Your car’s bumper and grill make up the face of your vehicle. When the bumper starts separating and a gap forms, you likely won’t like how your car looks. Although this is strictly a cosmetic issue, I think it’s important to take pride in your car and like how it looks.
To fix the bumper gap on your car OEM style, replace or repair the brackets on the car and the bumper itself. Modifications can be done with zip ties, automotive-grade quick-release fasteners, a strong adhesive, replacing the clips, or by replacing the bumper cover. If you simply want the gap fixed and you don’t mind the aesthetics, you can use black zip ties and a drill to complete the repair for a few dollars.
If you’re like me and you want to fix a bumper gap as soon as you spot one, you came to the right place. In this expert guide, I’ll walk you through a few options to fully fix your bumper gap. One of the options only takes a few minutes and can be done for less than $20.
What Is a Bumper Gap?
Your car’s bumper is the lowest part on the front and rear face of your car. It sits below your headlights and any grill you have, and it’s shaped as an accent piece on your car.
The bumper is made of plastic or metal, and the part you see is the “bumper cover”.
If you take a close look, you’ll notice a thin gap between the bumper cover and all the surrounding parts — the headlights, grill, and fenders.
Well, it’s natural for there to be a thin and equal gap between the bumper and these parts, since they all clip in together and aren’t a single piece.
A bumper gap refers to anything outside of this normal condition. For instance, a gap that’s larger on one side, much larger than it should be, or a bumper cover that’s dangling off the mounts.
If you see a picture of a bumper gap and then compare it to a new, damage-free car, the difference should be noticeable.
How the Bumper Attaches
As I mentioned, the bumper cover snaps into position and stays there. Since it’s just an ornamental piece, the cover itself doesn’t protect your car or prevent damage during an accident.
Under the cover, your car probably has an impact bar, crush box, and energy absorber. These are the mechanical backbone of your bumper. When you have an accident, it’s these parts that will absorb the impact so you can walk away without harm.
In this guide, I’ll be looking specifically at the bumper cover.
The cover has a few clips, tabs, or even fasteners. These will then attach to reciprocating clips, tabs, or bolt holes in the fender. Once attached, both parts will be held together with only a thin seam separating the two.
Think of it like a seatbelt going into the seatbelt buckle. If everything is working correctly, the tongue goes into the buckle and gets secured in place.
What Causes a Bumper Gap?
As you might expect, a bumper gap usually means that something went wrong. There are a few common things that result in a bumper gap. Let me review some of them for you:
Hit a Big Bump
In the past, I had a clip on my car’s bumper get jostled loose after hitting a big pothole (thank you, New England roads). There was no damage to any of the parts, the connection between the clips was just interrupted so one of the clips was dislodged.
A big bump in the road can cause a bumper gap in two different ways:
First off, it could just be the sheer force and shock to your car that causes it. That’s what happened in my case. When you hit a pothole while going highway speeds, a ton of force is exerted on your car. The force can travel through and hit different parts of your car.
In addition, the bumper of your car can hit the road after hitting the pothole. In a lot of vehicles, the bumper is the lowest part on the front. When you hit a pothole, the front of your car will dip down, making your bumper even closer to the road.
If you hit a pothole, the front of your car bows forward, and then your bumper hits the road, then you could do serious damage to the bumper cover.
This can scrape paint on the front, rip off sections of your bumper, or destroy an internal clip.
I’d argue that the most common culprit for bumper gaps is an accident. If you have a big accident, the damage to your bumper might be so serious that it’s no longer just a “gap”, but instead a missing bumper or smashed front end.
If you have a small accident, the damage won’t be that extensive. Instead, you might notice your bumper sagging or a large gap on one side.
Right after the accident, you might not even notice the gap. It might be months down the line that you finally spot it.
Natural Wear and Tear
Your bumper is also going to age as your car gets older. Clips and mounts that might have been perfect when you first got the car will start to fatigue and wear out. This becomes even more apparent as your car goes through more potholes, more minor accidents, and more force while driving.
These little forces can add up over time.
In the end, you could have bumper clips that have been worn away so they don’t work perfectly anymore. The wear might not even be obvious after closely inspecting the clips.
