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By Jordan W. Charness
I love chrome. It’s shiny. It’s hard. It’s metal. It’s what a bumper should be. Of course it’s not what bumpers are these days. In fact it’s been decades since big chrome bumpers were the fashion. These days, most bumpers are made out of high density Styrofoam covered by a relatively thin sheet of plastic that in most cases is painted the same colour as the body finish colour. In some cases bumpers come with accenting colours. Usually, the paint is easily scratched in even the smallest collision with another car, tree, shrub, or marshmallow.
Underneath the Styrofoam is usually a metal rod or some other stiffener that deflects the shock of an impact so as to try to minimize damage to the rest of the car. However, damage to the bumper is an entirely different thing. Bumpers these days tend to get banged and whacked and scratched with alarming frequency. A non-scientific survey done by yours truly while recently walking through a parking lot led me to conclude that around 40% of all cars in the lot exhibited some mark, scratch, or dent to their bumpers.
While driving with these types of blemishes is not illegal it certainly does detract from the market value of your vehicle and its aesthetic value as well. The look of your bumpers may cause you legal problems as well. Many people lease their cars instead of purchasing them outright. Since a lease is just a form of long-term rental you are required to return the vehicle at the end of the lease in substantially the same shape as it was when you got it – minus “normal wear and tear”. It’s these four words that are subject to a lot of legal scrutiny and debate. Is a scratched or dinged bumper normal wear and tear? How big must the bang be before you are obligated to repair it before returning it?
Oddly enough different car companies have different guidelines and the law is virtually silent as to what constitutes normal wear and tear. There have been court cases on the point but none of them are absolutely conclusive. They all seem to follow the idea that “normal wear and tear” is what a “normally prudent person” would define as normal!
Your best bet of course would be to avoid scratching or dinging your bumper altogether. This is often easier said than done.
I did come across a new Canadian company, Bumper Pro, (www.bumperpro.ca) that has come up with an innovative new product that adds an extra layer of moulding to your bumper. They have over 50 different colours of moulding so they can perfectly match most vehicles’ colours. Their product is made out of a high quality Mylar that has the colour pigments throughout the entire moulding. Even if it is scratched the scratch does not show. It’s also good for hiding existing scratches since it installs with the attached 3M acrylic foam tape right over your scratched bumper. It will also protect your bumper from dings and dents.
Once again there are legal implications if you’re adding this type of product to a leased vehicle. Since you don’t really own the car, are you allowed to make additions to it? While the general rule is “no”, this type of addition would be considered an enhancement that increases the value of the vehicle and would easily be accepted. In addition it can be removed if necessary.
Since replacing a scratched, dinged or dented bumper will cost several hundreds of dollars, it’s probably worth investing in this type of product so that you won’t have to join the legal quagmire of trying to decide whether or not your wear and tear will be considered “normal” wear and tear.