Keaton has also worked as a licensed stock broker.