Can You Fix a Bumper Gap on Your Own?
In most cases, you can fix your bumper gap on your own. The repair might only take a few minutes for you to do, depending on the damage.
If you’re looking for a by-the-book repair that leaves everything mechanically perfect afterward, you’ll need a mechanic. If you want a simple solution that you can do in your driveway, then I’ll suggest some great DIY options later in this article.
The short answer? Yes, you can fix a bumper gap on your own, as long as you’re not looking for perfection in the end.
In one option, the repair takes a few minutes to do and costs a few bucks.
Mechanic Cost to Fix Your Bumper Gap
If you do go to a mechanic for the fix, it can get pretty expensive. Depending on your area and the type of damage, a mechanic can charge you anywhere from $200 to $1,000 for the repair.
If the clips in the fender are also broken, then the mechanic will likely have to replace the fender and bumper with brand-new options. If they also have to paint the new bodywork, the repair will likely be thousands of dollars.
Bumper Gaps: Are They Dangerous?
A minor bumper gap doesn’t come with any risks. It just doesn’t look good. If a few clips are broken and your bumper starts to dangle, you run the risk of dragging it on the road. If you hit a bump with a dangling bumper, the bumper can be ripped from your car and you can run it over, throwing debris into cars behind you and potentially damaging the undercarriage of your car.
In most cases, a bumper gap is strictly cosmetic. When the gap is as serious as the second scenario I just mentioned, it’s usually right after a big accident and you have other damage to worry about as well.
If you notice your bumper hanging from your car more than two inches, then you should fix it before you keep driving.
How To Fix a Bumper Gap
Now I’ll review some ways that you can fix a bumper gap. These options offer various levels of professionalism, final aesthetics, and simplicity. Personally, I would weigh the approach against how old or valuable the car is. If the car isn’t very expensive, it might not be worth spending hundreds on a replacement bumper that’s just cosmetic.
Fix Or Replace the Bumper Cover Brackets
Before we get into the various creative solutions, for OEM purposes, it’s best to see what’s causing the gap to form.
If the vehicle was in a small accident the brackets that hold the bumper might either be bent or completely broken.
Since the bumper slides onto these brackets on each side of the car underneath the fender and over the reinforcement bumper, it’s a good idea to remove the bumper and see if there is any damage on either of these brackets or on the brackets on the bumper itself.
If they are indeed broken, before you buy new ones, check to see if all the pieces are still present. If so, you can use a plastic tab repair kit to melt in some reinforcement metal that will strengthen the broken areas with metal making it very strong.
For good measure, I recommend going over that area with some strong epoxy or JB Weld as well.
Replace the Clips
If only the clips are broken, you might get lucky. Some bumper covers have clips that can be easily swapped out or sections of the bumper that can be replaced that will also replace the clips.
Start by looking at replacement options for your car’s bumper cover online and see if this is possible. Otherwise, you’ll need to remove the bumper cover and take a look.
This can be done by removing fasters in the engine bay, on the underside of your car, and along the wheel wells. With the fasteners removed, you can take off the bumper cover and examine it. If the clips screw on, then you can replace them with OEM options online or go to your local junkyard to find a comparable bumper cover.
Get rid of the broken clips by removing the screws, then add the new clip. Take pictures of the clip before removing them, so you know what orientation should be used (some clips are directional).
Before reattaching it, look at the clips on your fender. If these are broken and need to be replaced, you should do that before reattaching your bumper cover.
Replace the clips and attach your bumper cover. Check to see if the gap is eliminated and ensure all of the clips are firmly in place.
Add Quick-Release Fasteners
Quick-release fasteners are something you might’ve seen on the road, especially on modded cars. A quick-release is two tabs that get tied together with a heavy-duty rubber band.
One release will get installed on your fender, and the other will be installed right next to it, on your bumper cover. The rubber band, called an O-Ring, gets wrapped around both tabs and twisted until it’s tight.
The force in the O-Ring will pull the two tabs together. Since your fender is rigidly attached, this means it will bring the bumper cover up towards the fender.
