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How to Pop a Dent Out of a Plastic Bumper

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So you’ve accidentally hit the meter pole with your car. Sounds like a Monday problem, but the good news is, it can be repaired. It may look easier said than done, but if your car circa the 1980s or newer, you may be able to fix it yourself.  Instead of breaking the bank at the repair man, consider trying a few popular methods to fix the dents yourself.

Before You Start

It’s important to make sure that you have a plastic bumper before proceeding. Most cars made after the 1980s are built with plastic bumpers as per safety regulations. If you have an older car, verify the make and model bumper type before continuing.You can usually find this information on the internet, or by asking your local mechanic. Once you know that your bumper is plastic, you are good to try one of the following methods to fix your dent.

The Two Fundamental Tools: Hot and Cold

Understand that most of these methods work best with the addition of heating or chilling the bumper. With that in mind, consider purchasing a good pair of work gloves to keep your hands safe from the elements.

Method 1: Use Dry Ice

For a quick, inexpensive fix with minimal elbow grease, give dry ice a try. You’ll need a solid pair of work gloves, dry ice, and a hair dryer for this method. You can purchase dry ice at most grocery stores and gas stations.

  • Step 1: Carefully take the dry ice in one hand and rub it gently against the dent for a few minutes. The dent should pop out as the plastic contracts in response to the cold. If that does not happen, proceed to Step 2.
  • Step 2: Wait an hour or so before attempting this step to allow the plastic to heat back to a normal temperature. From there, take a hair dryer and apply heat directly to the area. This should allow the plastic to become more elastic.
  • Step 3: After heating the area, attempt the dry ice again, repeating Step 1 for a few more minutes until the dent pops out.

Method 2: The Boiled Water Method

As the name would suggest, this method entails using boiling water to remove the dent. It’s as simple as it sounds. Before proceeding, make sure you have a good set of potholders, a large pot, and easy access to hot and cold water. This method uses both heat and chilling to work.

  • Step 1: Boil a large pot of water. If your dent is fairly large, boil two just to be safe.
  • Step 2: Using your potholders, carefully carry the pot(s) out to your car. Quickly pour the hot water on the dent. The plastic should expand from the heat, but if the dent is pretty large, be sure and pour a second pot of water over it right after the first.
  • Step 3: Immediately after applying the hot water, reach under the wheel well and push the dent out from the well. This may take some considerable force, so be sure to be wearing your work gloves when you do it.
  • Step 4: Throw a bucket of cold water onto the dent. There’s no need for ice, tap cold should do the trick. The cold water helps the plastic seize back up into its former state and prevents any accidental dents in the plastic.

Method 3: The Plunger Method

bumper dentAs hilarious as it may sound, using a plunger is a popular method for removing dents from a bumper. This method pairs well as a partner to the Boiled Water method.

You’ll need a plunger and boiling water for this method. You don’t have to purchase a new plunger, but it is highly recommended for the obvious reasons – no need to add a car wash to the to-do list, after all.

Follow the steps for the Boiled Water method through Step 2. Once you’ve thrown the hot water on the dent, take the plunger and adhere it to the bumper over the area with the dent. Give it a swift tug, and the dent should pull out.  Using the plunger is especially handy if you tried the Boiled Water method first and couldn’t give the dent enough of a push under the wheel well.

Continue on to Step 3 of the Boiling Water method by dousing the dent with cold water to finish the job.

Method 4: Compressed Air and Heat

Similar to the Dry Ice method, this particular option uses drastic changes in temperature to get the concave plastic to pop out to its normal shape. You’ll need either boiling water or a hair dryer and a bottle of compressed air, which you can purchase at any office supply or hardware store for under $5. Be sure and wear work gloves to keep your hands protected while using the materials.

  • Step 1: Apply your heat source. Either pour a bucket of boiling water on the dent or, let the blow dryer go to work for a few minutes.
  • Step 2 (Water): If you choose to use boiling water as your heat source, immediately after pouring the water, blast the canister of condensed air on the dent. The abrupt shift in temperature should get the plastic to pop out.
  • Step 2 (Blow Dryer): If you choose to use the blow dryer as your heat source, after a few minutes of applying heat, blast the canister of condensed air on the dent until you hear a pop. The temperature change should get the dent to pop back to a normal shape.


It’s easy to get frustrated at having a dent in your bumper. The good news is that with a little quick thinking and some clever uses of household items, you can handle removing them yourself. Be sure and give these methods a try the next time you have a little fender bender to save yourself some time and money.

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