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What is the bumper/what does it do?

A bumper is a vital safety feature on all vehicles and in order for a car to be considered roadworthy, it is a legal requirement to have both front and rear bumpers fitted. The job of the bumper is to absorb the impact of a crash. It provides protection to the car in the event of a crash, by minimising damage to the front and rear end of the car frame and body. Bumpers function to protect the fuel, exhaust and cooling systems, the bonnet, boot and grille, as well as safety features such as tail lights, headlamps and parking lights. The bumper also serves to protect the occupants of the car in the event of a crash. By absorbing some of the impact of the collision, the bumper minimises the force of the crash for driver and passengers. 

Getting into the details of the bumper

The front bumper is fixed to a bumper bracket on the front of the car, enabling it to absorb some of the impact from a head on collision, as is the lower front bumper. The rear bumper and lower rear bumpers are fixed to bumper brackets to the rear of the car, absorbing impact from a rear collision.

Bumpers in modern vehicles are made of a variety of materials, and usually consist of a strong bar made of either fiberglass, steel, rubber, aluminum, thermo glass or plastic with a plastic outer. Some bumpers have an energy absorbing material, such as polypropylene foam, beneath the outer cover, which absorbs impact and is designed to soften the blow for pedestrians, if hit by a slow moving car, as well as helping to prevent the bumper from cracking and breaking.

Bumpers also come in a variety of styles and shapes, both dependent on the make and model of the car and can be added to and customised in a number of ways.

Many car owners choose to fit a bumper spoiler or a lower bumper spoiler to the rear and/or front bumper. Although the rear bumper spoiler and front bumper spoiler can function to assist with the aerodynamics of a car, they are often fitted for aesthetic reasons and are a popular design feature when customising a car. Bumper spoilers can be fitted with a bumper splitter which functions to increase downforce, which improves the overall stability and handling of the car, and reduces drag by steadying and channeling the airflow around and under the bumper spoiler.

Bumper moulding is a protective or decorative strip attached to the car's bumper. It offers additional protection from minor damage such as scrapes, scratches and dings and also adds detail or accents to the car's styling. The bumper mouldings may be attached to one or more location on the car's bumper, including across its width and around the corner areas. The bumper moulding offers protection from day to day wear and tear and protects the paintwork of the main bumper panel. Bumper moulding is also offered as an optional extra on many models and is used to enhance the car's appearance and styling, enabling further customisation of the bonnet.

Often car owners choose to smarten up the front and rear bumpers on their car by fitting bumper end caps. Usually made from rubber, the bumper end caps fit onto the corner of each end of the bumper, offering not only a smart look, but also extra protection to the bumper from minor damage such as scrapes, scratches and knocks.

A functional part, but one which can come in a variety of styles and finishes to suit personal taste and different makes and models of car, is the bumper grille and centre bumper grille. These are a rigid panel with a grating, essentially parallel slits or vents running vertically, or a mesh construction, that covers the bumper, allowing air to flow through into the engine compartment and offering some protection to the bottom part of the engine.  These bumper grilles also act as a filter, stopping dirt, stones and other road debris from entering into the body of the car.  Bumper grilles are made from a variety of materials, commonly stainless steel, ABS plastic or aluminum and come in different designs, shapes and styles.

The front and rear bumper cross members act as a bumper reinforcement and some cars will have a front and rear bumper reinforcer to offer added protection.

Some bumpers will have a towing eye, on either the front or rear bumper, which is where a rope can be attached so that the car can be towed. The towing eye is commonly made of steel and is basically a solid ring or hook and is covered by a bumper towing eye cover.

Bumpers can also house electronic sensors, such as parking sensors, which help the driver to park the car by measuring distance from nearby objects, such as a wall or another car.

What if something goes wrong with the bumper?

If the front or rear bumper or any other bumper related parts, such as the bumper end cap or bumper grille, need replacing, it is advisable to buy a new or replacement part that has been manufactured to fit the make, model and year of your car.