Is my car less safe after being bumped?
August 2, 2011 12:07 PM   Subscribe

My car was rear-ended. If I don't care about the cosmetic damage to the car, is it worth getting the bumper replaced for safety reasons?

The car is a 1998 Acura 3.0 CL. The cosmetic damage from the collision is barely perceptible, especially among the dents and scratches typical on a 13-year-old car.

But is the car less safe now?

I got a $500 check from the other driver's insurance company. Should I spend it on the bumper or save it for something else?
posted by Dec One to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It wouldn't hurt to have someone take a look at it. Bumpers are designed to absorb impact, and it's possible that there was damage that might make it less effective for the next time. I would expect this to be visually noticeable, though.
posted by jquinby at 12:10 PM on August 2, 2011

Every body shop guy in the world will tell you that it is, but IMO this is more lawyer-driven than anything else. If the bumper still looks like it did, the foam is not deformed all that much.

I might take it to a body shop, but have the 90 pound grain of salt in the back seat. Unless they can show bent metal or something else that's going to make the bumper fall off or the like, I wouldn't worry.

If this were a motorcycle helmet where the foam is the only thing protecting your noggin, I'd agree with the premise that it's too important to mess around with. I just can't get that excited about minor damage to a bumper.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:36 PM on August 2, 2011

It's probably not less safe, but one would have to see it to tell. Definitely get it fixed ASAP if the internal shock absorption material is damaged.
posted by clockzero at 12:57 PM on August 2, 2011

When this happened to me, I took it to the body shop and they told me I didn't need replacement. The guy even showed me how to know that there was no damage. Take it to one or two places recommended by your insurance company. They have the most incentive to be honest.
posted by vincele at 12:58 PM on August 2, 2011

You ought to have it checked out.

I was once bumped from behind with little cosmetic damage to the car's bumper. However, the structural piece of the bumper (the piece that actually absorbs impact) was entirely destroyed beneath the aesthetic plastic covering. It wouldn't have withstood a 2nd impact.

Find a good and reputable body shop and tell them that you're concerned about safety if not necessarily cosmetics.
posted by owls at 2:04 PM on August 2, 2011

If it's built the way my early-90s Hondas were then the actual impact absorption is done in the two metal posts connecting the bumper to the frame. An impact might bend them and that might reduce the effectiveness but if it's not really out of whack I would doubt any serious difference.

Depending on whether Honda changed their standards that bumper is rated to absorb impact of an identically weighted vehicle between 2.5mph (the legal requirement) and 5mph (the old standard, which for a while Honda stuck to even though they didn't have to). This is, quite frankly, not very much. If it's been compromised partially it's unlikely it's a big difference.

If you're concerned then go to a body shop and ask them what they'd do. Ask detailed questions. Ask which parts, specifically, they would be replacing in the job.

Personally I'd not be real worried about it.
posted by phearlez at 2:39 PM on August 2, 2011

This happened to me on my first car, a 1989 Dodge Spirit. I talked with three or four body shops, all said that the repair was more expensive then what I had gotten from the insurance company and that it would not matter if I was in another accident. This would have been back in 2001-2002.

I would nth just living with the imperceptible bump since your car probably has much bigger things to worry about.
posted by Nackt at 4:30 PM on August 2, 2011

Here's a related "Dear Tom and Ray" letter.
posted by davcoo at 6:20 PM on August 2, 2011

I agree with the owls above - Not only can you have attachment point problems, but it could have deformed the car's frame, and you might not notice until one of your tires wears through to the belts on the inside, or handles funny. (ex: my current car fishtailed wildly on sharp right hand turns after repairs from an accident, until I got the frame realigned)
posted by Orb2069 at 6:47 PM on August 2, 2011

Not only can you have attachment point problems, but it could have deformed the car's frame

That is pretty much inconceivable within the framing of the question. In fact I'd go as far as to say that it is completely impossible for an accident to damage the car's frame (by which I assume you mean monocoque structure/bodyshell as modern cars have no 'frame') while showing no outward signs of the impact. If you have to look for the damage, then it's extremely likely that the car is perfectly fine.

Yes, it is possible that the absorption material behind the bumper is compressed, but this only protects you in a sub 15-20mph accident (ie cosmetically only) or so anyway. It'd just save you getting a new bumper next time - hardly a big deal if it's been whacked already. Any significant impact will pile right through that stuff and the crumple zones in the bodyshell will be more important. It is unlikely that these will have ben affected in the slightest.
posted by Brockles at 8:01 PM on August 2, 2011

$500 is enough to replace the bumper IF you dont tell them that you got a check from the insurance company. Go to a body shop and tell them you would like to get a bumper repaired OUT of pocket. I had mine repaired out of pocket and after tax it costs $480 I was told ig gets jacked up to over $600 if insurance is even mensioned once.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:52 AM on August 3, 2011

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