More on Car Repair & Maintenance

Replacement bumper covers can cost more than $1,000. But dents in the soft plastic bumper covers on cars and SUVs can often be smoothed out at home by applying heat and a little elbow grease. It takes a bit of patience, and certainly experience helps. If you don't have a skilled friend to assist, be sure to watch a couple videos on YouTube for further insights on the techniques needed to get good results. 

Damage that affects the surface, like deep scratches or punctures, will require the services of a body shop. In such cases, the entire bumper cover may need to be replaced and painted, as well as other trim elements replaced and possibly lights moved. 

What You Need
• Heat gun, hair dryer, or hot water.
• Rubber-tipped tool or dowel.
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Illustration: Rodrigo Damati

Get Access Behind the Bumper

Depending on the location of the dent on your bumper, you may need to remove the fender liner ahead of the front tire (see above) or a lower aerodynamic valance below the bumper to gain access to the interior of the dent. Both can be unclipped manually.

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Apply Heat to the Dent

Warm the bumper surface with a heat-gun tool if you have one (hot water or a powerful hair dryer will work, too) to make the plastic more malleable. Don’t apply strong heat too closely or hold the heat source in the same spot for too long—either can damage the paint.

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Gently Push Out the Dent

Use a rubber-tipped dowel or specialty tool (like the one shown in the illustration, readily available online) to push out the dent from the interior until it begins to pop back into its intended shape. You may need to gently work on any small indents with the tool to get a smooth surface. Then replace the fender liner.

Editor’s Note: This article was expanded from the version that appeared in the August 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.