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Remember, Bumper Repair Can Help You Save

Todays bumpers is what we must deal with, and bumper only repairs can save you money if the damage is within reason. Seek out your bumper repair shop, remember auto collision shops should be used for a full collision accident, but if your bumper only got damaged, your bumper repair shop is the one that will bring you savings. Here’s a little history and storytelling on the bumper:

An ideal car bumper should allow you to impact another car or object, stationary or motile, at speeds below, say 5 mph, with zero visible damage. A good car bumper should provide the driver with a sort of buffer zone, where small errors in judgement or ability can be absorbed, without repercussions, and forgotten. Modern car bumpers do not do this. There was a time, in the otherwise dark Malaise Era, where bumpers did achieve this Platonic ideal; however, to achieve this, sacrifices had to be made. It's this relationship that forms the basis of the Bumper Conundrum.

The Bumper Conundrum is the name professional bumper researchers have given to the two-axis relationship of bumper use and aesthetics. Broken down to its simplest level, it comes to this axiom: the better a bumper is at absorbing damage, the less people like the way it looks. You can plot any bumper on a two-axis graph, with one axis being aesthetic success, and the other durability, and you can see the sweet spot in the upper right, a hypothetical attractive bumper that weathers damage well. Most modern bumpers, and most bumpers up until the early 70s, usually score well on attractiveness, and low on durability. Earlier, chrome bumpers from the 40s-60s are often a bit more durable than the modern, painted-cover bumpers, giving today's cars the lowest ebb of bumper usefulness.

Of course, the most recent designs do have a bit more of an excuse, as they do have to conform to more stringent pedestrian-impact standards, which means many modern bumpers rely more on collapsible-energy absorbing materials, and stiffeners to prevent legs from being drawn under the bumper. Pedestrian impact is an important consideration, and one that the durable bumpers of the 70s-80s didn't really care too much about. Still, pedestrian safety and bumper durability/ease and cost of repair don't need to be mutually exclusive.

Older designs, usually in chrome with some rubber for impact strips and guards, held up a bit better than many modern designs for many sorts of impacts due to their lack of paint, and the heavy metal blades' durability. They were also cheaper to repair, generally. With my old '73 Beetle, I consider the bumper blades consumables, like tires or wiper blades; they're far from the body, can take one or two good whacks, and then it's $50 and four bolts to put a new one on. They sacrifice themselves to protect the painted body, and I'm fine with that. In big wrecks, though, they don't do much.

Modern car design has abandoned the bumper, visually. With the advent of integrated, body-color-matching bumpers in the late 80s (there were earlier precedents, of course, like our pal the Mustang II), bumpers have now been totally consumed into the body, the actual impact bars and brackets completely enclosed with plastic or fiberglass painted covers. These covers, while great for aerodynamics and styling, not only allow other, breakable elements onto the bumper surface (grilles, lights), but by being painted, have become as expensive as body damage to repair.

Modern cars, of course, are much safer in a large-scale crash than ever, but the bumper only a small part of this; chassis engineering, crumple zones, and all that exciting engineering get that credit. Bumpers in modern cars are a lot like the health insurance I've could afford: terrific for catastrophic accidents, worthless for anything else. So, unless your car driving plan consists of years of happy motoring ending in a spectacular wreck into a helicopter off the roof of a parking garage, modern bumpers probably aren't going to be useful to you.