How to Repaint Rusty Bumpers


When it comes to old cars with metal bumpers, rust is a fact of life unless the bumpers have been properly cared for over the years. Often, bumpers need to be repainted to restore their appearance. Painting them is relatively easy, cheaper than chrome plating and can easily be done in a weekend.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint stripper
  • Mineral spirits
  • Terrycloth rags
  • Primer
  • Spray paint
  • 180-, 220-, 320-, 400-, 600- and 800-grit sandpaper
  • Respirator
  • Rubber gloves
  • Two-part, plastic body filler, such as Bondo
  • Remove the bumper from the vehicle that it is mounted to. There are usually a number of bolts on the back of the bumper that hold it on. Inspect the bumper or consult a shop manual for your car for the correct removal procedure.

  • Strip the old paint from the bumper. Spray or brush on the paint stripper (depending on the type) and let it soak into the paint for fifteen minutes or so. Paint stripper is available at auto parts stores and hardware stores. Wipe the paint off with a clean rag, scraping off more persistent areas with a plastic scraper. Wear a respirator unless you are working outside, as well as rubber gloves to protect your skin.

  • If there are sections of the bumper that have been pitted or scratched, fill these in with a two-part, plastic body filler. Mix the resin and the hardener according to the manufacturer's directions and then apply it to the areas that need to be filled. Allow it to dry and then sand it down with 180- and then 220-grit sandpaper.

  • Scuff the entire surface of the bumper that is going to be painted with 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe the bumper down with a mineral spirits and a clean, dry lint-free rag. This needs to be done very thoroughly for the paint to properly adhere to the surface. Repeat until the surface is entirely free of oils and residue. Try not to touch the surface with your hands if you are not wearing rubber gloves.

  • Apply a very light coat of primer to the bumper and let it dry for a few minutes. Apply three to four heavier coats. Allow the primer to dry for at least an hour and then wet sand the bumper with lots of water and 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe the bumper down with mineral spirits.

  • Spray on a light dusting of the desired color of paint. Allow it to dry for a couple of minutes and then spray on two to four solid coats. Lighter colors will require more coats. Spray the paint in smooth back and forth motions about eight inches from the surface. In order to avoid runs, do not stay in one area too long or apply to much paint in one area.

  • Let the paint dry for several hours or preferably overnight. When the paint is completely dry, wet sand the bumper with 220-, 320-, 400-, 600- and then 800-grit sandpaper, using lots of water to minimize scratching the surface. Bolt the bumper or bumpers back onto the vehicle.

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