If you install these along the part where your bumper is sagging and there’s a gap, it should remove the gap.
It also doesn’t matter if an accident, broken tabs, or broken fasteners is causing the gap in this case. The quick-release fasteners will keep the bumper cover tight.
The tab gets installed with a single bolt and nut, and it sits flush against the top of your fender or bumper cover. This means that you’ll need to drill a hole in the body of your fender and bumper cover that’s large enough for the fastener.
Drill holes where your bumper is sagging, install two tabs, follow the instructions for installing the rubber O-Rings, and see if that’s enough to keep your bumper from sagging. If not, repeat the process and add a few more.
Since these are all loose components, you can add as many as you’d like. You can also find the O-Rings and tabs in different colors and finishes, so they can either match your paint or complement your car’s aesthetic.
If the rubber band breaks in the future, then just add a new one.
For people who aren’t comfortable drilling into their car’s bodywork, a body shop, mechanic, or mod shop can take care of the installation for you.
Using Glue and Duct Tape
This repair technique involves glue and some duct tape. Using an adhesive like Permatex or JB Weld will work wonders. You need an adhesive that’s safe to use on automotive bodywork.
Start by identifying the area that has the bumper gap. Push the bumper cover up until it’s flush, to make sure nothing is in the way under the cover.
Use blue painter’s tape to mask the bumper and fender. You want to barely cover the interior lip of both sides so that the bodywork is protected.
Next, get the adhesive ready. A lot of options are a two-part combination that requires some mixing, so make sure you read the instructions carefully.
Lather the adhesive between the bumper and fender. You might want to use a plastic knife or chopstick to help apply it. The goal is to have a healthy layer of adhesive between the two pieces of bodywork.
Use duct tape to hold the bumper cover firmly in place. You want to push the duct tape onto the bumper cover, then pull the piece tightly upwards while you connect it to the fender or headlight. Your bumper cover should be in place with only the duct tape holding it in position.
If the duct tape isn’t squeezing the bumper cover into the fender, then the repair won’t work. You’ll likely have to use a few pieces of duct tape to give enough holding force.
Jack the bumper up using a 2×4, a bucket, or a jack very lightly jacked up. This will take some pressure off of things.
After 15 minutes, remove the duct tape and leave whatever you’re using to hold the cover in place (the jack, bucket, or wood). Keep this rig overnight without touching the car, except for when you remove the duct tape.
This will give the adhesive enough time to set and cure. When you wake up in the morning, your car’s bumper should be firmly attached to the fender.
Carefully remove all the blue painter’s tape, remove the jacking mechanism you used, and admire your hard work. You’re all done!
Save Money with Zip Ties
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I briefly drove a vehicle in high school that had a bumper that was held on by zip ties. Zip ties are those plastic strips that loop through themselves and can be pulled tightly to lock them in. You can buy hundreds of them for less than $5.
They don’t look great, but they work really well.
Find the size of your zip ties, then grab a drill. I think I used a 1/4” drill bit when I did the installation, but you just need to hold the bit next to the zip tie to make sure the hole will be large enough.
Add one hole to the fender next to one hole in the bumper. This is where a zip tie will go. Continue adding holes in pairs like this across your bumper as needed.
Hold the bumper in place, thread the zip tie through both holes, loop it into the tightening feature, then pull it tight. This will now clasp both parts tightly together.
Personally, I would loosely install all the zip ties first, then go through and tighten them at the same time.
If you make a mistake, use scissors to cut the zip tie and try again.
Replacing the Bumper
If all else fails, you might be forced to replace the bumper. I would suggest looking for a replacement in a junkyard so you can save a ton of money. The bumper is held in place with a series of fasteners and those clips I keep talking about.
You’ll need to remove all fasteners, then firmly (but slowly) pull the bumper cover straight toward you. This will remove it from the clips and allow it to be removed.
Replacing the bumper is sometimes necessary if there is more extensive damage to the cover, all of the clips are damaged, or other attempted fixes didn’t work.
Now you know how to fix a bumper gap. The repair itself can be very simple, but doing a full replacement can get expensive and time-consuming. Try out some of my suggestions and leave a comment below if it worked for you.